But if you read the actual piece, you will discover she was called an antisemite for another, particularly vile 2011 piece of hers titled Beyond Antisemitism, which she even mentions in the Jacobin piece:
It was during this time that I wrote a short polemic called “Beyond Antisemitism.” I was furious at myself — among others — for not being able to stop the abuses of history that had normalized the silencing of Palestinian voices. I sent it to the radical left-wing magazine Counterpunch. I received a response within hours from the journalist and editor Alexander Cockburn; Cockburn liked it, and said that he would feature it in the print edition.
In retrospect, I can see how the title “Beyond Antisemitism” might have appeared incendiary, especially when taken out of context. It was calculated to provoke. The title was also chosen to critique the political deployment of the discourse around antisemitism to silence discussion of the occupation of Palestine. I wrote about what I had witnessed firsthand during my residency in Palestine and regular commutes into Israel. I would not have used such a title had I been living anywhere in Europe, where the sites of the twentieth century’s greatest atrocity form a perpetual subtext to every discussion of antisemitism today. But I was not writing from Europe, or indeed anywhere in the UK. I had never even set foot in England at that point in my life. I was writing from Palestine after having worked for a year in Israel, and in frustration at my complicity with the unjust system in which I lived and worked. What, one might wonder, does antisemitism have to do with that? Indirectly, if not explicitly, antisemitism was the pretext for the injustices I witnessed every day against Palestinians. Fear of being accused of antisemitism makes it difficult to speak out, and it is why so many of us who witness anti-Palestinian discrimination — Israelis and non-Israelis alike — keep silent. Our silence is complicity. This complicity also silences Palestinians, keeping their experiences hidden from public view.
“Beyond Antisemitism” argued that the long history of antisemitism and of the Holocaust forms the background against which Palestinian lives are being sacrificed. I discovered this dynamic embedded in the everyday life of Israelis while commuting between my office in Israel and my Palestinian home. The amnesia in which Israelis live reminded me greatly of my own education in the United States. The genocide of indigenous Americans was thoroughly suppressed in our school curriculums, and slavery was a delicate topic that our teachers avoided discussing directly. The traumas of Jewish history, and the understandable fear that this history might someday repeat itself, had similarly led to distortions and suppressions of the past.
Traumatic memories and the fear of their repetition haunted my conversations with Israelis. These fears fill the airwaves of Israeli radio and shape the cultural memory of the Israeli people. The Israeli state does everything it can to keep the focus on the historical trauma of the Jews. Yet as Isaac Deutscher remarked in 1967, even when Israel’s leaders “over-exploit Auschwitz and Treblinka . . . we should not allow even invocations of Auschwitz to blackmail us into supporting the wrong cause.” “Beyond Antisemitism” was a polemic against the forced silences imposed by twentieth-century traumas, which deflect attention away from the occupation of Palestinian lands and the dispossession of the Palestinian people. After a year of residing on the border between Israel and the West Bank, I was certain that there was no justification for the discriminatory checkpoints and segregated bus system, or for the arcane system of passes and regulations that greatly restrict Palestinians’ access to employment and keep them in poverty.
While the collateral damage that these memories and fears cause for Palestinians was not forbidden from being discussed in Israeli public spaces, it was treated as secondary, as an afterthought to the more important themes of Jewish history. Meanwhile, alibis for and justifications of the occupation became increasingly untenable. As Deutscher insisted, even invocations of Auschwitz do not legitimate oppression. Even the Jews’ long history of antisemitism — in which Palestinians were not directly implicated, yet which nonetheless shape the horizons of their political existence — is no excuse. That is why, I argued in 2011, we needed to move “beyond antisemitism.”
Among the most controversial parts of the article was the ending, which argued that “as the situation stands today, the Holocaust persists and its primary victims are the Palestinian people.” This is admittedly a rather grandiose claim that only works at the polemic level. I think it could be defended in certain ways, but I am less invested in rhetorical triumphs now than I was when writing the piece. It is hardly controversial to insist that historical catastrophes have long-term consequences, stretching across many generations. It is less useful to attempt to claim who is a greater or lesser victim of a specific atrocity generations after the event. The critique of these words that a senior Jewish studies scholar shared with me continues to resonate for me. “There is no silver lining to the Holocaust,” he said, “no way of putting a positive spin on it.”
I’m not quite sure how he construed my words as looking for silver linings, but I agree with his critique. Foregrounding Palestinian suffering does not work when it seems to make light of Jewish wounds. This was never my intention, and I don’t think the text supports that reading, but I respect the right of readers to draw their own conclusions. So I grant that I would have written it differently now, but I stand by the appropriateness of those words for that time and place: occupied Palestine amid an increasingly brutal conflict and an aggressive state-backed mandate to silence dissent. I stand by the outrage that led me to engage in such polemics, and by the right of everyone to do so, be they Palestinian, Israeli, or American.
Another point that concerned some readers was my use of the word “privilege” to describe the status of the Holocaust narrative within Israel. This verb is used heavily in academic discourse to describe how certain ideas are validated over others. One reader suggested that, given the antisemitic stereotype of Jews as privileged, the use of “privilege” as a verb with reference to the Holocaust was potentially antisemitic. Read in context, this seems to me farfetched, given that I was using the verb in its traditional academic sense of setting one viewpoint over another. It was not an ideal choice on aesthetic grounds, but this dry and abstract verb has no specific relationship to Jews.
Soon after completing the article, I resigned from my fellowship and left Israel, never to return. Having vented my rage, I did not give that brief article further thought. It was a polemic, not a work of scholarship. A work of its time, and of my indignation, first and foremost at myself. Writing it was an act of self-denunciation, an attempt to purify myself of my complicity in the occupation, and to purge my guilt at crossing checkpoints using the special lines designated for foreigners, at witnessing racism and discrimination against the Palestinian population while biting my tongue.
Having purged my anger, I moved on to other things. I took up a position with a new liberal arts college called Yale-NUS.
Two years into my position at Bristol, I received a call in my office from the head of school. This was a rare occasion: indeed, she had never called me directly before. She asked me to meet her in her office as soon as I possibly could. She informed me that a student had discovered my 2011 article online, on a database called Social Science Research Network, where I uploaded my work. Among my hundreds of scholarly articles, this short polemic touched a nerve for the student, who identified as a Zionist. She told me that the university had been informed that the student was planning to publish an anonymous letter in the student newspaper, Epigram, denouncing my article — and me — as antisemitic.
I was sitting in my university office when the phone rang. The reporter, Camilla Turner, asked if I had any comment about “Beyond Antisemitism,” which had been the subject of an anonymous letter in the student newspaper. I requested that she give me a day to respond. She refused, saying that the article was to be posted that evening. So I conferred with the same friend who had found me a place to live in Bethlehem. Together, we combed through the writings of Edward Said, who had long been a guiding light for me, in search of words that could represent what I learned and saw while living in Palestine.
Although the quote I provided to Turner was butchered, at least the core part of Said’s message made it into print. “Denying claims of anti-Semitism Dr Gould quoted Edward W. Said,” Turner wrote, and then went on to quote me quoting Said: “To oppose Zionism in Palestine has never meant, and does not now mean, being anti-Semitic.”
Note how she admits 1. some of her words in the 2011 article were probably not appropriate; 2. she wanted to provoke; 3. she was angry when she wrote that article; and 4. she would not have used the title had she lived in Europe at the time. She knows it was problematic. Note also how in the Jacobin article, she accuses Israel of exploiting the Holocaust in order to blackmail people into supporting the wrong cause.
In other words, it is pretty clear that Gould was not “smeared” as an antisemite merely for criticizing Israel. She was labeled one because she has said deeply offensive things about the Jewish people, things that arguably crossed the line into antisemitism.
It is no wonder Gould has taken to criticizing the very reasonable IHRA working definition of antisemitism, which she argues is “dangerously adept at quashing dissent, and in constraining activist agendas that seek justice for Palestinians.” Because she would almost certainly fall foul of this definition herself.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by PostX News and is published from a syndicated feed.)