Sheffield Hallam University reportedly drops investigation into UCU-backed academic who believes “Zionist lobbies…buy presidents” and has repeatedly breached International Definition of Antisemitism
Sheffield Hallam University has reportedly dropped an investigation into an academic who believes that “Zionist lobbies…buy presidents”, defended the phrase “Stop the Palestinian Holocaust” and shared a video called “Truth About Zionist Jews Talmud”.
Shahd Abusalama, who has been studying for a PhD in cinema at the University, reportedly shared tweets defending a first-year student who had made a poster that said “Stop the Palestinian Holocaust” and who was accused by a Jewish student of antisemitism.
According to the International Definition of Antisemitism, which Sheffield Hallam has adopted, “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” is an example of antisemitism.
On social media, Ms Abusalama defended the student by citing Jewish individuals who have made the same analogy, and also wrote: “I understand why a first-year university student used #Holocaust when thinking of Israel’s repeated bombardment of Gaza”, adding: “Maybe she thought she’d garner European sympathy for Palestine by evoking ‘Never Again’ slogan.”
She noted of the term “Holocaust” that she herself would not “use such a politicised word often used to justify the racist state of Israel” because it “distracts attention from the Zionist practices of settler-colonialism and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians.” However, she proceeded to use other inflammatory terms and claimed that the suggestion that the University’s Palestine Society should undertake antisemitism training in light of the incident was indicative of a “hierarchy of racisms” asking: “Are Islamophobia & Xenophobia insignificant? Prioritising one form of racism over others is itself racist and divisive.”
This was not the first time that Ms Abusalama has courted controversy. She is active in the BDS movement to boycott Israel, the tactics of which an overwhelming majority of British Jews find intimidating, and in the past she reportedly urged people to watch a video on YouTube called “Truth About Zionist Jews Talmud”, which presented numerous antisemitic myths about the Talmud. The video’s description asked “Why the Zionist don’t want us to know what’s in Talmud? [sic],” adding: “Why they want the teaching of the Talmud to be known only to Jews.” Ms Abusalama wrote on Twitter: “Must watch this video that tells you the truth about #zionist #Jews. They take their legitimacy from #Talmud.” In another post, she reportedly wrote that the “Zionist lobbies control all this for their interest,” adding: “They buy presidents/slaves.” The video and tweets have since been deleted.
Ms Abusalama has also asserted that “Zionism is one of the worst forms of antisemitism,” described the BBC as part of the “Zionist propaganda machine”, claimed that the Jewish Chronicle newspaper is so named in order to “cement the analogy between anti-Zionism and antisemitism” and has further claimed that “Germany was always one of the greatest supporters and Zionists managed to mobilise German guilt for Nazism to normalise and enable their oppression and dispossession of the Palestinians.” She has also reportedly posted: “Barak Hussein Obama is b*stard! Those racists should be happy now & re-elect him as he’s anti-Arabs and anti-Muslims & #Zionists’ puppet [sic].”
In 2013, Ms Abusalama reportedly appeared at the 46th anniversary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), an antisemitic genocidal terrorist organisation. The event was addressed via video by the convicted terrorist, Leila Khaled, with Ms Abusalama reportedly singing in front of a PFLP banner. In a blog post, Ms Abusalama has also reportedly described Kozo Okamoto, the Japanese Red Army terrorist who participated in the PFLP’s 1971 Lod Airport massacre, as a “freedom fighter”, and described six terrorists who escaped from an Israeli jail last year as “heroes”. She has previously referred to Akram Rikhawi, who was sentenced to nine years in prison for transporting suicide bombers, as “legendary”.
Last month, during the University’s short-lived investigation, Ms Abusalama claimed that “Zionist racist publications/trolls have renewed online #bullying to discredit my academic reputation,” and she was suspended by the University. She declared: “Family, friends, and followers, I am under renewed attack by Zionist publications protesting my recent appointment as an Associate Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, where I also recently submitted a PhD dissertation on the historical representation of Palestinian refugees in colonial, humanitarian and Palestinian documentary films, from 1917 and 1993. The Zionist defamation campaign by Jewish News, Campaign Against Antisemitism and Jewish Chronicle joins a historical pattern where the Zionist colonial narrative is consistently privileged over the narratives of the oppressed.” She also claimed that “Zionists are still targeting me.”
She was then reinstated to her teaching duties, and it is understood that the investigation by the University was then dropped entirely and she was given a full-time position at Sheffield Hallam.
Celebrating the University’s capitulation, Ms Abusalama has once again turned her sights to the International Definition of Antisemitism, and is seeking to sustain the pressure on the University that appears to have enabled her return.
Ms Abusalama was assisted in her negotiations with the University by a representative from the University and College Union (UCU). On 2nd February, the UCU branch at Sheffield Hallam also passed an emergency motion supporting Ms Abusalama. Ms Absulama’s Director of Studies reportedly told the meeting that “black and brown people have had to justify what they have said for many centuries” and that “it is not by chance that the IHRA [International] definition has been used against a young Palestinian scholar.” Last year, the branch was condemned for passing a motion of solidarity with the disgraced Bristol University professor, David Miller.
Among Ms Abusalama’s supporters was the controversial former President of the National Union of Students, Malia Bouattia, who was found by her own institution to have made antisemitic comments.
A spokesperson for Sheffield Hallam University said: “After some specific concerns were raised in relation to an individual’s proposed appointment as an Associate Lecturer, we had a duty to fully consider the matters brought to our attention. An appointment has now been made following the conclusion of a robust HR process. As a university we uphold the principles of free speech and academic freedom. We are proud that our staff and students come from a diverse range of backgrounds, with a wide range of views and beliefs. We do not tolerate discrimination or hate speech, and are committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive culture for all our students and staff.”
Binyomin Gilbert, Programme Manager at Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “This is just the latest example of a university that has adopted the International Definition of Antisemitism and failed properly to apply it in the case of an academic who has repeatedly and unrepentantly breached it, with the academic overcoming an investigation that apparently imposed no sanction and even getting a promotion. It is clear that Sheffield Hallam University has little interest in the welfare of its Jewish students and staff, but at the very least one might have hoped that, as a university, the institution would not wish to tar its reputation by hiring a conspiracist who believes dangerous nonsense such as that ‘Zionist lobbies buy presidents’ and writes from prejudiced ignorance about the Talmud.
“As usual, the University and Colleges Union has run to the defence of anyone who breaches the Definition, proving itself once again to be a very unsafe place for its Jewish members.
“We shall be writing to the University to make our views known and shall be reviewing options for further action.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism monitors the adoption of the International Definition of Antisemitism by universities.
If any students are concerned about antisemitism on campus or need assistance, they can call us on 0330 822 0321, or e-mail [email protected].