Bristol Uni faced with lawsuit over professor’s alleged harassment of Jewish students

Bristol Uni was unaware of the lawsuit until now


The Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) is “in the final stages” of building a lawsuit against Bristol Uni. It argues the university is liable for comments made by Professor David Miller that created “a hostile environment for Jewish students”.

The CAA believes that Miller’s comments which include calling for “the end” of Zionism, that Zionism is “fundamental” to “encourage Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism” and that the “Zionist Movement” is the “the enemy” are evidence of unlawful harassment on the basis of Jewish ethnicity and Judaism. It argues the university has breached the Equality Act 2010.

The Support David Miller campaign have hit back at the CAA calling the organisation “self-styled and misnamed”. They also consider the legal claim to be “baseless and vexatious”.

The news caught the university by surprise who said in a statement to The Bristol Tab: “We were not aware until today (Friday 6 August) that the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) had any involvement in this potential legal action and no legal proceedings have been issued at this time.”

A spokesperson for the university further explained, Bristol Uni “cannot address the potential legal action until it has completed its internal procedures”. The university opened an investigation into comments made by Professor David Miller in February, almost 150 days ago.

Despite the ongoing investigation, Bristol Jsoc and the Union of Jewish Students revealed yesterday Professor Miller is still listed to be teaching in the upcoming academic year, a decision the Board of Deputies of British Jews labelled as “inexplicable”.

The CAA believes that Miller’s statements aimed to create a “hostile environment for Jewish students”. It contends that his “inflammatory statements” were against the “Jewish community” and that this breached “unlawful harassment on the basis of Jewish ethnicity and Judaism” .

It alleges that Bristol Uni is responsible for Professor Miller’s conduct and is further liable in its own right for breaching the Equality Act and the university’s contract with students.

In a press release, the CAA said: “Taken together, the implication of Prof. Miller’s remarks is that all decent people who support ‘world peace’ should view Bristol Jewish Society and the Union of Jewish Students, and Jewish people, including those who identify with those bodies, and the vast majority of Jewish students as an ‘enemy’ that must be ‘directly targeted.'”

The organisation went on to say: “We are asking additional students to step forward and add their names to the legal action to hold the University of Bristol to account for Prof. Miller’s conduct, and its own.”

In response to these allegations, the Support David Miller campaign told The Bristol Tab: “The self-styled and misnamed ‘Campaign Against Antisemitism’ is purportedly in the ‘final stages’ of bringing, what we consider to be, a baseless and vexatious legal claim against the University of Bristol about Professor David Miller.

“The CAA seems to be using the same playbook that it employed against the Labour Party in its submissions to the EHRC in 2019, attacking freedom of expression by falsely labelling pro-Palestine and anti-Zionist views as ‘antisemitic’. The pro-Israel group asserts that Professor Miller’s credible, lawful, and truthful positions amount to ‘harassment’ against Jews, in what we believe to be a malicious misreading of the Equality Act 2010.

“The supposed success claimed by the CAA through last year’s EHRC report on ‘antisemitism’ in the Labour Party has apparently emboldened its resolve to pursue lawfare tactics to smash academic freedom on British university campuses. The EHRC, however, is not a court of law, but a politically motivated, discredited quango with close links to the Conservative Party.

“In our consideration, this case would result in total failure if brought before the courts. The CAA’s hubris would prove to be as embarrassing and disastrous as the 2014 Employment Tribunal case of Fraser v UCU, in which Zionist activists failed miserably in their apparent attempt to criminalise anti-Zionism.

“The Chief Executive of the CAA, Gideon Falter, has previously been involved in a legal case about ‘racially aggravated harassment’ in which an ‘antisemitism’ claim he made was found to be bogus. Falter had accused a senior Foreign Office diplomat of shouting an anti-Jewish profanity, which resulted in a prosecution that was later overturned after a Crown Court judge determined that no such remark was ever made. 

“This case about Professor Miller highlights that the UK’s Israel lobby is continuing its endeavour to pursue any avenue it can, no matter how hopeless, to further its anti-Palestinian censorship campaign across the UK. This interference from a hostile foreign regime should be called out and defeated.”

The CAA are asking Jewish students who studied at Bristol in 2020-21 to add their names to the legal action

Bristol Uni has repeatedly made reference to their freedom of speech policy which “underlines the vital importance of the right of staff and students, as members of a free and democratic society, to speak openly without fear of censorship or limitation, provided that this right is exercised responsibly, within the law, and with respect for others who may have differing views.”

A Bristol Uni spokesperson said: “We were not aware until today (Friday 6 August) that the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) had any involvement in this potential legal action and no legal proceedings have been issued at this time.

“As we have previously confirmed, the University has instigated an investigation into the comments made by Professor David Miller.  This action is in line with our internal procedures and involves a full investigation of the relevant facts and circumstances.

“While we cannot confirm what stage the investigation is at, we do recognise the importance for all parties of completing our internal procedures as soon as is reasonably possible.  The University cannot address the potential legal action until it has completed its internal procedures.

“We also appreciate there is a great deal of public interest in this matter. However, we cannot jeopardise the integrity and rigour of what is a confidential process by discussing it with the media or third parties.

“Our freedom of speech policy underlines the vital importance of the right of staff and students, as members of a free and democratic society, to speak openly without fear of censorship or limitation, provided that this right is exercised responsibly, within the law, and with respect for others who may have differing views.

“Alongside this policy, the University’s clear and consistently held position is that bullying, harassment, and discrimination are never acceptable.  We remain committed to providing a positive experience for all our students and staff, including by providing a welcoming environment for Jewish students, and to fostering good relations and an inclusive University community.”

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