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George Washington University Facing Civil Rights Complaint After Denying Palestinians Trauma Service access

Washington (The Inside Palestine)- A Palestinian-American member of staff at George Washington University (GW) has filed a civil rights complaint against her workplace, following accusations that it discriminated against Palestinians by denying them access to trauma services.

The complaint against the prestigious US university was initiated by Palestine Legal and co-counsel Benjamin Douglas on behalf of Nada Elbasha, who works in GW’s Office of Advocacy and Support (OAS).

Nada Elbasha said that the OAS expressed support for Palestinian human rights in a social media post and offered a “virtual processing space” for those impacted by May’s bombing of Gaza.

However, the GW administration ordered the post to be removed and the event to be cancelled.

The formal complaint was sent to GW last week, detailing how this denial of services and support – given to other marginalised groups – constitutes a violation of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act (DCHRA).

“Palestinians at GW deserve to access the same services as any other students here,” said Elbasha.

“To have high-level administrators cancel our support programming and threaten to close our office was a shocking declaration that GW does not care about its Palestinian students,” she said.

The incident started when Elbasha and colleagues noticed the adverse impacts of Israel’s forced displacement of Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem and the bombing of Gaza on students.

On 2 June, Olivia Blythe, who worked at GW’s OSA until she decided to leave in October 2021 in part over this incident, posted a statement on the office’s Instagram stating it was “proud” to support “Palestinian human rights and liberation”.

The post advertised a “virtual processing space” the OSA was planning for Palestinians and others impacted by Israeli aggression against Palestinians.

However, later that same day, the GW administration demanded the post to be removed and the processing event to be cancelled, according to Elbasha’s complaint against the university.

Elbasha’s complaint alleges that the GW Assistant Vice President of Health and Safety Kathleen Fox ordered the OAS director to remove the post, otherwise she would be fired.

The OAS director was apparently told individuals had complained about the post and that it was “harmful to Jewish students”, reported the Jewish Currents.

That evening, the OAS deleted the post.

“Our supervisor was forced to post a statement that wasn’t written by our office, apologising for speaking out against Israeli apartheid,” Blythe said.

Palestine Legal, an independent organisation dedicated to supporting those who speak out in support of Palestinian freedom, said the “GW’s denial of services constitutes national origin discrimination”.

Palestine Legal said it violated the DCHRA which prohibits educational institutions from denying or restricting services based on race, colour, or nation of origin.

This is not the first time GW has ordered a pro-Palestine social media post associated with the university to be removed, according to Palestinian Legal.

GW student group Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA), who also offered trauma support for Palestinian students on Instragam, were directed to remove a pro-Palestine post.

They were also told that “supporting Palestinian human rights and providing support to Palestinians [was] harmful to Jewish students,” said Palestine Legal.

Since this incident, Elbasha said the OAS has been under intense scrutiny by the GW administration, which she believes inhibits its ability to perform its duties.

University administrators have placed the office under an administrative “audit” to determine whether it should be permanently shut down, reported Jewish Currents.

GW’s Assistant Director of Media Relations Crystal Nosal has said: “GW is committed toward diversity, equality and inclusion and to maintain a nondiscriminatory work and educational environment.”

Nosal said the concerns raised by Elbasha “will be investigated”.

GW has been criticised for anti-Palestinian discrimination before.

In 2015, campus police ordered a student to remove a Palestinian flag from his window. GW later apologised for the discriminatory removal of the flag.

Source: QNN

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