UPDATE: I want to make it clear that although the allegations against Shahd are claimed by the University to have been made externally to the University, there is no doubt that they originate from inside the university and Lesley Klaff in particular.
After an outpouring of rage against the suspension of Palestinian academic Shahd on 20th January, the University was forced to backtrack and reinstate her just one week later on an improved contract.
This is a victory, not just for Shahd but for all those who believe in freedom of speech on Palestine and academic freedom. It is a victory for those who have been targeted by false and malicious accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’ for criticising Israeli Apartheid.
It is especially a victory for Palestinians in a week when a report from Amnesty International proved conclusively that Israel is an apartheid state. Accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’ are the only defence that Israel’s supporters have today.
After the dismissal of Professor David Miller at Bristol University, the Zionists began to believe that they could, with the co-operation of tame and compliant university administrations, target any other academic who raised their head above the parapet. There have been a number of other incidents at universities such as Warwick, Leeds and Glasgow. The Jewish Chronicle crowed that ‘Miller’s sacking should be the beginning, not the end’.
At Sheffield Hallam University the local University College Union branch, gave Shahd unequivocal backing. At a local UCU meeting last week 97% of those in attendance voted to support Shahd. Just 1 lecturer supported the suspension of Shahd, ‘human rights’ lecturer Lesley Klaff. On Klaff’s page on the university’s website she describes herself as ‘a member of UK Lawyers for Israel, an NGO which provides pro bono legal assistance to victims of antisemitism.’
In fact Lawyers for Israel is a far-right organisation dedicated to supporting the apartheid state and Jewish settlers who have spent over half a century stealing Palestinian land and terrorising the population. In December 2019 it held a public meeting with Naomi Linder Kahn, of the Israeli NGO Regavim.
Regavim is a racist far-Right Israeli organisation which uses Israeli law, over which Palestinians have no say, to speed up the evictions of Palestinians and the demolition of their homes. It believes that far from Israel being in occupation of the West Bank it is the other way around. It describes Palestinians as ‘squatters’ who are occupying ‘Jewish land’.
Regavim was founded in 2006 by Bezalel Smotrich, a far-right settler member of the Knesset who describes himself as a ‘proud homophobe’. In 2006 he organised the ‘Beast Parade’ in Jerusalem comparing gays to beasts (though he did say that unlike gays, the animals that took part were innocent). More recently he has said that Jerusalem’s Gay Pride demonstration triggered the COVID pandemic in Israel!
Amongst Smotrich’s contributions to co-existence in Israel/Palestine he advocated the separation of Arab and Jewish women giving birth in hospitals tweeting that
“It’s only natural my wife would not want to lie next to someone who just gave birth to a baby that might murder her baby in another 20 years,”
Regavim also supports the openly fascist Lehava organisation in Israel which openly supports and organises physical attacks on Palestinians who have friendships with Jewish Israelis. Its leader Benzi Gopstein has called for the burning down of churches and mosques. Its campaign against miscegenation (sexual relations between Jews and Arabs) is reminiscent of the Nuremberg Laws which outlawed sexual relations between Jews and ‘Aryans’.
Rubbing shoulders with Lesley Klaff at UKLFI is none other than Daniel Berke, who is an advisor and solicitor for none other than that apostle for racial harmony, Tommy Robinson as well as Jonathan Hoffman, the linkman between far-Right Zionists and fascist groups like the EDL and Britain First,. No doubt Klaff’s work is cut out explaining the significance of human rights to these people!
Another member of UKLFI is Robert Festenheim, a far-right Zionist who is another ‘advisor’ to Tommy Robinson.
Lesley Klaff is believed to be the sister-in-law of Sharon Klaff another far-right Zionist and an open supporter of both Pegida UK and Tommy Robinson. The Klaffs originate from South Africa where the political climate under Apartheid was more hospitable. Even there though they stood out as political oddities. “We dressed in black and khaki and the other Jewish youth movements called us Nazi Jews” boasted Annette Rosenberg, a contemporary of Klaff.
In the first world war Klaffs’ Grandfather was interned by the South African Government on suspicion of being a pro-German agent and a grave threat to national security.
Klaff’s father was the escort for Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founder of Revisionist Zionism and Herut, which Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt described in a letter to the New York Times of 4th December 1948 as
‘a political party closely akin in its organisation, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties’
Its a scandal that an openly racist organisations should have been able to secure the suspension of a vulnerable Palestinian lecturer from Gaza by making baseless and false accusations of anti-Semitism.
The decision of Sheffield Hallam to suspend Shahd on the basis of false accusations from racists external to the university is like suspending a Black or Muslim lecturer because a member of the BNP or National Front gas taken exception to them. If Sheffield Hallam is serious about its commitment to anti-racism then it needs to do two things:
i. Suspend Lesley Klaff until an inquiry unearths the full facts behind the malicious allegations made against Shahd.
ii. To immediately suspend the use of the IHRA misdefinition of anti-Semitism pending vote by all academic staff. As Geoffrey Robertson QC, Britain’s leading human rights barrister said, it is ‘not fit for purpose.’
Most universities in Britain have only adopted the IHRA because they were threatened with a cut in their funding by Gavin Williamson, the former Education Secretary. Apparently the government was worried about anti-Semitism on campus.
It should be obvious, even to the most stupid university administrator, that a government whose Border and Nationalities Bill is making the lifestyle of Travellers and Gypsies a criminal offence, which is threatening millions of Black and Muslim Britons with a potential loss of citizenship and which is seeking to push refugees in the Channel back away from the coast, to say nothing of the Windrush Scandal is not interested in opposing racism.
The Tories concern over ‘anti-Semitism’ has nothing to do with the safety of British Jews. Their sole concern is their strategic and military relationship with the State of Israel. And if vulnerable Palestinians like Shahd pay the price for exercising their right to freedom speech then that is a price that is deemed worth paying.