Sarah Ihmoud, a cultural anthropologist and a postdoctoral associate at Boston University, is being considered for a full-time teaching position in the Women’s Gender and Sexuality Program amid accusations of anti-Semitic academic work.
The BU Sociology Department reportedly denied Ihmoud a teaching position earlier this month, according to The Jerusalem Post, but is still being considered for the WGS Program.
When applying for these positions, Ihmoud presented BU with a paper she co-wrote, titled “Sexual Violence, Women’s Bodies, and Israeli Settler Colonialism,” which is accused of containing passages and statements that have been argued to be anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.
The paper discussed the ongoing conflicts between Israeli and Palestinian populations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip regions, arguing that they have resulted in sexual violence against Palestinian women.
Ihmoud wrote in the paper she believes the Israeli government uses rape and sexual violence as part of their stragetgy to “conquer” Palestinian land.
“The targeting of Palestinian women’s bodies and sexuality, we contend, is structural to the Israeli settler colonial project’s racialized logic of elimination,” Ihmoud wrote. “Rape and other forms of sexual violence against Palestinian women have always been an element of the settler colonial state’s attempts to destroy and eliminate indigenous Palestinians from their land.”
The paper also states that the violence against Palestinians is a systemic issue by saying “Israeli officials’ repressive policies and incitement against the Palestinian people work to empower and embolden Israeli settler society to embody the power of the state and viciously attack Palestinians.”
Several of the sources linked in Ihmound’s paper led to error pages or defunct websites. One source used was “whatreallyhappened.com,” a website that purported many conspiracy theories, including the claim that the Clintons had a “body count,” Barack Obama is a “love-child” and Osama bin Laden’s death was faked.
Shahla Haeri, associate professor of cultural anthropology and the former director of Women’s Studies Program at BU, wrote in an email that she was not aware of any accusations of anti-Semitism against Ihmoud and believes Ihmoud’s views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are balanced and academically reasonable.
“She has maintained an academically fair and balanced view of Israeli-Palestinian issues,” Haeri wrote. “I applaud the WGS for hiring a highly intelligent and capable young professor who fits the diversity profile advocated by our Provost at Boston University.”
Americans for Peace and Tolerance, a non-profit organization that advocates for peaceful coexistence among “diverse ethnic population,” wrote an article on Nov. 11 voicing their opposition to Ihmoud’s hiring on the grounds that statements are not backed by evidence and are anti-Semitic.
“The paper, like all of Ihmoud’s writings, is not simply anti-Israeli, it is blatantly anti-Semitic and unsupported by any facts and does not merit “academic scholarship” status,” APT wrote.
APT has itself been accused of having an anti-Muslim bias. A group of 70 Rabbis in 2010 wrote an open letter calling on the leader of APT to “discontinue his destructive campaign against Boston’s Muslim community.”
Karen Hurvitz, an attorney and former BU Law School faculty, wrote a letter to BU President Robert Brown asking for the school to not hire Ihmoud.
“If Boston University expects its students to have academic integrity, it must demand the same of its faculty. If Boston University wants to have good standing in the community of scholars, it must enforce rules of scholarly integrity. Please don’t make this shameful hire,” Hurvitz wrote in the letter published in an1 APT article.
Hurvitz wrote in an email that she believes the university should not hire Ihmoud because her work is filled with hate and lacks academic integrity.
“A university should not hire someone who consistently distorts sources and history to fit her views,” Hurvitz wrote. “It is a flagrant and deliberate violation of academic integrity – to say nothing of honesty and morality – that she tries to pass this hate-filled propaganda off as a well-researched and scholarly body of work.”
Ihmoud did not respond to requests for comment.
Irene Oliveira, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said she worries that Ihmoud may not be the best model for future students because of the anti-Semitic accusations.
“As a private school where there are a lot of students that are looking for a better teacher, I think they need a model,” Oliveira said. “I don’t know if she will be a good model for those students and to motivate them to be a good professional one day.”
Conrad Lindenberg, a junior in the School of Hospitality Administration, said that he wants to learn more about these accusations but is surprised that this is happening at BU.
“I definitely want to learn more about these accusations and what she’s actually accused of doing or saying,” Lindenberg said. “But overall, it’s pretty, pretty shocking. And doesn’t seem like that type of thing has a place on our campus.”
Morgan Shenaut, a sophomore in CAS, said that although she wants to learn more about the accusations, she believed a professor’s personal beliefs can be set aside once they teach.
“I think that someone can still be educated and can still spread their knowledge, even if their opinion differs from yours,” Shenaut said. “Their opinion doesn’t necessarily have to come into what they’re teaching.”
Elizabeth Lybass, a junior in the Wheelock College of Education and Human Development, said she believes that while teachers have the right to their own views, these views should never impact the students.
“As a future teacher, I think that we should be open to anyone and everyone, no matter what,” Lybass said. “I think that we have a right to our own views, but I don’t think that that should affect the ability for everyone to be able to have an education.”
Correction: The original version of this article did not include the fact that Sarah Ihmoud did not respond to requests for comment. The current version reflects these changes.
Correction: A previous version of this article did not make it clear that Shahla Haeri had not looked into the accusations of anti-Semitism when she responded to the writer. The current version reflects these changes.