Hebrew U prof. arrested after doubting Hamas rapes, saying Israelis ‘should be afraid’

Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, who repeatedly called Israelis ‘criminals,’ questioned by police on suspicion of incitement; she was previously suspended by university, later reinstated

File - Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, professor of social work and law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, during a presentation. (YouTube screenshot; used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)
File - Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, professor of social work and law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, during a presentation. (YouTube screenshot; used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)

An Arab Israeli professor from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was arrested Thursday on suspicion of incitement after questioning Hamas rapes and other atrocities during the October 7 attacks and saying Israelis are “criminals” and “should be afraid.”

Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, a criminologist and law professor, was brought in for questioning at a police station in the Jerusalem suburb of Mevasseret Zion.

Shalhoub-Kevorkian, a senior lecturer at the university, was first suspended in March after appearing in a March 9 interview with the podcast Makdisi Street, in which she said Zionism should be abolished and called into question the rapes and other atrocities committed by Hamas. She said Israelis act afraid when they walk by and hear her speaking in Arabic, “and they should be afraid because criminals are always afraid. They cannot dispossess my land, they cannot displace my people. They cannot kill and not be afraid, so they better be afraid.”

She continued, “It’s time to abolish Zionism. It can’t continue, it’s criminal. Only by abolishing Zionism can we continue.”

Shalhoub-Kevorkian further said of Israelis: “We need to look at them as criminals and we need to analyze them from a criminal perspective. This is how I see it as Nadera. And it’s not dehumanizing them at all. It’s just realizing we are dealing with vicious criminals and somebody should stop them.”

She called for a “global political movement” to do so.

While she claimed to always believe victims of sexual assault, she asserted that few women were actually coming forward to make such allegations regarding the October 7 attacks, downplaying extensive reporting on terrorists’ use of rape and other sexual violence and a recent UN report that gave backing to the allegations.

“Women’s bodies are being used as political weapons. If it happened — not in my name. If it didn’t happen, it’s [a] shame on the state to use women’s bodies and sexuality to promote political agendas, to promote further dispossession of land, to promote further killing, to promote abuse and rape.”

“This is very dishonest,” she continued. “They will use everything to further kill. It’s a killing machine… They started with babies, they continued with rape, they will continue with [a] million other lies, every day with another story. We stopped believing them, I hope that the world will stop believing them.”

Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s statements denying Hamas atrocities led to her brief suspension by the university. In late March, however, the university reinstated her, citing a meeting Shalhoub-Kevorkian had with its rector Prof. Tamir Sheafer where she “clarified that as a feminist researcher, she believes the victims and doesn’t doubt their claims and she did not deny that there were incidents of rape on October 7.”

She was not requested to walk back her claim that Israel was committing genocide in Gaza, the Haaretz daily reported.

Following the clarification, the university said it found no obstacle to reinstating the professor and that she would continue to teach in the School of Social Work and Social Welfare.

The destruction caused by Hamas terrorists in Kibbutz Be’eri in southern Israel, October 14, 2023. (Omer Fichman/Flash90)

Announcing the reversed decision, Sheafer said that “the Hebrew University strongly condemns inciting words and threats toward students, male and female lecturers, male and female employees, individuals and groups, and calls on all members of the university community to maintain a safe and respectful study and research environment.”

Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s lawyer, Alaa Mahajna, said his client was not well.

“She’s not been in good health recently and was arrested in her home,” he said Thursday. “Police searched the house and seized her computer and cellphone, [Palestinian] poetry books and work-related papers,” he added. Mahajna said Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s arrest was yet another part of the campaign of incitement against her.

“The harassment against her has included a large number of violent threats and threats against her life,” amongst other things.

Hadash MK Ofer Cassif sharply criticized Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s investigation, saying police “arrested Shalhoub-Kevorkian solely because of her statements. So that there is no doubt: Prof. Shalhoub-Kevorkian did not deny the [October 7] massacre and did not question the atrocities committed by Hamas (and even if she did, there’s nothing criminal about that). Her statement that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza is a legitimate statement, and would only be considered forbidden in a dictatorial regime.”

MK Ofer Cassif at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on January 17, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Elchanan Felhaimer, the chair of the National Union of Israeli Students, welcomed the arrest and said he hoped it would influence how academics express themselves on hot-button issues.

“Students throughout Israel led by the National Union of Israeli Students have been crying out for a long time to stop the incitement. It’s the appropriate thing that in our home we know how to deal [with such incitement] in the right way so as to eradicate this disgusting phenomenon,” Felhaimer said.

Shalhoub-Kevorkian has been active in international progressive academia for many years. In October, several weeks after the Hamas assault of October 7 and shortly after Israel’s ground incursion into Gaza began, she was signatory number one to an open letter accusing Israel of genocide.

Students at Hebrew University in Jerusalem protesting against Hebrew University Prof. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian on March 17, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

On October 7, Hamas led a massive cross-border attack on Israel in which some 1,200 people were killed, amid atrocities including rape and torture. Terrorists also abducted 253 people who were taken as hostages to Gaza.

Shalhoub-Kevorkian is the Lawrence D. Biele Chair in Law at the Faculty of Law-Institute of Criminology and the School of Social Work and Public Welfare at the Hebrew University and the Global Chair in Law at Queen Mary University of London, according to her faculty page, which notes that she is a resident of Jerusalem’s Old City and a “prominent local activist.”

She is an expert on “trauma, state crimes and criminology, surveillance, gender violence, law and society. She studies the crime of femicide and other forms of gendered-based violence, violence against children in conflict-ridden areas, crimes of abuse of power in settler colonial contexts, surveillance, securitization and social control,” according to her page.

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