Court Releases Hebrew University Professor Call Her Arrest Unjustified

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Friday, April 19, ordered the release of Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who was arrested the day before on suspicion of “incitement.” The court rejected a police request to extend the professor’s remand saying that the police’s own findings did not justify the arrest.

During the discussion, one hundred demonstrators assembled outside the courthouse to protest Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s arrest and were brutally attacked by police. Other demonstrations were held at Mevaseret Tzion and Nazareth.

The Hebrew University had on Thursday issued a statement condemning Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s arrest. “The university is sharply opposed to many of the things that Prof. Shalhoub-Kevorkian said a month ago,” read the statement. “Nonetheless, we are extremely concerned about her arrest, if it is indeed based on the things she had said publicly,” it continued, saying the arrest was contrary to the country’s democratic nature.

Two hundred Hebrew University lecturers and the Israeli Law Professors Forum called for the immediate release of Shalhoub-Kevorkian. The law forum also called for her release saying that the arrest and investigation of Shalhoub-Kevorkian “seriously harms free speech and academic freedom.”

“The professor’s published work, even if we think it contains infuriating things, is not incitement to racism or terror and is not a crime,” said the forum. The forum added that the arrest joins “unjustified arrests of citizens who are using their right to free speech and free protest.” “This is very dangerous for Israeli democracy,” said the forum. “Defending free speech is not a sign of weakness, but the opposite.”

According Academia for Equality, an Israeli left-wing organization with a membership of more than 800 university and college lecturers and professors, “The arrest for purposes of questioning of Prof. Shalhoub-Kevorkian is a blatant fascist move, in which the police have been recruited to muzzle and silence criticism. The arrest and the questioning follow decisions by the Hebrew University administration to suspend Prof. Shalhoub-Kevorkian from teaching, as well as harsh statements by the university against her. Although the university has lifted the suspension, in a society in which the government is not obligated to protect freedom of expression and academic values, and right-wing organizations act as an arm of the government to intimidate the Palestinian minority and silence all criticism, it is clear that the attack by the Hebrew University administration on Prof. Shalhoub-Kevorkian painted a target on her back. The harm is particularly severe when it is directed at a member of a minority group.

“Prof. Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s remarks do not contain the slightest incitement, threat, support for terrorism or racism, or denial of the October 7 massacre. They present a critical perspective on Israel’s conduct in the current war, and point to the constant need for the factual substantiation of claims. Freedom of expression and research is the lifeblood of academia, which has no right to exist without it.”

In addition, 120 academics from around the world have signed an open letter condemning Israel’s arrest of Hebrew University professor and internationally renowned feminist scholar. “We thus recognize this as an attempt to silence critique of Israeli state violence in a context of a society infused with open genocidal incitement and discourse. In fact, the Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir welcomed the arrest and said that it ‘conveys an important message – whoever incites against the State of Israel, we will take action against them. They will not be able to hide behind their position or any other title.” This silencing and repression, they added, “endangers … the lives and education of students who study, write, and are part of her intellectual community in the Hebrew University and beyond.” They said they held the Hebrew University of Jerusalem responsible for Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s arrest “because of its persistent and public repression of her academic freedom.”

The Hebrew University suspended Prof. Shalhoub-Kevorkian last March for denouncing Israel’s deadly war in Gaza during an interview. Shalhoub-Kevorkian had been under pressure to resign from the university since late October, when she signed a call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. One hundred Arab and Jewish students protest the same day the suspension at the Mont Scopus campus of the university and some 150 Hebrew University faculty members called to revoke the suspension.