Bristol mayor backs Jewish students

Mayor Marvin Rees said he will be 'supporting' Bristol JSoc in its complaint against Professor Miller


The Mayor of Bristol has said he will be supporting Bristol Jewish Society and meeting the University of Bristol to discuss the complaints over the conduct of Professor David Miller.

Marvin Rees issued a statement after listening to the concerns raised by leaders of the JSoc during a Zoom meeting on Wednesday.

The Labour mayor told the JC: “I met students from Bristol Jewish Society yesterday and am awaiting more details about the incident. But I will be supporting them and meeting the university to discuss this matter.”

Bristol JSoc’s President Edward Issacs later said his organisation was “honoured” to meet Mayor Rees for a “very productive meeting” and thanked him for support.

Meanwhile, the under-fire sociology professor issued another incendiary statement after being contacted by the online Bristol student newspaper The Tab.

He branded 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) was 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, were engaged in a “campaign of censorship” which “renders Arab and Muslim students, as well as anti-Zionist Jewish students, particularly unsafe.”

Professor Miller also repeated comments made at an online event last weekend in which he claimed  that UJS and the Bristol JSoc had “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 claimed that this “campaign of censorship” is “directed by the State of Israel”.

Bristol University’s Student Union issued a statement of support for the JSoc after being alerted to the comments made by the academic at an event last Saturday in which 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”.

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.”

More than 1000 people signed a Change.Org petition calling for the professor to be removed from his post.

Mark Gardner, Chief Executive of the Community Security Trust also said: “Bristol University’s disgrace gets worse by the day”, in not taking action against Miller. “They are failing in their most basic duty of care to all students, whether Jewish or not.”

Thangam Debbonaire, the Labour MP for Bristol West added: “Completely unacceptable and I’m following this appalling behaviour by a Bristol Uni lecturer up with the university.” She said the Bristol Jsoc President “and I have spoken about this person previously and I’m keen to meet up to discuss this latest.”

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