Over 100 MPs and Peers demand action from Bristol Uni over David Miller
‘Professor Miller has brought your university into disrepute, you must now act before any further damage is done’
109 members of the House of Commons and House of Lords have written to the Vice Chancellor of Bristol Uni calling for action following comments made by Professor David Miller against Jewish students.
The members from seven different political parties, including independents, wrote that Miller “has been inciting hatred against Jewish students”, telling VC Hugh Brady: “You must now act before any further damage is done”.
Bristol Uni has been condemned by MPs from all political parties, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Bristol SU, the Holocaust Educational Trust, the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), the Community Security Trust (CST), Labour Against Antisemitism, Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire, Bristol staff, students, alumni, leading figures in the UK, among many others.
In a statement issued today, Bristol Uni said: “We would like to reassure our University community and members of the public that this is of utmost priority and we are treating it as a matter of urgency.”
On Saturday 13th February, David Miller criticised Jewish student groups in an online Zoom event, leading to the president of Bristol Jewish Society (JSoc) being targeted for abuse online. Also in his comments, he called for the “the end” of Zionism, as well as claiming “it’s fundamental to Zionism to encourage Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism too”.
On Thursday 18th February, Miller doubled down on his comments, while also claiming that a student was involved in “political surveillance” against him, and that attacks on him are “directed by the State of Israel”, which has resulted in the online abuse of Jewish students.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism wrote to VC Hugh Brady two weeks ago, saying in that letter: “For every day that this goes unaddressed, you will be giving a green light to anti-Jewish incitement.”
Today, the group wrote: “Since that letter, your failure to act has precipitated more heartache and fear for the young Jewish people you are supposed to care for, and others across the country.”
They slammed the 293 academics from around the world who signed an open letter in support of David Miller, saying these academics have “disgraced your profession, shaming themselves by signing a factually inaccurate letter, supporting a man who has undermined the safety and security of Jewish students under the pretence of free speech.
“Reading Miller’s work makes it clear that he believes in an antisemitic conspiracy fantasy.
“Some might defend his ‘free speech’ in voicing that conspiracy but in his latest attack, he framed Jewish students as the embodiment of it, as pawns or tools of a foreign government. In doing so he has identified a group that, as he has previously said, should be targeted.”
The letter praised Jewish students at Bristol: “We know hate speech when we see it and we will stand together with them to protect and salute the honour, dignity, and decency [Jewish students at Bristol] embody and with which they have been conducting themselves.”
At the time of writing, a UJS letter against David Miller has been signed by 612 academics, including 28 staff from Bristol Uni.
Yesterday, the UJS and Bristol JSoc released a statement saying that management told them they are “unable to publicly condemn the abuse Jewish students are receiving, in order to remain neutral.”
In a statement to The Bristol Tab, a spokesperson for Bristol Uni said: “We have received a significant number of emails and letters in relation to Professor Miller’s recent comments, expressing a range of views. We continue to listen to the concerns of our Jewish students.
“As already stated, we do not endorse the comments made by Professor Miller about our Jewish students. We are proud of our students for their independence and individual contributions to the University and wider society.
“We would like to reassure our University community and members of the public that this is of utmost priority and we are treating it as a matter of urgency.
“It goes without saying that we take all allegations of discrimination, racism and hate speech incredibly seriously. Equally, we must balance the rights and often wide-ranging views of students and staff with institutional policies and national law concerning academic freedom and freedom of speech.
“Any internal action which the University may take must remain confidential to respect the rights of individuals and to ensure the University meets its legal obligations.”
The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.
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