‘Anti-Semitism is unacceptable’: Bristol SU back JSoc after comments made by lecturer

Professor David Miller’s comments led to the JSoc president being ‘targeted for abuse online’


Bristol SU has released a statement of support for the University of Bristol Jewish Society (JSoc) after a video of Professor David Miller, a sociology professor at the university, emerged which according to JSoc “criticised Jewish students and the Jewish society” for speaking out against anti-semitism.

In the video, the professor calls for the “end” of Zionism as a “functioning ideology of the world”, as well as saying: “It’s fundamental to Zionism to encourage Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism”.

He also mentions he has been “complained about” by the presidents of JSoc and the UJS, which are, he says, “formally members of the Zionist movement”.

In a statement, Bristol SU said: “We are deeply concerned by the points JSoc have raised and stand in solidarity with our Jewish students. We will always support students who call for action against discrimination on our campus. Antisemitism is unacceptable.”

JSoc’s statement directly referred to Miller’s words, stating “his comments will only succeed in making our campus a more hostile environment for Jewish students”.

They also spoke out about the impact of Miller’s criticisms of the society, which resulted in their president being subject to online abuse: “For a member of staff to abuse his position and launch a personal attack on our JSoc President, is unjustifiable. Prof. Miller’s words led to our president being targeted for abuse online.

“We will not sit by in silence and allow this hatred to be spread by representatives of our university towards its Jewish students. Action must be taken.”

Bristol SU has arranged a meeting with JSoc “as a priority” to address the issue. JSoc has a meeting with Pro Vice Chancellor Sarah Purdy next week.

The SU also added they are committed to “upholding the IHRA definition of Antisemitism and will continue to combat discrimination on campus”.

Previously, Miller was suspended by the Labour Party after claiming that Sir Keir Starmer was in receipt of “Zionist money”. 

A complaint was made against Miller by the Jewish society two years ago following a lecture in his Harms of the Powerful module. Jewish students in Miller’s class have claimed: “It was scary because he is a teacher so people believed the anti-Semitism he was spreading. I was scared because I am one voice and felt I couldn’t stand up to him or tell him what he was saying was wrong.”

The Community Security Trust (CST) sent Bristol University a copy of lecture slides that listed the “Zionist movement (parts of)” as one of the “five pillars” of Islamophobia.

The Jewish group called Bristol University an “utter disgrace” over its response to the complaint, as no action against Miller was taken.

A University of Bristol spokesman said: “We are committed to making our University an inclusive place for all students. We have been working closely with Jewish students to understand their specific concerns and worries.

“A key outcome from these discussions was the adoption, in full, of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.

“We also seek at all times to abide by both our Free Speech Policy and our Public Sector Equality Duties. Specifically, we are steadfast in our commitment to freedom of speech and to the rights of all our students and staff to discuss difficult and sensitive topics.”

In a statement to The Bristol Tab, Miller called Zionism a “racist, violent, imperialist ideology premised on ethnic cleansing”, “endemically anti-Arab and Islamophobic ideology,” and said “It has no place in any society.”

He claimed that the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) is obliged to “silence critics of Zionism or the State of Israel on British campuses”. He also said that the Bristol JSoc, alongside all Jewish Societies and the UJS, are engaged in a “campaign of censorship” which “renders Arab and Muslim students, as well as anti-Zionist Jewish students, particularly unsafe.”

Miller also claimed that UJS and the Bristol JSoc have “attacked” him with “a campaign of manufactured hysteria for two years, attempting to have me sacked”. He claimed that a student “Zionist activist” attended one of his lectures “expressly for the purpose of political surveillance”, which he labelled “an age-old Israel lobby tactic imported from the US, where academics are routinely harassed for teaching about Zionism and its effects”. He again claims that this “campaign of censorship” is “directed by the State of Israel”.

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