UK: Palestinian academic fully reinstated after antisemitism probe dropped

Shahd Abusalama, originally from Gaza, was suspended over alleged breaches of the controversial IHRA definition on antisemitism (Facebook)

Araab Ullah

Middle East Eye  /  February 4, 2022

Sheffield Hallam University ends investigation into Shahd Abusalama without clarifying what action had sparked the probe.

Sheffield Hallam University has dropped an investigation involving a junior Palestinian academic who had been accused of antisemitism. 

Earlier this month, Shahd Abusalama, who is studying for a PhD at the university, was suspended from her post as an associate lecturer at the institution. 

Citing complaints from external bodies, the university alleged that Abusalama had broken the university’s rules, specifically the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism. 

Endorsed by the UK government, the IHRA definition has been criticized by academics and activists for curtailing academic freedom and equating criticism of Israel and Zionism with antisemitism. 

It remains unclear what Abusalama said that was deemed antisemitic, but she has said she suspects it was linked to a thread she posted on Twitter on the academic discussion over the origin of the word Holocaust. 

Abusalama’s suspension led to a global campaign against the move, including protests, open letters of support from academics, and backing from dozens of student organizations across the UK. 

No explanation

Initially, representatives from Sheffield Hallam University met with Abusalama and said it was lifting her teaching suspension. 

The representatives apologized to Abusalama and acknowledged that the investigation into her case had not been carried out properly. 

However, she was not told why she was being investigated and was advised the probe was still ongoing.

But following a further meeting, Abusalama announced on Thursday that the university “will not be progressing with any further investigation” of the claims levied against her. 

“I have been wholly exonerated of the false charges of antisemitism, brought under the unfit for purpose IHRA definition,” Abusalama said on Twitter. 

“I will also be offered a more secure contract that will afford me employee status at Sheffield Hallam University. 

“That wouldn’t happen without your support, so thank you. Let’s keep this going until we see a liberated Palestine.” 

Sheffield Hallam University did not respond to requests for comment at the time of writing. 

Areeb Ullah is a journalist for Middle East Eye