speaking up for Palestine | defend Shahd Abusalama!

Today I received the following statement from the Sheffield Labour Left (SLL), a network that helps coordinate the genuine Labour Party left across the six CLPs covered by Sheffield.

Their message of support for Shahd Abusalama, an artist and activist from Gaza, the author of Palestine from My Eyes blog, and associate lecturer in Media Arts and Communication at Sheffield Hallam University, is reprinted in full below.

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In a classic case of “target the messenger” if you cannot win the argument, a Palestinian lecturer has been dropped by Sheffield Hallam University after an onslaught by pro-Israeli groups accusing her of antisemitism.

Shahd Abusalama, who was born and raised in Jabalia refugee camp on the Gaza Strip, has been an active voice in the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign and so came to the attention of the pro-Israeli lobby.

In typical fashion, Shahd was targeted online and, in an increasingly sinister move, her employer, Sheffield Hallam University received complaints about her views.

Shahd chronicled the attacks on her which started with articles in the Jewish Chronicle and comments from the UK Zionist Federation:

“Those attacks were routed through my university, Sheffield Hallam, as part of an organized attack on the Palestinian-led movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel, especially in England and Germany. Its purpose is to silence the rights-based movement that has succeeded in threatening Israel’s culture of impunity. It aims to undermine BDS activists’ credibility and in my case, smear my academic reputation.”

To its eternal shame, Sheffield Hallam has presently cancelled her Associate Lecturer contract – part of the increasingly tenuous employment contracts for those working in higher education.

For a university, supposedly there to provide students with the opportunity to consider all sides of a debate as part of their studies, to drop Shahd is further evidence of the one-sided nature of any narrative on Israel.

The basis for the university action against her? She explains:

“The Jewish Chronicle published two articles, one online and a shorter print version two days later, accusing me of anti-Semitism over a tweet I made in 2012 when I was barely twenty years old. The irrational wave of hate and racism kept flooding my way, despite deleting the tweet, recognizing its unintended offensive content, and clarifying that in my whole life in Gaza’s prison until September 2013, I had never interacted with any Israeli Jew outside the framework of the ongoing wars which cost us horrific human and material loss.”

But she is not the only activist being targeted by the pro-Israeli lobby with countless Labour Party members suspended or expelled simply for expressing concerns about Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians.

Shahd has made her opposition to antisemitism clear, but this cuts little ice with those willing to be complicit with the Israeli Government and its apartheid policies towards the Palestinian people.

Shahd commented: “I may be vulnerable due to my Palestinian identity, my history of trauma, my UK refugee residency, and being far from my family who are locked in Gaza. I belong, however, to a much bigger family of solidarity, for whose dedication to our struggle for justice I am forever grateful.”

SLL sends its full solidarity to Shahd and any other activists targeted by the Israeli Government simply because they oppose that Government’s inhumane and illegal war on the Palestinian people.

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I wish to add my own full support to Shahd.

Click here to visit the Sheffield Labour Left (SLL) website and here to find their official page on Facebook.

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