USACBI celebrates the victory for Dr. Lara Sheehi–and for Palestine solidarity work!–that comes with the findings that the Zionist group Stand With Us (SWU) subjected Dr. Sheehi, a professor of clinical psychology at George Washington University (GWU), to a politically-motivated, Title IV complaint when they falsely charged her with antisemitism.
GWU responded to SWU’s complaint by instigating a third-party investigation–a departure from their usual procedure of conducting an internal investigation. This outside investigation unequivocally concluded that SWU’s charges were untrue–that they decontextualized, made up, or misrepresented Dr. Sheehi’s classroom statements and practices. The investigation found no evidence that Dr. Sheehi had discriminated against students. The report made clear that no students were treated differently by Dr. Sheehi because of their citizenship or religion.
GWU accepted the findings in a Summary of Findings from the Office of the University President. In this report, they note that efforts in college campuses across the country, and in other arenas, to define antisemitism as “structural critiques of the State of Israel, including actions by the Israeli government” are a threat to principles of free speech and academic freedom. They state, “if accepted in the university environment,” this understanding of antisemitism, which the IHRA (the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) attempts to institutionalize, “could infringe on free speech principles and academic freedom.”
This case strikes a blow against the IHRA definition of antisemitism, and against efforts to censor and punish advocates for justice in Palestine. Deplorable as the Zionist smear campaign directed against Dr. Sheehi was, and unjust as GWU’s response to this targeting was, the findings of the investigation and GWU’s dismissal of the charges are an important victory. They not only vindicate Dr. Sheehi. For Zionist groups like SWU who routinely engage in intimidation, harassment, slander, libel, and lawfare, and who particularly target Palestinians and Arabs, this case serves to expose their tactics as racist, anti-Palestinian, unethical, and politically motivated.
Dr. Sheehi’s case also evidences the groundswell of international solidarity for Palestine, as well as deep respect for the work that she does. The viciousness of SWU’s attack pales in comparison to the outpouring of support for Dr. Sheehi that came from Jewish colleagues, from Psychologists for Social Responsibility, and from academics across the globe. Their statements have focused on Dr. Sheehi’s courage and integrity, as well as on the importance of protecting free speech and academic freedom, and on taking a clear stand for Palestinian freedom in the face of Israel’s colonial practices of apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and occupation.
Dr. Lara Sheehi states of this victory, “I join thousands of academics, clinicians, advocates and activists from around the world to celebrate the unequivocal victory we have just witnessed. Not only have I been cleared of any specious allegations of antisemitism, but also, the third party investigator’s report provides us with unbending clarity what we have always known: pro-Israel groups like StandWithUs explicitly manufacture crises, fabricate ‘facts’ and unleash racist and sexist harassment against anyone who dares stand in solidarity with Palestinians. The explicit naming of this playbook is a win for us all; one that painstakingly demonstrates the damage done to academics and students, especially, whose learning is disrupted as a result of these unconscionable smear campaigns. Our solidarity movement is stronger today than ever!”
Dr. Stephen Sheehi reinforces Dr. Lara Sheehi’s analysis of the significance of this win: “The independent report by Crowell & Moring, the third party investigator hired by George Washington University, resoundingly clears Lara of what we already knew to be false and slanderous claims by Stand With Us that targeted an Arab woman with intention to silence and do her harm. The report forced George Washington University to publicly acknowledge what it already knew because the University was in possession of hundreds of pages of exculpatory documentation collected in the Fall semester by the Director of the Professional Psychology Program and Deans of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. Crowell & Moring’s report unambiguously identifies the complaint by Stand With Us and the two graduate students as intentionally misleading and based on untrue and ‘inaccurate’ statements that are either false, ‘misrepresented’ or ’taken out of context.’ While we applaud the integrity of the investigator, we recognize that the President of George Washington, Mark Wrighton, acted shamelessly and opportunistically, opening Lara to months of vituperative, misogynistic and racist attacks that continue in the public sphere, the twitter-sphere and professional list-servs. With this said, we are fortified by the outpouring of solidarity, support and love across multiple professional, academic and activist communities. We are energized that George Washington does not only recognize the claims of these two students and Stand With Us as libelous but also that the University has taken a clear stand against the IHRA’s expansive and silencing definition of antisemitism. Lara’s experience, while completely unnecessary, should reassure all of us who are vocal in our support for Palestinian rights and liberation. We will not be silenced and Palestine will be free!”
USACBI joins our comrades in celebrating the end to SWU’s harassment of Dr. Lara Sheehi, and the blow this case strikes to the IHRA definition. We also join with our comrades in the certainty that there is no stopping or silencing the struggle for justice in Palestine, and that through this principled resistance, Palestine will be free.
The Organizing Collective of USACBI
image credit: Daimon Ecklund, Flickr