How the redefinition of antisemitism has functioned as a tactic to undermine Palestine solidarity
The widespread adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-semitism and the internalisation of its norms has set in motion a simplistic definitional logic for dealing with social problems that has impoverished discussions of racism and prejudice more generally, across Britain and beyond. It has encouraged a focus on words over substance.
Erasing Palestine tells the story of how this has happened, with a focus on internal politics within Britain over the course of the past several years. In order to do so, it tells a much longer story, about the history of antisemitism since the beginning of the twentieth century. This is also a story about Palestine, a chronicle of the erasure of the violence against the Palestinian people, and a story about free speech, and why it matters to Palestinian freedom.
About the Author
Rebecca Ruth Gould is the author of numerous works at the intersection of aesthetics and politics, including Writers and Rebels (2016) and The Persian Prison Poem (2021). With Malaka Shwaikh, she is the author of Prison Hunger Strikes in Palestine (2023). She has written for the general public in the London Review of Books, the Global & Mail, and World Policy Journal and her writing has been translated into eleven languages.
"A detailed, in-depth study that gets to the heart of one of the contemporary world's most contentious issues. A bold and expert expose of the real reasons behind the West's current antisemitism industry: the silencing of Palestinians and their erasure from history." —Ghada Karmi, author of In Search of Fatima and Return
"Never have we been more in need of hearing the heroic voices of Palestinian activists and their supporters, still unwaveringly resisting the ongoing Israeli seizure of their land and daily control over their lives and movement. In this meticulously researched, moving and persuasive book, Rebecca Ruth Gould surveys the ever-mounting silencing of any support for justice for Palestinians with specious accusations of anti-Semitism against any and all of those joining the struggle to end Israel's brutal occupation, including against the author herself." —Lynne Segal, author of Lean on Me
"What if an anti-racism is oppressive and threatens to wipe out a nation? Rebecca Gould's fine analysis patiently and lucidly shows how a currently prevalent understanding of antisemitism is threatening to do just this. First by misdescribing antisemitism; then by its use as a weapon to silence dissent; and finally to erase the idea of a suffering Palestinian people with a claim to statehood. It's a bold series of claims but not simply ideas as its based on painful personal experience." —Tariq Modood, University of Bristol
"In her book Erasing Palestine Rebecca Ruth Gould offers a sharp and nuanced critique of the ways in which fighting anti semitism turns out to be a way to suppress freedom of speech. While speaking out of her own personal experience Gould brings a new perspective to the debate around defining antisemitism by focusing on its implications for the free speech of Palestinians and pro Palestinian voices. This book is a must read for those interested in understanding the ways in which human rights, anti semitism, and issues of Palestine-Israel are entangled together." —Raef Zreik, fellow, Schell Center for Human Rights, Yale Law School
"This fine and courageous book takes seriously both the brutal 'erasure' of Palestine by the policies of a Zionist state and the phenomenon of antisemitism. At the heart of its theoretical claims is a refusal to approach antisemitism by seeking to define it, but rather to elaborate the social and economic conditions in which it grew. Definitions can be and have been manipulated to declare all criticisms of the Israeli state to be presumptively antisemitic, but a socio-economic genealogical approach, by contrast, allows us to confirm the most fundamental of human values--free speech-which is indispensable in the struggle to mobilize against the erasure of Palestine. It is a complex and ambitious argument and a deeply thoughtful work." —Akeel Bilgrami, Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University
"In this deeply personal and politically engaged book, Gould makes a challenging, provocative and radical case for promoting uncompromising free speech, an essential prerequisite in the quest for Palestinian freedom. Academically rooted in literature, language and law, she takes us on a fascinating intellectual journey, which includes experiencing cancel culture, commuting between home in the occupied Palestinian territories and an academic post in Jerusalem, discovering her suppressed Jewish heritage, and reaching a materialist understanding of antisemitism." —Antony Lerman, author of Whatever Happened to Antisemitism?
"In ERASING PALESTINE, Rebecca Gould embarks on a fascinating personal and intellectual journey. On the one hand, this is undoubtedly the most comprehensive and in-depth critical analysis of the IHRA's definition of antisemitism and its impact on "erasing Palestine" and on curbing free speech . But on the other hand, Gould offers a self-reflective critical observation of herself and an alternative brilliant approach to the problem of antisemitism based on Jewish Marxist theorists. This materialist analysis is needed today more than ever." —Amos Goldberg, fellow, Research Institute of Contemporary Jewry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
"This book brilliantly discusses how the physical erasure of Palestine passes through the suppression of the Palestinian narrative. It explains that freedom of expression and academic freedom remain paramount tools to enable solidarity with the quest for freedom and justice for the Palestinian people, especially in the United Kingdom and the United States where there is a coordinated effort to censor the voices of advocates for Palestinian human rights." —Giovanni Fassina, Director of the European Legal Support Center
"Part political-philosophy and part eloquent polemic, Rebecca Ruth Gould's book is a wide-ranging exploration of how today's social-justice battles-for Palestinian liberation, against antisemitism, against racism-are hindered by university bureaucrats as much as politicized liberal ideals." —Lori Allen, author of A History of False Hope: Investigative Commissions in Palestine
"A bold and refreshing study of the debates surrounding Palestine and freedom of expression." —A. Bustos, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
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