Exposed: Allies of ‘end Zionism’ professor fight to erase IHRA definition at UCL

Some professors and students fear of a UK-wide 'domino effect' if UCL goes back on its commitment to IHRA


Allies of the notorious Bristol professor David Miller – who called for the “end” of Zionism and accused Jewish students of being “pawns” of Israel – are fighting to overturn University College London (UCL)’s commitment to the IHRA definition of antisemitism. 

There are fears among professors and students that if UCL goes back on its commitment to IHRA there will be a UK-wide “domino effect”, leaving Jewish students open to intimidation and harassment on campuses.

Two academics proposing an alternative to the IHRA definition signed a letter in March backing Prof Miller, who has claimed that JSocs are “pawns of a racist regime engaged in ethnic cleansing” and “under the auspices of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), an Israel lobby group”. He is currently under investigation at Bristol University.

Sean Wallis, president of the University and College Union (UCU) at UCL, who is in the working group proposing a replacement for the IHRA definition, and UCU vice president Saladin Meckled-Garcia, who is on the executive committee of the academic board, signed the letter in support of Professor Miller. Three other officers of the university’s UCU branch also signed the letter backing Prof Miller, and it is understood that the branch is an “important part of the picture” in terms of the wider opposition to IHRA at UCL.

Elsewhere at UCL, Seth Anziska, one of the leaders of the campaign to rescind the university’s commitment to the IHRA, is an author of the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA), a more limited definition, though he did not sign the letter supporting Prof Miller. There are concerns that the JDA definition will be put forward as an alternative to IHRA. The academic working group is expected to propose a new definition to the university council next month. 

Students told the JC they feared hostility on campus would intensify if the university rescinds its adoption of the IHRA definition in favour of something “weaker”.

One student described how they were “personally singled out” by one of their professors in front of a lecture hall of students and told to write an “essay on the topic of ‘the Israeli colonisation of Palestine with particular focus on ‘the ongoing Israeli torture of disabled Palestinians in the West Bank’”. The student said: “This comment was entirely out of context with the texts relevant to my syllabus, and obviously directed towards me as a way of singling me, a Jew, as other.”

Samuel Goldstone, president of UCL Jewish Society said: “Revoking the IHRA would only embolden those who wish to target us, and I fear that doing so could see UCL become a hostile environment for Jewish students.”

He added: “Myself and the entire UCL Jewish Society are deeply disturbed by the actions of a small group of academics within UCL who are seeking to replace the IHRA definition of antisemitism with the JDA. Jewish students have consistently demonstrated that the IHRA is the definition that best protects us on campus. These academics are more interested in a theoretical discussion of antisemitism than helping their students tackle the rampant anti-Jewish hatred at UCL.”

In a statement, UCL said: “In November 2019, UCL fully adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Association working definition of antisemitism, with two additional caveats recommended by the Home Affairs Select Committee in 2016. This remains the case and the IHRA remains in place.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive