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General Articles
Pro-Palestinian Activism Disguised as Scholarship in Australia: Sandra Nasr as a Case in Point
15.08.18
Editorial Note

IAM has often reported on the abuse of the academic platform by Palestinian and pro-Palestinian academics to advance the Palestinian narrative.
A remarkable example was revealed when a group of BDS activists, members of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), "took over" the leadership of the American Studies Association (ASA) without disclosing their intention to the association.

Australia has also experienced an abuse of the academic podium by Palestinian and pro-Palestinian activists. IAM received a copy of a recent letter addressed to the Australian Minister of Education (below), from the leadership of the Jewish community in Australia. The letter accuses Dr. Sandra Nasr who teaches history at the University of Notre Dame in Fremantle, Western Australia, of having a prejudicial attitude towards Judaism and Jews in her public statements and publications and making tendentious statements about Jews and Judaism.

For Example, Nasr's thesis, submitted in 2010 to the department of social sciences at Curtin University, Australia, "Tactical Terror: Israel in the Palestinian Territories," was subjected to a complaint to the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA), evaluating it as a “crude prejudice and lack of scholarly rigour of the thesis (as now attested to by three independent academic scholars); apparent conflicts of interest by the two examiners; and the university’s … placing the thesis under permanent embargo in 2010”. 

Sandra Nasr has collaborated with Leila Nasr, an LSE Human Rights blog editor.  They presented the paper "Israeli land expropriation and resource colonisation in occupied Palestine" in Vienna, in the Austrian Conference on International Resource Politics in 2014. The paper asserted the "scope of forced Palestinian dispossession from their land amounts to resource colonisation by the Israeli government in support of its long-standing colonial-settlement project for the West Bank."

In an article titled "Delegitimising Through Dehumanisation: Palestinian ‘Human’ Rights Denied," published on the LSE Human Rights Blog on 4 December 2015, Sandra Nasr wrote that "Zionism, the ideological project to secure a Jewish homeland, relies upon notions of separateness, superiority and entitlement. It finds its origins in the ‘promise’ believed to have been made by God to ‘His people’ – Abraham and his descendants, the Israelites. According to this belief, they were to take the land by force, kill anyone who resisted, and take for slaves those who did not fight back (except in more distant towns which should just be cleansed)... The narratives present in the Torah – and, indeed throughout the Tanakh -- not only raise the Israelites to special status (‘a people apart’) above all other peoples of the Earth, but legitimises – and even requires – the ethnic cleansing of non-Israelites from the land of Canaan." 

The article was taken down after pressure by students and groups such as the Community Security Trust, a charity protecting British Jews from antisemitism and similar threats.

And now, a recent Australian newspaper published an article in June announcing that TEQSA confirmed it was reviewing the complaint about Nasr’s PhD, but did not disclose any information about it. Likewise, Curtin University failed to refer to the complaint but commented that it had “assessed the PhD thesis in accordance with university contemporary policy and supported, at the time, a request that the thesis be placed under embargo. Once the university was made aware Dr Nasr had made public presentations about the thesis topic and findings, the embargo was lifted.” And the University of Notre Dame Australia said this investigation was “internal and confidential,” refusing to make further comments.

In response, Peter Wertheim, the chief executive of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry said that “No university that values its reputation would allow crude racism dressed up as scholarship to pass muster.”

 IAM shall report further on the developments.





Executive Council of Australian Jewry Inc.
The Representative Organisation of Australian Jewry
Level 2, 80 William Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Address all correspondence to:
PO Box 1114, Edgecliff NSW 2027
Tel (+61 2) 8353 8500
Fax (+61 2) 9361 5888
5 July 2018
Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham
Minister for Education and Training
GPO Box 9880
Canberra ACT 2601

Dear Minister
Academic Standards at Curtin University
We are writing to express our profound concern that Sandra Nasr is currently teaching University students in Western Australia about the Middle East, portraying herself as an academic with expertise in that area, and arguably disseminating hateful attitudes about Judaism and Jews. This situation is the consequence of an apparent lapse of academic standards at Curtin University.
Nasr has persistently displayed a prejudiced attitude towards Judaism and Jews in her public statements and publications over the last decade, and made tendentious statements about Jews, Judaism and international law - areas of knowledge in which she manifestly lacks the requisite academic expertise. Her academic qualifications are, to say the least, questionable, because her PhD – which included a chapter entitled “From Torah to Terror” - was granted following an apparently flawed process at Curtin University in 2010. It also seems that she has never published in a peer-reviewed academic journal.
Sandra Nasr’s PhD thesis purported to address critical issues of international law, and Jewish civilisation, religious texts, thought and culture. She had no recognised academic training, qualifications or expertise in any of these fields, and neither did her supervisors nor her examiners, although, at the time, several of them, including the candidate, collaborated in the publication of a book which dealt with some of these issues.
We consulted four academics eminent in the relevant fields, who were all scathing in their critiques of Nasr’s thesis. One of them, Professor Stuart Kaye, Director and Professor of Law, from the University of Wollongong said that it was “far and away the worst PhD thesis I have ever read”.
We are concerned about Curtin University’s standards and reputation, and the fact that a lecturer, apparently without the requisite academic knowledge, is teaching University students in Western Australia.
2
In September 2017, we asked Curtin University to commission an independent inquiry into the
granting of the PhD to Nasr and its permanent embargo. We received a brief letter of
acknowledgement in October and a further letter in December purporting to assure us that “work is
being undertaken...” but nothing further, despite repeated follow-up enquiries.
We have also complained to the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency about - the
crude prejudice and lack of scholarly rigour in the thesis; apparent conflicts of interest by its
examiners; Curtin University’s placing the thesis under permanent embargo; persisting in
maintaining the embargo; its failure to respond to our complaints; and its lack of transparency.
Minister, we seek your assistance to ensure that:
• Sandra Nasr’s academic qualifications are properly re-assessed by independent, eminent
academics, appropriately qualified in the relevant fields, and that undeserved qualifications (if
any) are rescinded;
• the processes and policies by which Sandra Nasr was granted a PhD by Curtin University in
2010 are reviewed by independent, eminent academics, appropriately qualified to do so, and
that these processes and policies are revised to prevent the recurrence of any lapses in proper
academic standards that may be identified in the review.
Please refer to the Appendix below for further background.
The subject thesis is 328 pages long and can be accessed via the following link:
The four academic reviews, the two Examiners’ Reports and correspondence with Curtin
University, the WA Information Commissioner and TEQSA, among other documents, can be
accessed via:
have any difficulty accessing these documents please let us know and we will forward these to you
as separate documents.
We look forward to your reply.
Yours faithfully
Anton Block
President
cc: The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy,
3
Appendix
Background on Sandra Nasr’s public statements and on how Curtin University granted a
PhD to her in 2010
It is a poor reflection on the academic standards of Curtin University that the same sort of
derogatory generalisations about Jews and Judaism, which the London School of Economics (LSE)
apologetically removed from its blog were rewarded with a grant of a PhD by Curtin University in
2010.
In December 2015 the LSE published, then apologetically removed, a post by Sandra Nasr on the
LSE Blog. The post had claimed that Jewish scriptures and Rabbinical pronouncements contained
“Notions of ‘racial’ superiority with the effect of relegating ‘the other’ to a standard which is subhuman
and, therefore, not deserving of the same considerations that are reserved for one’s ‘own
kind’...” She accused Israel of treating Palestinians as “sub-human” and described Zionism as
being based on “superiority and entitlement”. The post was condemned by many as slanderous and
racist.1
Nasr was, and still is, a lecturer at Notre Dame University in Fremantle. Commenting on the post
when we drew it to the University’s attention at the time, the University stated that “The opinions
and comments expressed by Dr Nasr do not, in any way, represent the opinion of the University;
Nasr’s blog posting was not endorsed or sanctioned by the University; the University expresses its
disappointment and apologies that comments causing such offence have been associated with the
University; and the University is addressing this issue with due seriousness in accordance with its
relevant processes.”
Sandra Nasr was granted a PhD by Curtin University, in 2010. When, early in 2016, we sought a
copy of her thesis entitled “Tactical Terror: Israel in the Palestinian Territories”, we were
surprised to find that the University had placed it under a "permanent embargo", which is very
unusual for a thesis in the humanities. The University advised that it considered the thesis exempt
from WA Freedom of Information Act because its release "will endanger the author’s life or
safety". After reviewing this decision, in response to our appeal, the University maintained the
embargo.
Following our application, in May 2016, to the WA Information Commissioner under the Freedom
of Information Act 1992 (WA), which was initially contested by the University, we were
eventually granted access to the thesis in December 2016, and, after further objections by the
University, the examiners’ reports and identities, in May 2017.
in-hot-water-over-antisemitic-article-20151211-gllhqk.html) and The Jewish Chronicle
4
Nasr’s supervisors were Professors Eamon Murphy and Bob Pokrant. The examiners were Dr
Ruth Blakeley and Professor Scott Poynting.2 At that time, Scott Poynting was co-editing a book,
with Eamon Murphy, entitled “Contemporary State Terrorism; Theory and Practice” to which
Sandra Nasr and Ruth Blakeley each contributed. In the thesis Nasr described her chapter as
“essentially a condensed version of this thesis”. This raises questions about possible conflicts of
interest as well as the possibility that like-minded activists colluded to disseminate their prejudice
under a cloak of purported scholarship.
We asked four eminent academics in the fields addressed by Sandra Nasr’s thesis, being
international law and Jewish religion and philosophy, to review it. Excerpts from their reports
include the following comments:
“the international legal analysis must be fatally flawed…. These flaws would be fatal in an
undergraduate international law essay and are extraordinary in the context of a PhD thesis...
to address the legal issues in such a fashion is most unsatisfactory, and inconsistent with the
standard required of any doctoral thesis” (Professor Stuart Kaye, Director and Professor of
Law, University of Wollongong, NSW)
“Dr Nasr's thesis …[is] more akin to a polemic than to a scholarly project… a rather poorly
constructed brief for the Palestinian political cause rather than a work that complies with any
academic standards with which I am familiar." (Professor Donna Robinson Divine,
Morningstar Professor Emerita of Jewish Studies and Professor Emerita of Government at
Smith College in Massachusetts USA)
"This thesis crosses the boundaries between personal views, propaganda and genuine research
...this thesis is not a genuine academic exercise. ...her supervisors and … examiners … were
seemingly unable to abide by conventional academic practice" (Professor Emeritus Colin
Shindler, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London)
“…The unscholarly quality of Nasr’s thesis underscores its all too obvious anti-Jewish bias...
On the basis of chapter 5 alone, the dissertation should not have been accepted” (Professor
Mark Leuchter, Associate Professor of Biblical Literature and Ancient Judaism, Director of
Jewish Studies, Department of Religion, Temple University, Philadelphia).
2 Note that, in 2016, Scott Poynting left his posting at the University of Auckland after an anti-Semitism row sparked
by a letter he wrote to the Waikato Times. See
 “UoA Professor of hate crimes writes anti-Semitic letter” (https://shalom.kiwi/2015/11/uoa-professor-of-hatecrimes-
writes-antisemitic-letter/);
 “Professor Poynting’s anti-Semitic letter” (https://shalom.kiwi/2015/12/update-professor-poyntings-antisemitic-
letter/);
 “The University of Auckland apologises...” (https://shalom.kiwi/2016/03/university-auckland-apologisesprivate/);
 “AUCKLAND UNIVERSITY: PROFESSOR TO LEAVE POST AFTER “ANTI-SEMITIC” LETTER”
 “Auckland University hate-crimes professor leaves job after remark about Jews”
about-jews).
5
More recently, Nasr is reported to have said,3 in response to our complaints to Curtin University
and to TEQSA about her PhD thesis, that:
“… These attacks on academic freedom are part of a sustained attempt to redefine criticism of
Israel or Zionist ideology as antisemitism in order to silence those who would express concern
regarding Palestinian human rights under Israeli occupation.”
We vehemently reject Nasr’s accusations. Four scholars of high standing with very diverse
backgrounds have concluded that Nasr’s thesis lacks academic merit. The fact that Nasr has
invoked the principle of academic freedom to shield her work from legitimate academic criticism
itself calls into question her credentials as a scholar.
The Working Definition of Antisemitism which on 26 May 2016 was unanimously adopted by the
International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA),4 includes the following as examples of
antisemitism, each of which can be found in Nasr’s work and public statements:
 Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as
such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth
about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or
other societal institutions.
 Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by
a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
 Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence
of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.
 Applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any
other democratic nation.
 Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
The IHRA consists of 31 countries – democratic states which are dedicated to educating against
and combating growing Holocaust denial and antisemitism. On 30 November 2017, Australia
upgraded its status on the IHRA from Observer to Liaison status. Australia is likely to further
upgrade its status to full membership by next year. Australia’s presence on the IHRA gives the
definition legitimacy in Australia.
Nasr’s public statements about the reasons for criticism of her work are not only false, but also
mendacious. It is ironic that Nasr accuses others of trying to silence her and suppress her views,
when it was she who sought and obtained a decision by Curtin University to place her thesis under
a permanent embargo, which is most unusual, if not unique, for a thesis in the humanities.
3 “Anti-Semitism protests ‘an attempt to silence me’, says academic” https://www.theaustralian.com.au/highereducation/
antisemitism-protests-an-attempt-to-silence-me-says-academic/newsstory/
049d4bee8c2fa1140f4f7df25ad1f9fe
The text of the Working Definition can be found at:
6
Curtin University was also recently reported5 to state that it had “… supported, at the time, a
request that the thesis be placed under embargo. Once the university was made aware Dr Nasr
had made public presentations about the thesis topic and findings, the embargo was lifted.”
However, on each occasion that we applied to Curtin University for access to the thesis (first on 11
February 2016, and again in applying for a review of the University’s initial refusal, on 15 April
2016) we explicitly pointed out that Nasr had published a book chapter and a paper in 2009 and
2010, publicly expressing the same views as her thesis. Despite this, the University maintained its
highly-unusual embargo until well after we had made our complaint to the WA Information
Commissioner on 6 May 2016.
It was not until 18 August 2016 that the Information Commissioner advised us, by email that "I
have been advised by [Curtin University] that it has reviewed its decision to consider the disputed
documents exempt under clause 5(1)(e) of Schedule 1 to the FOI Act and it no longer maintains its
claim in respect of the thesis or the examination reports. It does however maintain a claim of
exemption under clause 3 for certain personal information in all the disputed documents.” On 29
May 2017, the Information Commissioner issued a decision, notwithstanding Curtin University’s
objections, that the names and titles of the examiners are not exempt under the relevant Act, stating
that "I find that disclosure …is in the public interest": Jewish Community Council of Western
Australia Incorporated and Curtin University of Technology and 'T', Re [2017] WAICmr 15 (29
June 2017).
news-story/049d4bee8c2fa1140f4f7df25ad1f9fe



=====================================================


Anti-Semitism protests ‘an attempt to silence me’, says academic


PAIGE TAYLOR WA BUREAU CHIEF @paigeataylor
VICTORIA LAURIE SENIOR REPORTER
12:00AM JUNE 14, 2018
 

A Perth academic who criticised Israeli policies in a PhD eight years ago says she is the subject of sustained attempts to silence her on the topic of Palestinian human rights.

Sandra Nasr’s 2010 thesis is the subject of a complaint to the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency by the president of the Jewish Community Council of Western Australia, Joan Hillman, who alleges it contains “improprieties”, citing “crude prejudice and lack of scholarly rigour of the thesis (as now attested to by three independent academic scholars); apparent conflicts of interest by the two examiners; and the university’s … placing the thesis under permanent embargo in 2010”.

Dr Nasr, a lecturer in politics and history at Notre Dame in Western Australia, said her thesis was passed in line with Curtin University’s PhD candidate admission and supervisor and examiner review processes. In it, she “critiqued Israeli policies and practices of occupation within the framework of critical state terrorism … These attacks on academic freedom are part of a sustained attempt to redefine criticism of Israel or Zionist ideology as anti-Semitism in order to silence those who would express concern regarding Palestinian human rights under Israeli occupation.”

The complaint is being dealt with 2½ years after Dr Nasr was criticised for a piece she wrote on the London School of Economics website that criticised Zionist ideology. The Britain-based Jewish Community Security Trust decried the article for “employing grotesque racist slanders against Judaism”.

A spokeswoman for the University of Notre Dame Australia said an investigation into the 2015 post was “internal and confidential” and the university would not be making further comment.

Yesterday, TEQSA confirmed it was reviewing the complaint about Dr Nasr’s PhD but its disclosure policy prevented it from making further comment.

Curtin University said it had “assessed the PhD thesis in accordance with university contemporary policy and supported, at the time, a request that the thesis be placed under embargo. Once the university was made aware Dr Nasr had made public presentations about the thesis topic and findings, the embargo was lifted.”

It did not comment on the ongoing complaint.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry chief executive Peter Wertheim said Curtin University had rewarded Dr Nasr with a PhD for derogatory generalisations about Jews and Judaism.

“No university that values its reputation would allow crude racism dressed up as scholarship to pass muster.”


=====================================================




CST condemns post on LSE Human Rights Blog

4 Dec 2015 by CST

CST condemns a post on the LSE Human Rights Blog by Dr Sandra Nasr, titled "Delegitimising through Dehumanisation: Palestinian ‘human’ rights denied", for its false and offensive caricature of Jewish law and religious beliefs. With no attempt at balance or context, it claims to summarise Jewish ethics, law and behaviour, by reproducing antisemitic tropes about “notions of separateness, superiority and entitlement”. It is a complete misreading of the idea of the “chosen people”, the type of utterly discredited old anti-Judaism that should have no place in an academic work, especially not in a “Human Rights” setting.

The post attacks Israel by employing grotesque racist slanders against Judaism. To this end, the post even includes a link to a Holocaust Denial website called VHO and specifically to an article by Roger Garaudy, a Holocaust Denier who was convicted in France of denying the Holocaust and fined £20,000. The nature of the VHO website and Garaudy’s involvement in Holocaust denial should have been apparent to the author, as VHO’s introduction to Garaudy’s article says that Garaudy “had taken aim at the historical legends cited for decades to justify Zionism and the Jewish state, including the most sacred of Jewish-Zionist icons, the Holocaust extermination story.” VHO also states that Garaudy’s article was originally published in the Journal for Historical Review, which is a leading Holocaust Denial publication.

It is particularly concerning that posts on the LSE Human Rights Blog appear to go through an editorial process before being published, yet this post was still considered suitable for publication. We urge LSE and its Centre for the Study of Human Rights to consider whether this post meets their academic and ethical standards, both in its content and its use of antisemitic source material, and to review the process by which posts are published on their blog.

UPDATE: The post in question has now been taken down from the LSE Human Rights Blog. We welcome this move and urge LSE and its Centre for the Study of Human Rights to review the editorial process by which it was originally published.


=====================================================

Israeli land expropriation and resource colonisation in occupied Palestine

Authors: Nasr, Sandra (University of Notre Dame Australia); Nasr, Leila

The seemingly intractable Palestinian-Israeli conflict as it now exists is foremost a competition for limited resources. Arable land and water resources are scarce in the sliver of contested space that is the Israeli occupied Palestinian West Bank. Since 1967 Israel has vigorously pursued a colonising project to install Jewish settlements throughout the West Bank, often locating these close to existing Palestinian towns and villages. A huddle of basic structures quite quickly take root and spread out into the surrounding land; swallowing crops, wells and homes, and expelling Palestinians as they go. Israeli government support for settlements (which are considered illegal under international law) includes assurance of material resources and ‘security’ policies which not only support their existence, but displace Palestinians from the land to facilitate settlement expansion. Under the Oslo II agreement of 1995, the West Bank was divided into three areas, designated A, B and C which, for an interim 5 year period, would denote differing levels of Israeli and Palestinian administrative and security control. Area C, which makes up 59% of the West Bank and holds approximately 63% of the West Bank’s agricultural lands, would be temporarily placed under Israeli security and administrative control. Almost twenty years later, some 70% of Area C is classified as settlement areas, firing zones or nature reserves and, therefore off limits to Palestinians. Approximately 40% is privately owned Palestinian land now sitting beneath settlements. Of the remaining 30% that is accessible to Palestinians, less than 1% is eligible for Palestinian development. In recent years 94% of Palestinian construction permit applications have been rejected; and on average 500-600 Palestinian structures are demolished annually by Israel. Compounding this is a disproportionate allocation of vital water resources, the regular destruction of existing water infrastructure, and the denial of water development project approvals. This paper will discuss the systematic inequities in resource access in Area C that severely constrict Palestinians’ access to vital natural resources, focussing on agricultural land which has both practical and symbolic importance to the approximately 150,000 Palestinian residents in 542 communities across Area C. It will be asserted that the scope of forced Palestinian dispossession from their land amounts to resource colonisation by the Israeli government in support of its long-standing colonial-settlement project for the West Bank.


====================================

Excerpts from "Delegitimising through Dehumanisation: Palestinian 'human' rights denied": 

“Zionism, the ideological project to secure a Jewish homeland, relies upon notions of separateness, superiority and entitlement. It finds its origins in the ‘promise’ believed to have been made by God to ‘His people’ – Abraham and his descendants, the Israelites. According to this belief, they were to take the land by force, kill anyone who resisted, and take for slaves those who did not fight back (except in more distant towns which should just be cleansed). Biblical Theologian Professor Michael Prior called this ‘ethnic cleansing’, where God’s Covenant with the Israelites “was integrally linked with the mandate to exterminate the indigenous peoples."

"The Israeli military frequently adopt the historical language of their own oppression, threatening to gas Palestinians until they die if they throw stones."

"By framing 'the other' as non-human or less-human, the abhorrent practices of subjugation - including torture, collective punishment, extrajudicial assassination - are viewed, and presented, as legitimate and even necessary." 


============================================



Perth university lecturer Dr Sandra Nasr in hot water over anti-semitic article


By Heather McNeill and Colin Cortbus
Updated11 December 2015 — 1:58pm first published at 11:49am
A Perth university is investigating after an article one of its lecturers published was heavily condemned as slanderous and racist.

Posted to The London School of Economics and Political Science website on December 3, Dr Sandra Nasr's article infers Palestinians living in Israel are treated as 'non-human' by Jewish people who subscribe to an ideology or superiority, separateness and entitlement.

Dr Sandra Nasr is a lecturer at Notre Dame University in Fremantle.


The UK-based Jewish Community Security Trust has slammed the article, claiming it was false, offensive and "had no place" in the academic world.

"The post attacks Israel by employing grotesque racist slanders against Judaism," it said.

"The post even includes a link to a holocaust denial website called VHO and specifically to an article by Roger Garaudy, a holocaust denier who was convicted in France of denying the holocaust and fined £20,000."

The University of Notre Dame Australia, where Dr Nasr is a lecturer in Middle East and human rights politics at the Fremantle campus, said in a statement on Friday that it did not endorse comments made in the article.

"The opinions and comments expressed by Dr Sandra Nasr were not endorsed or sanctioned by the University and do not, in any way, represent the views of The University of Notre Dame Australia," the statement read.

"The University expresses its disappointment and apologises that comments causing such offence have been associated with it.

"Notre Dame is addressing this issue in accordance with its relevant processes and will not make any further comment until these have been duly followed."

The article has since been removed from The London School of Economics and Political Science's website.

Excerpts from the Delegitimising through Dehumanisation: Palestinian 'human' rights denied post:

"By framing 'the other' as non-human or less-human, the abhorrent practices of subjugation - including torture, collective punishment, extrajudicial assassination - are viewed, and presented, as legitimate and even necessary," one excerpt read.

"The Israeli military frequently adopt the historical language of their own oppression, threatening to gas Palestinians until they die if they throw stones," said another.

Dr Nasr is on leave from the university and was unable to be reached for comment.



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