Disciplinary procedure, Smear campaigns

A Palestinian Scholar Successfully Defeated Attempts to Silence Her

Published on Thu Feb 17 2022 - modified on Wed Mar 02 2022

Shahd Abusalama faced a smear campaign and was about to lose a teaching position at Sheffield Hallam University. Her case, which we supported, illustrates the trend of growing repression of Palestinian rights advocacy on UK campuses. Shahd’s case also illustrates that solidarity and coordination are an effective way to collectively push back against unjust repression of legitimate advocacy for Palestinian rights.

Shahd Abusalama is a resilient third-generation Palestinian refugee from Gaza who has survived Israel’s regular military aggressions on Palestinians in Gaza. She is an artist, activist and a PhD scholar at Sheffield Hallam University.

Shahd was smeared in the press by Israel advocacy groups due to a Twitter thread she posted in December 2021, where she provided context to a protest banner stating, “Stop the Palestinian Holocaust”. These unfounded allegations are meant to exclude her from academia because she is a critical voice advocating for justice and freedom in Palestine.

On 21 January 2022, a day before Shahd was supposed to start her teaching as an associate lecturer, Sheffield Hallam University suspended her classes and launched an investigation against her without any explanation. In response, a powerful worldwide public campaign supported by the Sheffield Hallam UCU, civil society organisations, academics, students, with dozens of support letters as well as support by the ELSC, led to the University deciding to reinstate Shahd’s teaching on 27 January 2022.

Despite this, Shahd remained under investigation. In coordination with UCU Hallam, the ELSC requested the university to drop its investigation on the basis that it was discriminatory, conducted in violation of its own policies and in violation of Shahd’s freedom of expression.

On 3 February 2022, the university informed Shahd that they were dropping the investigation against her. The university also agreed to offer Shahd a more secure employment contract, affording her better pay and other benefits as requested in our letter.

Shahd’s victory is symbolic of the necessity and impact of solidarity against unjust silencing tactics that deliberately target Palestinian rights advocates in Europe, including the use of the controversial IHRA-Working Definition on Antisemitism and its examples, that Sheffield Hallam University adopted last year.

Relevant links

Catherine Chiniara Charrett, How a Palestinian academic defeated a campaign to silence her, Al Jazeera, 10 February 2022.

Ramona Wadi, Defeating the IHRA witch hunt: An interview with Palestinian activist and scholar Shahd Abusalama, Mondoweiss, 7 February 2022.

Nora Barrows-Friedman, Podcast Ep 51: Defeating censorship on a UK campus, The Electronic Intifada, 1 March 2022

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