Open Letter to the Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, Professor Christopher Husbands
Shahd Abusalama is Another Academic to Have Fallen Foul of Zionism’s McCarthyist Lobby
Dear Professor Husbands,
On January 21 Shahd Abusalama, a PhD student, was suspended by Sheffield Hallam University on the eve of teaching her first class. Shahd has been subject for the past 4 years to harassment from the Zionist lobby and its fetid supporters for the fact of being a Palestinian willing to speak out about Israel’s war crimes.
Shahd was told that a complaint had been lodged with the university but was not told who made the complaint or what the substance of the complaint was, although that was not hard to guess. It was of course ‘anti-Semitism’.
Of one thing Zionists are certain. Just because Israel demolishes their homes or evicts them to make way for Jewish settlers as well as arresting and imprisoning their children, if not killing them outright, the Palestinians have no reason to resist the Occupation or the other foul misdeeds that they get up to. No the only reason why Palestinians still resist a 55 year old occupation is because they hate the Jews out of some unique pathological condition that they suffer from.
It therefore follows that anyone who supports the Palestinians must also do so because of anti-Semitism. Even anti-Zionist Jews who are widely recognised as the ‘wrong sort of Jew’, in so far as they are recognised as Jewish at all, are also susceptible to this ‘anti-Semitism’. After all anti-Semitism is a virus.
Rather than going through all the details to Shahd’s case and what happened there is an excellent article on Electronic Intifada, UK Israel lobby takes aim at Palestinian university lecturer.
Below I copy my letter to Sheffield Hallam’s Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Chris Husbands.
Dear Professor Husbands,
I write concerning your (now revoked) suspension of Shahd Abusalama from her role as a lecturer because of an anonymous complaint against her. After over a week Shahd stated that she still hasn’t had sight of the allegations. When you announced the investigation into her you didn’t even inform her of this fact. This is Kafkaesque.
It was on the evening of 21 January, just prior to her first class, that Shahd was informed that she had been suspended. No reason was given. Shahd’s suspension has now been revoked because of ‘issues’ with how you handled her case but no further details have been provided.
Shahd is a refugee from Gaza. She was born and raised in Jabalia refugee camp and witnessed at first hand Israeli bombing raids on the camp and attacks on unarmed civilians in Gaza. What she says makes uncomfortable reading for the Zionist lobby in this country and it is that, not anti-Semitism, that is the reason for her suspension.
As Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam you have a responsibility to defend academic freedom and freedom of speech. In this you have lamentably failed. Your behaviour is reminiscent of the failure of Martin Heidegger, Rector of Freiburg University to speak out against the dismissal of his mentor Edmund Husserl and other Jewish academics.
When Victor Klemperer was dismissed from his post at Dresden University he recounted in his diaries that the only person to say farewell was the cleaner. It is unfortunate that most academics are afraid to speak up against injustice however you do not have Nazi terror as an excuse for your cowardice.
Shahd has long been under attack by supporters of the Israeli state. Her ‘crime’ according to the so-called Campaign Against Anti-Semitism is having defended another student who used the term ‘Palestinian Holocaust’ whilst saying that she would not use such a term. If you or your protégés had bothered to access her Twitter feed then you would have seen a nuanced and thoughtful exposition. Something entirely lacking in your own explanations.
The attacks on Shahd have come about because of her insistence on speaking out against Israeli Apartheid, conclusions both B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch have reached. It has nothing to do with comparisons between Israel and the Holocaust. They were merely the pretext. You are directly responsible for this state of affairs because it was you who insisted that Sheffield Hallam bow to the dictates of the Tory government and Gavin Williamson when you adopted the IHRA misdefinition of anti-Semitism in February 2021.
Perhaps you might recall the statement which you put out at the time? It read:
The definition is a useful tool for understanding what constitutes antisemitism and investigating allegations. Freedom of expression is an integral part of our values, therefore we are committed to promoting and protecting free speech. The ability to rigorously discuss and challenge ideas goes right to the heart of what it means to be a university.
This was a lie, wasn’t it? You adopted the IHRA not to protect freedom of speech but to destroy it. The IHRA has no other purpose. It is certainly not a definition of anti-Semitism. Your adoption of this ‘definition’ was an act of political expediency. You adopted it despite criticism from many distinguished legal and academic scholars.
Former Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir Stephen Sedley, who is himself Jewish, wrote that the IHRA ‘fails the first test of any definition: it is indefinite’. Human rights barrister, Geoffrey Roberson QC said the ‘IHRA definition of antisemitism is not fit for purpose’. Another prominent barrister, Hugh Tomlinson QC described the IHRA as having:
a potential chilling effect on public bodies which, in the absence of definitional clarity, may seek to sanction or prohibit any conduct which has been labelled by third parties as nti-Semitic without applying any clear criterion of assessment.
An observation that perfectly describes your actions. Kenneth Stern, who drafted the IHRA definition, in testimony to Congress described the use of the IHRA by the CAA to try and effect the dismissal of Rachel Gould, a Jewish lecturer at Bristol University, as ‘chilling and McCarthy-like’.
A child could have told you that you don’t need to have a definition of anti-Semitism in order to recognise it. The Oxford English Dictionary definition: ‘hostility to or prejudice against Jewish people’. is perfectly adequate. My father who took part in the Battle of Cable Street against Moseley’s fascist thugs didn’t need a definition of anti-Semitism to know what he was fighting. As Justice Potter Stewart remarked ‘I know it when I see it.’ The real purpose of the IHRA, with 7 of its 11 illustrations of ‘anti-Semitism’ mentioning Israel, is to conflate anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
The specific allegation which led to Shahd’s suspension was comparisons of Palestinian oppression to that of the Jews under Hitler. There is nothing anti-Semitic about such a comparison. It might be right or wrong but comparing Israel to the Nazis is not anti-Semitic.
There are many Jews, including Holocaust survivors, who make just such a comparison. Perhaps you can explain why it is anti-Semitic to compare mobs in Germany shouting ‘Death to Jews’ with mobs in Israel chanting ‘Death to the Arabs’?
If you are right then Hannah Arendt, herself a refugee from the Nazis, was also anti-Semitic for comparing Israel’s marriage laws to the Nuremberg Laws in Eichmann in Jerusalem.? Just like Nazi Germany, it is forbidden in Israel for a Jew to marry a non-Jew.
Perhaps Deputy Chief of Staff in Israel Yair Golan was wrong to compare Israel with Nazi Germany? And maybe Professor Ze’ev Sternhall of the Hebrew University, a child survivor of the Przemsyl Ghetto in Nazi occupied Poland, was also anti-Semitic to write of a ‘Growing Fascism and a Racism Akin to Early Nazism’ in Israel?
Yehuda Elkana, a child survivor of Auschwitz and Rector of the Central University of Europe was, by your standards, also anti-Semitic when he wrote that
the deepest political and social factor that motivates much of Israeli society in its relations with the Palestinians is not personal frustration, but rather a profound existential “Angst” fed by a particular interpretation of the lessons of the Holocaust
When the IHRA says that making such comparisons is anti-Semitic what it is doing is providing elites with an excuse to close down discussion on topics that question their own war mongering. The question is a simple one. Do you or do you not support the censorship of political debate and thought? If you do then you are in the wrong job.
Holocaust education today is used, not to draw universal lessons, such as opening our borders to refugees, but in order to legitimise the racism of the British and Israeli states, not least the oppression of Palestinians. But according to you and those who suspended Shahd it is anti-Semitic for Palestinians to reply in kind.
As Gideon Levy wrote in Ha’aretz:
I have yet to hear a single teenager come back from Auschwitz and say that we mustn’t abuse others the way we were abused. There has yet to be a school whose pupils came back from Birkenau straight to the Gaza border, saw the barbed-wire fence and said, Never again. The message is always the opposite. Gaza is permitted because of Auschwitz.
The context to all of this is the recent dismissal of Professor David Miller at Bristol University, also after a concerted series of attacks by the pro-Israel lobby. The Jewish Chronicle’s reaction was that ‘Miller’s sacking should be the beginning, not the end’. That is what Shahd’s suspension was really about – a Zionist witchhunt.
I am aware of who it was who was responsible for making the complaint against Shahd. The person in question is an open supporter of Jewish Supremacy. Your suspension of Shahd was no different to suspending a Black student after a complaint from a member of the British National Party. You should hang your head in shame, assuming you understand the meaning of the word. There are however a number of steps that you can take to make amends.
Secondly you should immediately ditch the IHRA. If you really need a definition of anti-Semitism then the Jerusalem Declaration on Anti-Semitism is more suitable as it avoids equating anti-Zionism and hostility to Israel’s Apartheid State with anti-Semitism.
Thirdly, given your role in this affair, the honourable thing to do would be to resign as you are clearly unfitted for the role of Vice-Chancellor. I realise that today politicians don’t resign unless they are dragged out of their office but to paraphrase Malcolm in MacBeth, nothing would become your office like the leaving of it.