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Student Behind Letter Accusing Bristol University Lecturer Of Anti-Semitism Leads Calls Against Her Sacking

Lecturer's article called 'one of the worst cases of Holocaust denial' in recent years.

21/02/2017 16:56

A student who wrote an impassioned open letter accusing his lecturer of anti-Semitism has now criticised calls from campaigners for her dismissal. 

Bristol University launched an investigation into Dr Rebecca Gould, a reader in translation studies and comparative literature, after it was revealed that she had written an article in 2011 arguing it was time to “stop privileging the Holocaust”. 

In “Beyond Anti Semitism”, Gould said the Holocaust was 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,” the academic added.

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Dr Rebecca Gould of Bristol University has been accused of anti-Semitism after she argued in a 2011 article that people should stop 'privileging' the Holocaust 

But despite claiming his tutor had used the language of “Holocaust revisionists and anti-Semites”, undergraduate Sahar Zivan said Gould should not be sacked and her views should instead be debated.

In a post on Facebook, Zivan wrote: “A few weeks ago I wrote an open letter to one of my lecturers, timed to coincide with Holocaust Memorial Day. 

“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.”

Zivan anonymised his initial letter, published in student paper Epigram, in the hope that “people would be capable of debating an issue without needing a culprit”. 

“Instead, an external group dealing with antisemitism went all-out to identify the lecturer, and eventually, almost a month later, they succeeded,” he wrote. 

Explaining how he had since been able to have a “vitally important discussion” with Gould about the Holocaust after giving a presentation in her class, Zivan added:  “The people who filed the complaint are not students at the university, but part of an external national campaign. I will not join their calls to sack her.

“I will continue to put myself forward for reasoned debate. Especially when it’s difficult. Especially because it’s difficult.” 

Adrian Pingstone
A student who wrote an open letter to the tutor accusing her of anti-Semitism has defended Gould's right to keep her job 

When contacted by the Telegraph, Gould argued that 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 today around the world, including in the occupied Palestinian territories”.  

Calls for the academic to be sacked came from the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA), which wrote on its website: “Dr Rebecca Gould, a lecturer at the University of Bristol, has been caught red-handed having written a sickening article about anti-Semitism.

“If Dr Gould still holds such views she should be dismissed, and her dismissal should be made public so as to clearly signal the University of Bristol’s values,” it added. 

Matt Cardy via Getty Images
Sir Eric Pickles said the article was 'one of the worst cases of Holocaust denial' he had seen in recent years 

Others agreed with the CAA’s stance. Bristol graduate Jeremy Havardi wrote on Facebook that the lecturer had stooped to a “truly despicable low”.

Sir Eric Pickles, the UK’s special envoy on post-Holocaust issues, said it was “one of the worst cases of Holocaust denial” he had seen in recent years. 

He told the Telegraph: “To describe the murder of six million Jewish people like this frankly beggars belief. I am all for debate and freedom and speech but this passes into a new dimension”. 

A spokesperson from Bristol University confirmed to The Huffington Post UK that it had launched an investigation. 

“Academic freedom, and freedom of speech, are at the heart of our mission at the University of Bristol,” they said.  

“Since receiving a letter from the Campaign Against Antisemitism last week we are actively looking into this matter.” 

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