Bristol University to meet JSoc over Miller

Student representatives responded: "Action needs to be taken.”


The University of Bristol has offered to meet their student Jewish Society to discuss the “upset” caused by the comments made by Professor David Miller at the weekend.

A spokesperson told the JC that the JSoc had been contacted on Tuesday in relation to the comments made by the sociology professor at the weekend – which included a call for the “end” of Zionism as a “functioning ideology of the world".

In response, Bristol J-Soc and the UJS said: "We welcome the opportunity to meet with the University. However, these issues are not new and have been raised in multiple meetings previously and in formal complaints. Our message going into this meeting will be action needs to be taken.”

The Community Security Trust issued a damning statement on Tuesday, accusing the university of displaying “negligence” in failing to act over the Professor's “unconscionable language".

The JC understands the University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience Professor Sarah Purdy has asked to meet with the JSoc.

Responding to anger over Professor Miller's latest outburst, a statement from Bristol stressed that recent discussions with Jewish students had led to the adoption, in full, of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.

But it added the university would “seek at all times to abide by both our Free Speech Policy and our Public Sector Equality Duties”.

It continued: “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.
“Universities are places of research and learning, where debate and dissent are not only permitted but expected, and where controversial and even offensive ideas may be put forward, listened to and challenged. Intellectual freedom is fundamental to our mission and values.”

In an apparent acceptance that Professor Miller’s comments had caused much anger, the statement continued: “We would urge anyone who feels that they have been discriminated against or subject to hate speech or harassment, to contact our support services so we can offer appropriate help and support.

“We are unable to comment on complaints made about individual members of staff. However, we are aware of comments made this weekend which we know have caused upset. We welcome a discussion with the Jewish Society about this and have contacted them today with an offer to meet.”

The CST's statement said Professor Miller had used “unconscionable language” which had “nothing to do with academic freedom” and that it “brings into question whether students, Jewish or not, should remain under Professor Miller’s duty of care.”

The communal organisation said they were seeking an “urgent meeting” with Bristol University to “see if they finally meet their responsibilities, which so far they have utterly failed to do.”

Speaking at an online campaign event on Saturday,  Professor Miller said: “It’s a question of how we defeat the ideology of Zionism in practice. How do we make sure Zionism is ended essentially. There’s no other way of saying that.”

He then added: “It’s not enough to say Zionism is racism, Israel is a settler colonial society…  

“The aim of this is not only to say things but  to end settler colonialism in Palestine, to end Zionism as a functioning ideology of the word.”

The sociology lecturer, who quit the Labour Party last year after being suspended following a claim Sir Keir Starmer took “Zionist” money, also used his speech at the Campaign For Free Speech event on Saturday to launch a direct attack on Bristol University’s JSoc and the  Union of Jewish Students.

He said he had been “attacked and complained about” by both organisations, but added “JSocs are all part of the UJS which is a direct member of the World Zionist Organisation.”

Professor Miller added: “Those kind of complaints are being made over the country – one against me in Bristol and there’s been one made in Warwick, again by UJS and several others.

“We will continue to see this drive to stop anyone speaking out against Palestine or having any critical account of Zionism as racism, as settler colonialism.…

“We have to fight back against that and the way to fight back is to organise proper debates to understand these issues and not to be fooled that there is some kind of liberal Zionist panacea which is not as bad as the IHRA… This a problem for freedom of speech and also for academic freedom.”

In further comments, Professor Miller claimed Israel was attempting to “impose their will all over the world.”

Jewish communal organisations, including the CST have previously lodged formal complaints to Bristol University about Professor Miller’s conduct.

An investigation by The Times last June also showed he had shared conspiracy theories about the White Helmet rescuers in Syria, the Salisbury bombings by Russia and the origins of coronavirus.

In a statement the Union of Jewish Students said:"Jewish students are exhausted from the last two years of inaction by the University of Bristol, leading to yet another instance where David Miller has been allowed to target Jewish students for their imagined part in his global Zionist conspiracy fantasy.

"This is not the first time that this has happened and until appropriate action is taken, sadly, we believe, it will not be the last. How many more times must Jewish students be made to feel unsafe and uncomfortable within their own university community?"




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