Student says lecturer he accused of antisemitism should not be sacked

Bristol University academic should be engaged in debate rather than dismissed, insists Jewish undergraduate who claimed she used "the language of Holocaust revisionists and antisemites"


A student who accused a lecturer of using antisemitic language has criticised campaigners who called for her to be sacked.

Bristol University confirmed it was investigating allegations that Dr Rebecca Gould had written an article in which she claimed the Holocaust was a “holy event” used by Israel to “whitewash its crimes”.

Dr Gould, who lectures in comparative literature at the university, wrote the piece, entitled Beyond Antisemitism, for the 2011 edition of CounterPunch, an American radical publication.

But despite complaining his tutor had used the language of “Holocaust revisionists and antisemites”, undergraduate Sahar Zivan said Dr Gould should not be sacked but rather be engaged in debate.

In a post on Facebook, Mr Zivan, the grandson of Holocaust survivors, described how he had written an open letter to Dr Gould to coincide with Holocaust Memorial Day earlier this year.

“I ended the article by expressing my hope that the lecturer would use the day to reflect, as we all should, on how we talk about the Holocaust and how we remember it,” he wrote.

Speaking to the JC he said: “There is a level of ignorance that other people have that we just don’t get in the Jewish community because it seems obvious to us.

“I think we look too quickly for decisions like immediately dismissing people, but it is better sometimes to debate with people and try to get them to see why they are wrong.

“Of course what she said was grossly offensive but I had hoped she would listen and possibly change her mind.”

Dr Gould did not respond to a request for comment from the JC.

But she told the Daily Telegraph her article was a “rallying call to action” for “people of conscience horrified by the slaughter of six million Jews by the Nazi regime to stand up against all atrocities and injustices around the world, including the occupied Palestinian territories”.

Sir Eric Pickles MP said her comments represented one of the “worst cases of Holocaust denial” he had seen in recent years and called for Dr Gould to consider her position.

A spokesman for Bristol University said the vice-chancellor, Professor Hugh Brady, had received a formal letter of complaint about Dr Gould’s article and was “actively looking into this matter”.

Mr Zivan said calls from groups such as Campaign Against Antisemitism for the lecturer to be suspended were “not always helpful”.

CAA had said Dr Gould should be dismissed, “and her dismissal should be made public so as to clearly signal the University of Bristol’s values”.

Mr Zivan said: “I fear under the pressure the university will probably sack her but that quick fix response doesn’t solve anything.

“I agree with CAA about her comments, but I think we need to have more carefully thought out reactions in these instances, to find solutions that work.

“We should sit down with people and explain why Holocaust denial is not ok.”

He added: “Of course that is frustrating to even be saying that but it is where we are so we have to do something about it.”

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