Campus, News

BU Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies potential hire accused of anti-Semitism

Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences. The Women’s Gender and Sexuality Program is looking to potentially hire postdoctoral associate Sarah Ihmoud for a full-time teaching position despite claims that a paper she co-wrote contains anti-Semitic comments. BRITTANY CHANG/ DFP FILE

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.

26 Comments

  1. The charge of anti-Semitism is misplaced here; similar charges are often made against colonial/oppressive regimes without any connection to Judaism (see India’s involvement in Kashmir, or the targeting of Yazidi women). Nevertheless, the fact that Ms. Ihmoud has used substandard sources is troubling; it suggests that she has little academic integrity, and is not fit for a teaching position. The sourcing question should have been emphasised in the lede.

  2. “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.”

    What exactly is the diversity profile advocated the Provost? Does it take precedence over the merits of scholarship? How many candidates were there? Were there any that a) had stronger scholarly submissions (judged by citations of the work, accuracy of sourcing, and academic integrity) and b) failed to meet the diversity profile? If so, here is an example where the diversity profile, which seems to be a requirement or at least a strong consideration in the hiring process, is weakening the overall strength of the faculty at BU.

  3. Hmmm….. Ihmoud wrote that Israeli women have orgasms fantasizing about bombing Gaza and “Shahla Haeri, associate professor of cultural anthropology thinks…… Ihmoud’s views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are balanced and academically reasonable.” Does Shahla have a problem, too? Why are these folks fantasizing about Israeli women’s sexuality…. Hmmmmm.

  4. Frederick W Wirth BU '68

    Please do not accept this person to a position of authority or leadership.
    I respect all opinions; however, they should not have the ability to anything more than express them.
    Teaching a group of maliable minds is entirely different than expressing an opinion.
    Thank you for consideration of my opinion.

    Rick

  5. I mean she isn’t wrong. Zionism is prominent in Boston University from many pro-Israel professors who discriminate vocally against Arabs and Palestinians, especially. It’s time someone as well-educated on the manner to take a position in a field that sheds light on Israel’s human rights violations and pinkwashing.

  6. Free Palestine ♡

    Plain racist article.
    Anti-Zionism doesn’t equal anti-semitism, and to accuse the first of the later is merely the result of ignorance and privilege.

    • So….being opposed to the existence of even one Jewish state (when there are more than 20 Muslim states) isn’t about disliking Jews?
      „Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them“—George Orwell.
      Try better next time, Ms. Ihmoud.

      • antizionism =/= antisemitism

        Muslims are indigenous to their land while the jewish people are a mix of ethnicities that try to force a claim being native using a RELIGIOUS text that was written >2000 years ago. Why don’t you have a jewish state in Germany or France or Russia or Morroco or wherever Israelis originally came from? Why do you believe you have the right to that land over its native inhabitants just because your folklore book tells you so?

        Regardless, Jewish people are already there and have developed the land, the least they can do is honor Palestinian human rights and provide them the same opportunities as jewish people in the land.

  7. There are many things wrong with this accusation. Perhaps you need to consider why most countries disagree with the US’s stance on Israel’s zionist activities against Palestine. Like mentioned before, a much larger concern should have been placed on her academic sources-that’s what you write an article about. Take a look at the non-profit you cited. I searched it and the first article to pop up was about Muslim anti-semitism, which is not only presumptuous and incorrect, but also racist.

  8. Free Palestine. tired of academia and western media being complacent.

  9. Free Palestine. Tired of academia and western media being complicit.

  10. Free Palestine. Tired of academia and western media being complicit.

  11. FREE PALESTINE

  12. FREE PALESTINE

  13. Free Palestine

  14. Is this Journalism?

    As a journalist and a lawyer, but most importantly, as a human being, I am appalled.

    Did the writer of the article ever consider introducing the perspective of a Palestinian student, whose family might have endured the ethnic cleansing in 1948? These stories aren’t inaccessible- any Palestinian knows someone or is the descendent of someone to whom this has happened; someone whose life was literally taken away because of Zionism.

    As a lawyer, I am appalled because of the notion that one broken link or one uncredible news source is sufficient to diminish the factuality of this academic’s work. Have we truly come to a point where, to protect the abstract notion of the state that we silence and disempower academics? On a topic that has already been so silencing (the violence against women)?

    There are no excuses for this piece, and honestly beyond an apology I would at least hope that this journalist consider the fact that feminism and female empowerment is not just for a select few, but that when the stories of sexual assault as justified through state sanctioned violence or ideology (read: Zionism) that Palestinian/Arab/Muslim women are granted that dignity instead of having their stories erased due to an Orientalist outlook of being undeserving of dignity all at the expense of appeasing zionist propaganda.

    As a human, this is just despicable. Shame on you. When Palestine is liberated, you’ll be known for standing on the wrong side of history.

  15. Free palestine

    Free Palestine

  16. Free Palestine

  17. FREE PALESTINE!

  18. also really confused why conquer is in quotes.

    did settlers in what we now call the u.s. not use sexual violence as a tactic to achieve their goal: conquer north american land?

    settler colonialists have……….. beeen doin that for a minute lol

    this article treating the potential candidates assertion that palestinans are being tactically oppressed as some sort of alex-jones-the-water-turned-the-frogs-gay type claim is disgusting and ahistorical

  19. Love seeing the queer people, POC and LGBTQ+ people speaking truth in the comments. This is whokesome and good for our department.

  20. Where was this energy when Shapiro came to campus? Zionists be talking only when their privileged egos are threatened.

  21. Appealing and frankly disgusting that someone who is horrendously biased touting the same propaganda as Hamas and Isis is considered for any teaching position! No wonder universities are a cesspool of useful idiots, useless activists, and their pathetic tenured radical handlers ! No more knowledge just lies and propaganda rules the day

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