The Electronic Intifada / February 4, 2022
Sheffield Hallam University has dropped its investigation of Shahd Abusalama, an activist and assistant lecturer who was falsely accused by Israel lobby groups of anti-Jewish bigotry.
Abusalama was also offered a more secure contract at the university, which is in the north of England. She has resumed teaching her classes.
The university suspended Abusalama from her position on 20 January amid a smear campaign by supporters of Israel. Administrators launched an investigation following a complaint over her social media posts which criticized Israel and its state ideology Zionism.
But following a massive support campaign and public outcry, the university reinstated her on 27 January.
Abusalama did not initially accept the reinstatement offer, demanding that the investigation be dropped first, as it was prompted by malicious smears.
The university still has not yet released details on who – or which groups – filed the complaint against Abusalama.
However, on Thursday, Abusalama was told by university administrators that they would not be proceeding with any investigation, and she returned to teaching.
The win sets a precedent for Palestinian scholars and activists who are regularly targeted by Israel lobby groups that seek to destroy their careers over criticism of Israel’s human rights violations, or because they reject its Zionist political ideology.
It also greatly undermines the impact of the IHRA “definition” of anti-Semitism, which is regularly used by Israel lobby groups to smear and censor supporters of Palestinian rights by conflating criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish bigotry.
Representatives for the University and College Union stated that Abusalama “has been wholly exonerated of the false charges of anti-Semitism, brought under the IHRA definition which is unfit for purpose.”
On Wednesday, the UCU branch at Sheffield Hallam University passed a near-unanimous motion to defend Abusalama and to call for a moratorium on the use of the IHRA definition as part of the university’s disciplinary process.
Though the fight continues over the IHRA definition, the defense from Abusalama’s union, legal team and supporters worldwide “made me feel able to go to meetings with university official[s] and claim the role of the accuser, not the accused, and WINNING!,” she wrote on Instagram.
“The support was incredible and you all made it tolerable having to go through such travesty of justice.”
Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014)