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Bristol professors respond to an opinion piece published by Hannah Rose concerning Dr Rebecca Gould’s article, ‘Beyond Anti-Semitism.’

Dear editors,

We are writing in response to Hannah Rose’s opinion article, ‘Anti-Semitism at Bristol: not taking action is not an option’. The author notes that the University has found that an article by Dr Rebecca Gould, ‘Beyond Anti-Semitism’, was not anti-Semitic, following accusations that were published in various places, including in ‘Epigram’.

We do not know details of the process by which the University reached this conclusion. However, we have each read Dr Gould’s article and separately concluded that it is not anti-Semitic. On the contrary, it is scrupulous in arguing that the Nazi Holocaust should not be utilised for political ends, including to justify the oppression of Palestinians in the occupied territories.

However, we have each read Dr Gould’s article and separately concluded that it is not anti-Semitic.

It would be entirely reasonable for some readers to disagree with Dr. Gould’s arguments but that does not justify depriving her of the opportunity to make them in public and academic spaces.

The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which Hannah Rose cites, is not without its controversies, including within the Jewish community. In alegal opinion [http://jfjfp.com/?p=91344] sought by Free Speech on Israel, Independent Jewish Voices, Jews for Justice for Palestinians and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Hugh Tomlinson QC concluded that the definition is “unclear and confusing and should be used with caution” and that the Government’s adoption of it “has no legal status or effect and, in particular, does not require public authorities to adopt this definition as part of their anti-racism policies”.

Hugh Tomlinson also concluded that: “Public authorities are under a positive obligation to protect freedom of speech. In the case of universities and colleges this is an express statutory obligation.”

Between us, we have worked with Israeli writers or academics and with Palestinian academics. We agree with Hannah Rose that it is vital that all students (and staff) feel able to pursue their academic interests. This must include those who wish to raise legitimate questions about Israel or Zionism, and who engage in important debates about the definitions and mis-use of anti-Semitism.

We wholeheartedly endorse Hannah Rose’s conclusion that the University must always be mindful of the need to support students from minorities and to act in solidarity with those facing oppression.

For example, there is a long tradition of Jewish thought that is critical of Zionism, of the particular versions of it that underpinned the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948, and of current and historic Israeli government policies. These traditions have been traced, most recently, in Judith Butler’s book Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism.

We wholeheartedly endorse Hannah Rose’s conclusion that the University must always be mindful of the need to support students from minorities and to act in solidarity with those facing oppression. Antisemitism does not operate in a vacuum and we believe that, at the current time, it is vital that those of us who are Jewish or of Jewish descent (as three of us are) also work in solidarity with those experiencing Islamophobia, as well as other forms of racism.

In our opinion, this should include solidarity with those Palestinians, including many academics and students in the West Bank and Gaza, who face restrictions on their freedoms, including of movement and interaction with academic communities beyond the occupied territories.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Havi Carel

Professor Gene Feder

Professor Tariq Modood

Professor Tom Sperlinger

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