Jewish student groups have hailed the sacking of incendiary professor David Miller by the University of Bristol as the conclusion of “months and years of tireless campaigns”.
Campus leaders from the Union of Jewish Students and Bristol JSoc expressed their “delight” that action had finally been taken over the “harassment, targeting, and vicious diatribe” by the professor.
But analysis by the JC of academics who have publicly supported Prof Miller reveals the extent of the network backing him at universities across the United Kingdom.
Academics at 74 separate British higher education bodies signed a statement hailing Prof Miller as “an eminent scholar” and claiming he is the victim of “well-orchestrated efforts… to misrepresent [his views] as evidence of antisemitism”.
Thirteen signatories are employed by the University of Bristol alone, which last week said Prof Miller “did not meet the standards of behaviour we expect from our staff and the University”.
When contacted by the JC, the university declined to comment.
A number of supporters of the sacked sociologist occupy senior roles within the UCU, a higher education union representing over 120,000 academics and support staff.
Dr Deepa Govindarajan Driver at the University of Reading, who sits on the UCU’s National Executive Committee, praised Prof Miller as “a principled intellectual” on Twitter after he was fired.
Former president of UCU Scotland Dr Carlo Morelli also signed the open letter, which said it aimed to show “solidarity with Professor Miller”.
Two-hundred-and-ten signatories of the letter hold positions at British universities as professors and lecturers, with a significant number representing Russell Group establishments, some of the UK’s most prestigious higher education institutions.
Twelve work at Kings’ College London, with a further 12 at Leeds and 10 at University College London. Eight are at Queen’s Belfast and seven at Queen Mary London, Warwick and Manchester. Six are at Liverpool and Goldsmiths, and five at SOAS and Edinburgh.
Some are also members of Miller’s “Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media”, including Edinburgh professors Paul McKeigue and Tim Hayward. Amnesty International has condemned the group as “war-crime denialists,” who are “in the realm of conspiracy theorists”.
Prof Miller is to challenge his dismissal, vowing to take the case to an employment tribunal “if necessary”.
In an explosive statement released to the JC, the ‘Support David Miller’ campaign claimed Bristol had “succumbed to a longstanding pro-Israel pressure campaign,” in firing the academic.
They said: “during the investigation, it became apparent that the University was taking, with total credulity, all its positions in relation to Israel and Zionism from these pro-Israel groups and actors.
“Bristol’s investigation processes were effectively weaponised to conduct a witch-hunt against Professor Miller for the crime of opposing Zionist racism.”
The group attacked Bristol JSoc President Edward Isaacs, UJS President Nina Freedman, and Bristol Live columnist Ben Bloch as “pro-Israel student actors,” and alleged Bristol had predominantly taken evidence from, “white pro-Israel Jews.”
Leading law firm Mishcon de Reya provided advice to the UJS and Bristol JSoc over student complaints against David Miller. Adam Rose, who led the students’ legal team, said: “Having worked as a sabbatical officer for UJS in the 1980s, it is both hugely depressing still to be having to fight antisemitism on campuses in the UK today, and hugely satisfying to see the University of Bristol finally recognise that Professor Miller did not meet the standards of behaviour expected from university staff.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) said they had launched proceedings against the university over alleged unlawful harassment on the basis of Jewish ethnicity and Judaism, which could potentially have breached the Equalities Act.
They say several Bristol students were acting as complainants in the litigation, which was brought over claims made by Prof Miller on a 2021 online seminar that the “Zionist Movement” is “the enemy” that must be engaged, and that Zionists must therefore be “directly targeted.”