Psychologists Support Jewish Students After Professor Allegedly Said ‘It’s Not Your Fault You Were Born In Israel’
Kate Anderson on January 31, 2023
- Psychologists Against Antisemitism announced its support of Jewish students that filed a Title VI complaint against George Washington University professor Lara Sheehi after she allegedly told “one Israeli student that it was “not your fault that you were born in Israel,” in a letter posted on Facebook Tuesday.
- The letter criticized other organizations that had immediately extended support to Sheehi without looking into the details of the situation.
- “Rather than demonstrate any interest in what your students, our future psychologists, have said about your experience of being treated differently because of your Jewish identity, Dr. Sheehi is portrayed and labeled as the victim,” PAA said.
Psychologists Against Antisemitism (PAA) sent a letter Tuesday in support of Jewish students at George Washington University (GWU) after other organizations attempted to delegitimize claims that Professor Lara Sheehi had made antisemitic comments in her class, including telling one Israeli student that it was “not your [sic] fault that you were born in Israel.”
Students at GWU filed a Title VI complaint, in conjunction with StandWith US, an antisemitism watchdog organization, with the Department of Education Civil Rights Office earlier this month after the university failed to take action to investigate claims of antisemitic comments and harassment by Lara Sheehi, an assistant professor of clinical psychology. In response, multiple organizations came out in support of Sheehi, claiming that she was the target of Zionists and that her right to free speech was being taken away, but some clinicians with Psychologists Against Antisemitism, an independent organization made up of more than 300 psychologists, wrote a letter Tuesday to offer their support to GWU’s Jewish students, according to a post from PAA’s Facebook page.
The letter said the group was “deeply troubled” about the accusations by some of their colleagues that the students’ claims “were fabrications.”
“Many of our psychology colleagues have chosen to label your experiences as ‘specious,’ without any evidence or knowledge of what really happened, thereby delegitimizing the entire complaint filed with the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education,” the letter read. “In essence, they have chosen to politicize this case and attack the media outlets and others who have given voice to your experiences, portraying them as right-wing and conspiratorial (an old antisemitic trope).”
In the 2022 fall semester, Jewish students in Sheehi’s class were reportedly subjected to a “pervasive, hostile, and discriminatory environment” after she invited Dr. Shalhoub-Kevorkian, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who has a history of making antisemitic claims about Israel, to speak at a class, according to the complaint. Students attempted to address their concerns with the university administration but were informed that Sheehi had been making accusations against the students and subsequently told they would have to attend disciplinary hearings.
PAA further explained in the letter that the groups that had come forward to support Sheehi made it clear they didn’t understand the nature of the allegations, according to the letter. The Arab-American-Anti-Discrimination Committee announced on Jan. 24 that they would be representing Sheehi, while the Board of Directors of Division 39 of the American Psychological Association also released a statement of support, and a group of GWU students and alumni began circulating a letter and petition calling the claims against Sheehi “deeply harmful.”
These arguments did not convince PAA, who noted that, unlike students, Sheehi has “a lot of resources to support her relative to students,” according to the letter.
“Rather than demonstrate any interest in what you students, our future psychologists, have said about your experience of being treated differently because of your Jewish identity, Dr. Sheehi is portrayed and labeled as the victim,” PAA said. “While Dr. Sheehi is a woman of color, she is also a full-time professor; author; on the editorial board of Psychoanalysis, Culture, and Society; on the advisory board to the USA-Palestine Mental Health Network; and President of APA’s Division 39.”
Julie Ancis, professor and founder of PAA, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that many people possess “blind allegiance” to certain causes and leaders regardless of the issue.
“I wonder how many of these supporters of Sheehi have read the detailed complaint filed by StandWithUs,” she said. “Considering the prevalence of antisemitism across college campuses, I felt that it was our obligation to come forward on behalf of students whose voices seemed to have been silenced both within their training program and regretfully among professional colleagues.”
SWU told the DCNF that they were grateful for “showing leadership and moral clarity in their support of Jewish and Israeli students” and said that they hoped that others in the field of psychology would “look to this example.”
GWU did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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