13 June 2018

"Racism dressed up as scholarship..."

From The Australian, 13 June 2018, by Paige Taylor:


Sandra Nasr: “crude prejudice and lack of scholarly rigour ..."

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 matter was reported in WA Today and The Jewish Chronicle ]. 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.

[At the time, the University stated that 
"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 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 ..."]
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.”