Head of International Network of Scholars: Israel Has Right to Bar Academic Deemed a Security Risk

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Israel has the right to determine the parameters of what it considers incitement, the head of an international network of academics told The Algemeiner this week, after the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London accused the Jewish state of “arbitrarily” barring one of its lecturers from entering the country.

Asaf Romirowsky, executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME), was referring to the angry response by SOAS to an incident last month in which Dr. Adam Hanieh, a lecturer in its Developmental Studies Department, was detained at Ben-Gurion International Airport, before being deported and banned from Israel for the next 10 years.

“If Hanieh was questioned, it’s because he was determined to be a security risk,” Romirowsky said. “It is not a matter of academic freedom, something SOAS and some academics refuse to accept. SOAS has failed to draw the line between academic freedom and hate speech.”

Romirowsky added that SOAS, “once a great institution,” has developed into a “haven for pan-Arabic scholarship and a breeding ground for pro-Arab, pro-Palestinian sentiment.”

Hanieh, who received his masters from the Palestinian Al-Quds University and is on the SOAS Centre for Palestine Studies’ Advisory Committee, had traveled to Israel to teach three PhD classes at Birzeit University in Ramallah.

His articles have been published on the anti-Israel site The Electronic Intifada. One of these described the 2006 electoral victory of the terrorist organization Hamas in Gaza as an “unprecedented turning point for politics in both Palestine and the broader Middle East.” He went on to claim that the win meant “an official administrative power in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has strong popular support and is not directly beholden to Israeli or Western interests” for the “first time since the establishment of Israel.”

Hanieh has also written for the Jacobin, a quarterly magazine that calls itself “a leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture.” Accolades for the publication posted on its website include a comment from Noam Chomsky, the Jewish linguistic scholar and anti-Israel political activist, calling it a “bright light in dark times.” Another comment, from MSNBC‘s Chris Hayes, describes the publication as “very explicitly on the radical left, and sort of hostile to liberal accommodationism.”

Following Hanieh’s deportation, SOAS Director Valerie Amos wrote a letter to the Israeli Embassy in the UK demanding an explanation. According to an official statement on the university website, SOAS has not yet received a response. The statement asserted, “This is not the first time that members of the SOAS community have been denied entry to Israel.”

According to a report in the UK’s The Independent, a spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy in London said Amos’ letter had been received and that the issue was being “looked into.”

As was reported by The Algemeiner, SOAS has hosted anti-Israel events, and has been accused of turning Jewish students into a “persecuted minority.”

Hanieh did not respond to The Algemeiner‘s request for comment.

Head of International Network of Scholars: Israel Has Right to Bar Academic Deemed a Security Risk

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