SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: October 15, 2023

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Kaye Academic College of Education

Region & Country:Western Asia | Israel

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On October 15, 2023, Kaye Academic College of Education suspended Warda Sada – an educator, longtime peace activist involved in several Jewish-Palestinian groups, and professor – and summoned her to a pre-termination hearing. Sada was dismissed from her position following the hearing.

Sada’s suspension and subsequent firing occurred against the backdrop of a Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, during which over 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals were killed and more than 200 abducted, and the Israeli military’s subsequent bombardment of the Gaza Strip which, as of mid-March, has reportedly killed more than 30,000 Palestinians.

In the days following the Hamas attack, Sada, who had taught at Kaye College for 28 years, published a series of social media posts linking Hamas’ attack to Palestinian suffering, arguing against Israeli military action in Gaza, expressing support for hostage negotiations, and acknowledging the pain of both Israeli and Palestinian victims.

On October 15, Kaye College employees began to circulate a Facebook post showing Sada’s photo accompanied by text stating “A lecturer is dancing on our blood.” The post demanded that the college “deal with this immediately.” Kaye College suspended Sada the same day, issuing her a summons to a pre-termination hearing.

The subsequent hearing focused on the content of Sada’s social media posts, which Kaye College president Arye Rattner called Sada’s posts “criminal and despicable.” Sada was dismissed from her position immediately following the hearing. Rattner later published a letter to students stating, “Posts that condemn the operations of IDF soldiers, who are defending the State of Israel, will be met with zero tolerance,” he added.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the dismissal of a professor in apparent retaliation for exercising their right to freedom of expression. Higher education officials should respect scholars’ exercise of such rights and refrain from disciplinary actions that punish or deter nonviolent expressive activity. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, disciplinary actions intended to deter or punish support for student protests on campus undermine academic freedom and harms related higher education values including autonomy and social responsibility.

Sources:
https://www.972mag.com/israeli-academia-crackdown-palestinian-students
https://mesana.org/advocacy/committee-on-academic-freedom/2023/11/28/letter-regarding-intensified-targeting-of-palestinian-students-in-israeli-universities
https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2023-11-02/ty-article-magazine/.highlight/systematic-witch-hunt-what-persecution-of-israeli-arabs-looks-like-amid-gaza-war/0000018b-90db-db7e-af9b-fbdb254e0000