Last month I reported here on an ongoing controversy at the U.S. Army War College (USAWC) involving Strategic Studies Institute research professor Sherifa Zuhur, who authored a monograph published in December by the War College advocating for dialogue with the terrorist group Hamas. That PJ Media article prompted considerable discussion in the military community and a heated defense of Zuhur by her USAWC colleague Steven Metz in the comments section of the article. Zuhur even posted a response to an article critical of her positions published by the Investigative Project, claiming that her positions had been “misunderstood” and decrying that “blogs simply copy from each others’ comments.” (The short IPT report made seventeen different citations to two different published works by Zuhur.)
But Washington Post military affairs reporter Tom Ricks has added to the intrigue surrounding Zuhur’s tenure at the War College in a post last week on his foreign affairs blog, noting that Zuhur has appealed to the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) for help, claiming that her academic freedom has been hindered by USAWC authorities.
MESA president Mervat Hatem sent a letter this past June to USAWC commandant LTG Robert Williams outlining Zuhur’s complaints of censorship and harassment:
USAWC policy states that “academic freedom for its faculty and students is fundamental and essential to the health of the academic institution.” However, Professor Zuhur has reported to us that, in apparent violation of this policy, she has been subjected to censorship and harassment because of views she has expressed or which have been imputed to her. Among other things, Professor Zuhur reports that she has had one or more scheduled lectures at USAWC cancelled at the last minute, apparently because some USAWC officials disagreed with her opinions about, and analyses of, U.S. policy in the Middle East, and also that she has been harassed for allegedly failing to comply with USAWC’s procedures for prior review of publications and public statements — procedures that she believes have been applied arbitrarily and inconsistently and that may in any case not conform to USAWC’s avowed commitment to academic freedom.
Prof. Zuhur’s charges of infringement of her academic freedom ring hollow in light of the publication by USAWC’s Strategic Studies Institute of her recent defense of Hamas and attacks on U.S. foreign policy. That notwithstanding, Hatem’s letter reveals that Zuhur’s contract with USAWC has not been renewed.
Whether there is any truth to Zuhur’s claims is clearly for the commandant and USAWC to sort out. What should be noted, however, is that Zuhur has played the grievance game before in 2000 when she was informed that her contract with the American University of Cairo (AUC) would not be renewed. Her response in that case included filing an unsuccessful EEOC complaint charging discrimination on the basis of gender and national origin, claiming suppression of academic freedom, organizing petitions and letters from colleagues to the AUC provost, and going on a hunger strike in protest.