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: November 12, 2023

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Achva Academic College

Region & Country:Western Asia | Israel

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On November 12, 2023, Achva Academic College dismissed Dr. Uri Horesh, a senior lecturer in Arabic linguistics and Israeli Jewish academic, in retaliation for comments that he had made on social media related to Israel’s military action in Gaza.

Horesh’s dismissal occurred against the backdrop of a surprise Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 that left over 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals dead and more than 200 abducted, and the subsequent Israeli military bombardment of the Gaza Strip which, as of the beginning of December, has reportedly killed more than 15,000 Palestinians. The violence led to heightened tensions around speech on campuses throughout the world.

On October 14, Horesh shared a Facebook post saying ‘End the Genocide Now, Let Gaza Live.’ Horesh had also changed his Facebook cover photo to an image that included the Hebrew phrase, ‘Free Ghetto Gaza,’ and the English phrase, ‘Free Gaza.’ Horesh had previously expressed similar sentiments on Facebook prior to the October 7 attack by Hamas. On October 15, Horesh said he received an email from the college stating that he was suspended from teaching at the college pending a disciplinary hearing.

After receiving the email, Horesh contacted the chairperson of the senior faculty union at the college for advice on how to ensure he could keep his position; the chairperson responded that she was unwilling to intervene on his behalf since she supported the administration’s decision. The chairperson then wrote to all of the union members claiming that Horesh had expressed support for Hamas and for the October 7 attack in his social media posts.

By October 24, Horesh had lost access to the university’s online system, and his name had been removed from the college’s website without prior notification.

The College informed Horesh that he could appear before the Tenure and Promotions Committee on November 8 to discuss his dismissal. However, Horesh did not attend the committee meeting. The reason for his absence was unclear.

On November 12, the college’s administration informed Horesh by email that he had been dismissed. Initially, the college threatened to withhold compensation from Horesh; he was ultimately paid.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary dismissal of a professor for nonviolently exercising his right to freedom of expression – conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Israel is a party. Higher education authorities have an obligation to ensure due process, transparency, and fairness when engaging in disciplinary action. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.

Sources:
https://mesana.org/advocacy/committee-on-academic-freedom/2023/11/20/letter-to-protest-termination-of-employment-of-dr.-uri-horesh
https://twitter.com/urihoresh/status/1723685598207123601
https://www.brismes.ac.uk/news/letter-to-achva-academic-college-regarding-dismissal-of-dr-uri-horesh
https://www.972mag.com/israeli-academia-crackdown-palestinian-students
https://www.gerceknews.com/regional-news/israeli-sociolinguist-removed-from-job-for-his-remarks-on-israels-attacks-222435h
https://bricup.org.uk/article/israeli-academic-fired-for-advocating-end-to-targeting-civilians/