Hebrew University suspends senior lecturer who called for abolishing Zionism

Prof. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, a longtime Israel critic, also questioned whether Hamas committed atrocities on October 7

Gavriel Fiske is a reporter at The Times of Israel

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)
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)

The Hebrew University has suspended Prof. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian of the Faculty of Law after a series of inflammatory statements, the university said in a statement Tuesday.

The unusual move came a day after Shalhoub-Kevorkian, an outspoken critic of Israel and Zionism, told Channel 14 in an interview that Zionism should be abolished and called into question the rapes and other atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7.

Shalhoub-Kiborkian said that Israelis act afraid when they walk by and hear her talking Arabic on the phone, but they “should be scared because criminals are always scared… it’s time to abolish Zionism. It can’t continue, it’s criminal. Only by abolishing Zionism can we continue.”

She continued, “They will use any lie. They started with babies, they continued with rape, and they will continue with a million other lies. We stopped believing them, I hope the world stops believing them.”

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.

The letter, which was signed by more than 1,000 academics around the world, called for “the immediate cessation of the Western-backed Israeli genocide in Gaza and the egregious violation of Palestinian children’s rights.”

The letter, which called for a ceasefire and humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, also supported “calls from within Palestine/Israel for a long-term political solution, premised on ending the ongoing occupation of Palestine and the Israeli apartheid regime,” along with “global calls for the immediate release of civilians, including the 500-700 Palestinian children arbitrarily detained by Israel each year and those children held hostage by Hamas.”

The letter also said that “75 years of settler-colonial occupation in Palestine and 17 years in which Gaza has been little more than an open-air prison” has “produced some of the most heinous conditions of life imaginable for Gaza’s civilian population.”

At the time, on October 29, the university sent a formal letter that “expressed strong condemnation over Prof. Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s alignment with a petition characterizing Israel’s actions in Gaza as genocidal and labeling it an occupying force since 1948. The university management suggested that she consider resigning from her position at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem,” Tuesday’s statement said.

However, she did not respond and continued with “divisive statements” that “bring embarrassment to our esteemed institution,” the university continued, accusing Shalhoub-Kevorkian of taking advantage of her academic freedom of expression “for incitement and to create division.”

After the latest statements, and in response to pressure from lawmakers and the academic community, the university issued a formal suspension.

“As a proud Israeli, public, and Zionist institution, the Hebrew University strongly condemns Prof. Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s recent shocking and outrageous statements… To ensure a safe and conducive environment for our students on campus, the university has decided to suspend Prof. Shalhoub-Kevorkian from teaching activities, effective immediately,” the statement said.

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 of Jerusalem and the Global Chair in Law- 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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