Academic support for David Miller starts to wane after 'Jews are over-represented' claim

Some of Miller's former backers have disavowed the sacked University of Bristol lecturer and expressed embarrassment for previously defending him


A dozen academics who backed controversial lecturer David Miller after he was sacked by the University of Bristol amid allegations of antisemitism have withdrawn their support, with some expressing their “regret” and “embarrassment”.

Miller was dismissed in 2021 after a long-running investigation into his conduct and remarks, including his claim that the university’s Jewish society was “being used as political pawns by a violent, racist foreign regime engaged in ethnic cleansing”.

At the time, more than 300 academics from across the UK and abroad signed an open letter objecting to his treatment by the university.

However, in the wake of a number of recent statements from Miller, including claims that Jews are over-represented in positions of power and do not face discrimination, the support seems to be waning.

Last week the JC contacted a number of the signatories to the letter, some of whom expressed “regret” for previously defending the sociology lecturer.

Former backer Dr Andrew Chitty, a philosophy lecturer at the University of Sussex, said it was now “impossible” to support Miller.

“In a context in which antisemitism is widespread and typically trades on stereotypes of Jews as rich and powerful, these assertions amount to antisemitic hate speech,” Chitty said.

“On the basis of everything I knew at the time, I supported Miller… in 2021. But in light of these assertions, it is impossible to support him now.”

Another signatory, David Emmons, a professor of history at the University of Montana, said: “I signed that letter because Miller’s scholarship was known to me, I respected it, and I assumed that he was being critical of Israeli policies.”

However, he continued, Miller’s latest statements “are not just ‘provocative’, they are bigoted. What can he possibly mean by Jews being ‘over-represented’?”

Emmons said his comments should be taken as a “disavowal of Miller… and my previous expression of ‘solidarity’ with him”.

Dr Nick Cimini, a sociology lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University, described Miller’s recent statements as “outrageous” and said they “mark a collapse in David’s thinking from slightly muddled comments about the state of Israel into conspiracy theory and antisemitism”.

Another signatory, Dr Conor Kostick, a historian at Trinity College Dublin, said: “I will defend any colleague who I think is being treated unfairly by their employer. But… it is unacceptable to promote antisemitism and I do believe Professor Miller is doing that.”

Several individuals contacted by the JC said they did not want to publicly denounce Miller but said privately that they no longer stood by him.

One of these academics suggested Miller had “lost the plot” and that his “obsessive nature has led to him presenting points in a way that is deeply troubling”.

This academic said not only did he no longer stand in solidarity with Miller but that he suspected that “on a closer reading of his comments it would be a strong ‘no’ overlayed with embarrassment and regret that I originally supported him”.

Another former supporter, who did not want to be named, said: “I can 100 per cent say the comments… are antisemitic. I stand by having signed the letter originally, to defend academic freedom and teaching about Israel/Palestine.

“At that time Miller was merely a conspiracist. Now he has outed himself as fully antisemitic.”

The latest blow to Miller comes after he lost the backing of several high-profile individuals.

Elsewhere, Jewish Voice for Labour put out a statement saying he had "crossed a line" but added they continued to support his appeal against his "unjust" dismissal by the University of Bristol.

Others continued to express support for him. “I still without question support Professor David Miller,” said Harvard history professor John Womack Jr.

Sheila Delany, a retired English professor at a Canadian university, insisted Miller’s views were “held by many people and of course are based on solid factual evidence”.

She added the JC was guilty of inciting a “pogrom” against Miller and doing the “dirty work” of foreigners who support “apartheid and fascism in Israel”.

Miller stated online earlier this month that “Jews are not discriminated against”. He went on: “They are over-represented in Europe, North America and Latin America in positions of cultural, economic and political power.”

He added: “They are therefore in a position to discriminate against actually marginalised groups”.

He also suggested that he would publish a list of Jewish people in order to illustrate how they are over-represented.

Miller lost his job in October 2021 after a QC-led investigation found that, while the lecturer’s comments did not amount to unlawful speech, he “did not meet the standards of behaviour” expected of staff.

He is challenging his dismissal at an employment tribunal scheduled to take place in October and has raised nearly £30,000 from supporters to pay for the legal costs.

When contacted, Miller claimed that the JC was “a tool used by the state of Israel to intimidate and discipline supporters of the Palestinian Resistance in the UK”.

He added that “Israel’s propaganda methods are now proving ineffective.”

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the author, Michael Rosen, had previously supported Mr Miller. That was untrue and we apologise to Mr Rosen

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