The University of Bristol has decided to take no action against a lecturer, Dr Rebecca Gould, over an article in which she claimed that “privileging the Holocaust as the central event in Jewish history” should end and that “the Holocaust persists and its primary victims are the Palestinian people.”
The university’s Deputy Vice Chancellor and Provost, Professor Guy Orpen, wrote: “it is our considered opinion that Dr Gould’s article is not antisemitic and does not breach the proper bounds of freedom of speech and academic freedom” in a letter to the Chairman of Campaign Against Antisemitism. The decision was reached by a panel appointed by the university, in response to a letter from Campaign Against Antisemitism dissecting the article’s antisemitic passages. The verdict has been published on the university’s website.
Dr Gould’s article titled “Beyond Antisemitism” was published in the radical left-wing Counter Punch magazine edition of November 2011. Dr Gould wrote: “Defining the Shoah vis-a-vis the Greek (and, incidentally, Christian) term for a sacrifice to G-d has helped make it available to manipulation by governmental elites, aiming to promote the narrative most likely to underwrite their claims to sovereignty. Claiming the Holocaust as a holy event sanctifies the state of Israel and whitewashes its crimes.” She added: “perhaps the time has come to stop privileging the Holocaust as the central event in Jewish history.” She concluded the article: “As the situation stands today, the Holocaust persists and its primary victims are the Palestinian people.”
According to the International Definition of Antisemitism, “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” is antisemitic. Additionally, according to the expert legal opinion commissioned by Campaign Against Antisemitism, contending that either Jews, Israel or the West have “manipulated” the Holocaust to generate sympathy for Jews or for Israel or prevent criticism of them is an allegation “chosen to be emotive and upsetting to Jewish people and to generate hostility towards them.”
The article appeared on various websites but it seems to have disappeared from all but one website which offered a PDF download.
According to the University of Bristol School of Modern Languages website, the lecturer has a PhD from Columbia University and is a Reader in Translation Studies & Comparative Literature. She taught previously at New York University, Columbia University, and Yale-NUS College in Singapore and specialises in the literatures of the Persian and Islamic world (especially the Caucasus). She is “happy to supervise in the areas of Middle Eastern and Central Asian literatures and cultures, translation studies, Islamic studies, comparative literature, critical theory, and modern Iran”.
Dr Gould has not expressed any remorse and sent us the following statement: “A complaint was made by Campaign Against Antisemitism in relation to an article I published in 2011, which discussed the exploitation of the Holocaust by government elites in order to advance certain policy agendas. I refute any suggestion that the article contained antisemitic material; as I have publicly stated, it was a rallying call to people of conscience horrified by the slaughter of six million Jews to speak out against injustice everywhere…I stand firmly opposed to racism in all forms, from antisemitism to Islamophobia, and in support of academic freedom. The complaint was dismissed by the university which made a public statement that the article was not antisemitic and was within the ambit of academic freedom.”
Any current student at the University of Bristol can appeal this verdict, and Campaign Against Antisemitism will provide support to any student wishing to do so. If you are a student at the University of Bristol and would like to know more, please e-mail [email protected].