US university dismisses antisemitism claims against psychology professor

An independent probe commissioned by George Washington University has cleared psychology professor Lara Sheehi of allegations of anti-Semitism brought against the academic by a pro-Israel group earlier this year.

The summary of the probe’s conclusions, released on Monday, said there was no evidence or support for the claims of anti-Semitism against Sheehi, but that Sheehi had “repeatedly acknowledged the feelings of the students, that he space for the students to express their concerns, and that he denied anti-Semitism. as a real and present danger”.

“Many of the statements alleged in the complaint by Dr. Sheehi were, according to those who heard them, inaccurate or taken out of context and misrepresentation,” said the investigative report, made by the law firm, Crowell and Moring LLP.

In a statement released by the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Sheehi welcomed the findings and said she is hopeful the report’s findings will send a “clear message” to groups seeking to “harass and harass” her make academics like her.

“I am grateful to the investigators and the work spent to carefully document what I know from day one: we do not fight for the freedom of Palestine on the backs of our Jewish siblings, and we do not discriminate, nor Revenge. or isolating Jewish or Israeli students in our classrooms,” she said.

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Sheehi is an assistant professor of clinical psychology at George Washington University and co-author of the book. Psychoanalysis of a Way of Life: Practicing Resistance in Palestine.

The investigation came after StandWithUs (SWU), a pro-Israel organization, filed a federal complaint against the university in January. The complaint alleges that Sheehi created a hostile environment for Jewish students during a mandatory course on diversity during the Fall 2022 semester.

The complaint related to the definition of anti-Semitism, claiming that Sheehi had made offensive statements and denied that the students experienced anti-Semitism.

However, Crowell’s investigation said: “No student interviewees recalled Dr. Sheehi denying the existence of anti-Semitism or denying the students’ lived experiences.”

“Regarding the interactions that took place in Dr. Sheehi’s classroom, to be clear, the investigation found no evidence that the discourse crossed the line into antisemitic speech,” the investigation’s summary said.

“While we respect the right of individuals to disagree, we strongly condemn the hateful messages and threats directed at Dr. Sheehi and her family that have occurred since SWU announced its letter to OCR.”

Allegations of anti-Semitism on US campuses

Although the independent investigator cleared her of the anti-Semitism allegations, the complaint by StandWithUs was filed with the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) – not the university – so the case could continue forward.

Students accuse US university of anti-Palestinian climate

Read more ”

StandWithUs said in a statement Monday that it disagreed with the findings and asked the university to release a full version of the report.

Following the complaint from StandWithUS, an Israeli group of more than 700 academics sent a letter to the university in solidarity with Sheehi, saying the academic was being targeted “precisely because she is in solidarity with the Palestinians”.

Sheehi also defended herself in February, arguing in an article in CounterPunch magazine that the allegations of anti-Semitism against her were an attempt “​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

The definition of anti-Semitism has been a popular issue in the United States in recent years, as many pro-Israel groups are pushing universities to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition, which has already been adopted by Galway governments. . more than two dozen countries, including the United States.

The IHRA definition lists 11 examples of anti-Semitism, seven of which relate to Israel, and the definition has been criticized as an attempt to stifle free speech, including by Jewish scholars and the Progressive Israel Network.

In January, the OCR announced that it would delay a decision on whether to adopt the IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism. The OCR has served as a battleground for pro-Israel groups, which have filed numerous federal complaints against US universities over allegations of anti-Semitism.

George Washington University has been at the center of several cases of alleged discrimination, including from Palestinian students and staff who say the school discriminated against them based on “discrimination of national origin”.

In February, several students filed a civil rights complaint with the OCR, saying the university denied services to Palestinian students to process trauma related to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

In 2021, Palestine Legal filed a similar complaint against George Washington University, that time on behalf of a staff member who said they were also denied access to trauma services provided by the school.

In 2015, campus police ordered a student to remove the Palestinian flag from his window. The university president later apologized for the incident.

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