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With the suspension of Prof. Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Israeli academia is entering the abyss

Updated: Mar 14

On behalf of over eight hundred academics, members of Academia for Equality, we raise an urgent emergency alarm over the decision of the Hebrew University’s administration to suspend Prof. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian from teaching duties due to her statements regarding the current war. Besides the extreme violence being meted out by the Israeli military on the Gaza Strip’s civilian population, other arms of the state are attempting to destroy Israel’s critical civil society and silence the voices of intellectuals opposed to the war and other Israeli policies, especially among the Palestinian citizens of the state.

Israeli law and university by-laws include measures which enable prosecution and disciplinary action against supporters of terrorism and racism. But the law and by-laws have not been used in the countless cases in which Jewish academics and students have incited to genocide in the Gaza Strip and violence against members of the academic community. On the other hand, due to  pressure from government-adjacent fascist organizations and senior government ministers, since the war began, numerous  procedures have been initiated against students and academics, both Palestinian and Jewish, who have expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people and opposition to the atrocities committed in Gaza. Likewise, the steps taken against Prof. Shalhoub-Kevorkian contradict the university by-laws, which do not authorize the president or rector to suspend an instructor over speech, and the law, which does not prohibit the expression of such views.

We have listened carefully to Prof. Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s remarks, including the podcast interview that provided the ostensible grounds for her suspension. While we do not necessarily agree with all of the views expressed, the university’s claims against her are unfounded; they seem to be mere lazy repetitions of the complaints by fascist organizations the university and Members of Knesset, as reported in the media. Prof. Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s remarks do not comprise incitement, threat, support for terrorism or racism, or denial of the October 7th massacre . Rather, they represent a critical perspective on Israel’s actions during the current war. As such, the attack on Prof. Shalhoub-Kevorkian represents an overarching phenomenon: the administrations of Israel’s higher education institutions have become pawns in the hands of the far-right government, seeking to intimidate the state’s Palestinian minority and silence any criticism – including criticism that would be in keeping with the binational vision of the Hebrew University’s founders, Judah Magnes and Martin Buber.

We therefore seek to warn the entire academic community: if we let the wrong done to Prof. Shalhoub-Kevorkian stand, none of us will be safe. Freedom of expression and research is quintessential to academic life, and without it, universities lose their raison d’etre. If the Hebrew University’s administration does not reverse its indefensible decision, the floodgates might open for a deluge of repression which will not spare those who feel that their acquiescence  to the war effort will absolve them of the “sin” of  protesting against the government prior to the war.  The writing is on the wall. Read in French here.


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