Queen Mary academics are calling on the university to condemn the arrest of Shalhoub-Kevorkian. Photo: Queen Mary Palestine Solidarity
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Academics demand Queen Mary condemns arrest of Palestinian professor 

More than 250 academics at Queen Mary have signed an open letter calling on the university to condemn the arrest of Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian.

Academics are putting pressure on Queen Mary University of London to issue a public statement condemning the interrogation and arrest of a leading Palestinian scholar in Israel. 

Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian is the global chair in law at Queen Mary and the Lawrence D Biele chair in law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She was arrested by Israeli police on Thursday 18 April over comments she made on a podcast published in early March.

After being detained by police on suspicion of incitement to terrorism, violence and racism, Shalhoub-Kevorkian was released on bail the next day after a judge found it unconvincing that she posed a threat. 

Queen Mary has not issued a public statement condemning the arrest of the law professor, raising alarm among its staff about the university’s commitment to safeguarding academic freedom to criticise Israel’s actions.

As many of us will have read in the news, the dispute arises at a time when students across the UK, in approximately 15 universities, are demonstrating in pro-Palestine encampments on campuses. The student protesters want their universities to divest from Israel in response to its military occupation in the Gaza Strip.

The encampments began in America before spreading across Europe in recent weeks. But at Queen Mary, it’s the staff putting pressure on the university to end its silence surrounding Shalhoub-Kevorkian.

Over 250 academics at the Queen Mary have signed an open letter addressed to Professor Colin Bailey, the President and Principal of the university. It states: ‘The atmosphere within Israel is making it extremely dangerous for academic staff and students to freely express non- or anti-Zionist positions, or even to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, where according to the International Court of Justice, it is plausible that a genocide is taking place.

‘Academic freedom has come under sustained attack and those who dare criticise Israel’s war on Gaza are routinely threatened and silenced.’

The letter calls on the university in Mile End to issue a public statement condemning the attack and arrest of Shalhoub-Kevorkian, and immediately suspend its partnership with Hebrew University, citing Queen Mary’s ‘flagrant disregard for academic freedom and its failure in its duty of care for its own staff’. 

The arrest of Shalhoub-Kevorkian marks the first time an academic has been detained in Israel over speech relating to their work, raising concerns about the protection of civil liberties. 

Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s lawyer, Hassan Jabareen, said the professor’s home was raided by police, who confiscated her books, poster, mobile phone and computer. 

According to the open letter, during her detention the 63-year-old feminist scholar was strip-searched, painfully handcuffed, and denied access to medicine.

Shortly before her arrest, Shalhoub-Kevorkian was briefly suspended from Hebrew University after comments she made in a podcast, in which she called into question the rapes committed by Hamas on October 7, according to The Times of Israel.

Hebrew University issued a statement condemning the arrest of Shalhoub-Kevorkian on Thursday 18 April. 

‘We strongly object to many of the things that Prof. Shalhoub-Kevorkian said,’ read the statement. ‘Nonetheless, as a democratic country, there is no place to arrest a person for such remarks, however infuriating they may be.’ 

Academics at Queen Mary are still waiting for the university to issue a public statement of condemnation of their colleague’s treatment, who they say has faced ‘harassment by Israeli authorities and continued vilification by much of the Israeli media’. 

A law professor at Queen Mary said the university’s silence on the matter has upset hundreds of students and staff.

‘A Queen Mary colleague has been subject to abuse from her other employer in Israel (the Hebrew University), the media, Israeli politicians, has been arrested, interrogated, had her house raided and been subjected to degrading and inhumane treatment in prison,’ they said. ‘The response of the Queen Mary management has been to say nothing.’

They added: ‘It would seem entirely sensible that Queen Mary, given its commitment to the wellbeing of its staff, ought to publicly condemn the arrest of its staff, especially when they are simply fulfilling their basic scholarly role of critiquing power; here, exercising their freedom to speak out against what the International Court of Justice has described as a plausible case of genocide in Gaza.’

The professor went on to say that Queen Mary hasn’t maintained its pretence of institutional impartiality throughout the Israel-Gaza war.

‘It has cancelled a Palestine fundraiser on campus, ignored several letters from staff and students about the university’s partnership with Israeli universities, continued to remove pro-ceasfire and Palestine posters from office doors and also instructed people to break into union offices to remove Palestine posters,’ the professor said.

A Queen Mary spokesperson said: ‘We have been following the events surrounding Professor Shalhoub-Kevorkian over the past few weeks and remain concerned about her wellbeing.’

They added: ‘We have made sure she is aware of the support we provide to members of our academic community.’

For more local news, read Out now! The Slice issue six has arrived 

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