Revealed: University lecturer smears Jewish student as ‘the Lobby’

Education Select Committee chair calls for an 'urgent inquiry' after Glasgow fails to take formal action


A Glasgow University academic smeared a Jewish student as part of “the Lobby”, the JC can reveal.

The senior education lecturer, Dr Muir Houston, also claimed that Jewish Labour MP Louise Ellman was working at the “behest of a foreign power”.

The student, who wishes to remain anonymous, has complained about a series of alleged antisemitic comments made by the lecturer. The university has so far failed to take formal action.

Campaigners said the comments might be a breach of the internationally agreed IHRA definition of antisemitism, which the university says it has adopted.

Dame Louise Ellman told the JC she was “appalled” by the posts and called for Glasgow to launch an immediate disciplinary investigation.

The student contacted Dr Houston in March 2021 after he signed a letter in support of controversial academic David Miller, who had been suspended by the University of Bristol for calling the Jewish society “pawns” of a “foreign regime”.

The student asked why Dr Houston had supported Mr Miller – who was later sacked – for an article for a student paper.

Less than an hour after her email was sent, the Twitter account ‘Muir TDM’ posted: “email received from the Lobby”, quoting directly from her message.

Later that day, Muir TDM posted: “After signing letter in support of David Miller – a member of the student lobby asked me for statement – given their previous reporting I will decline.”

The student, in the fourth year of a politics degree, lodged a complaint with the University’s Complaints Resolution Office.

In April, the university upheld it, writing that officials could “understand why the statements made by Dr Houston have caused offence to you and other members of the Jewish community.”

The letter added: “We are deeply sorry about this. We would like to assure you that, as a result of your complaint, the School is actively pursuing this issue.”

The letter did not commit to concrete action against Dr Houston, however.

The student subsequently discovered a string of further offensive social media posts made by Muir TDM.

One said: “Louise Ellman is a liar and a fraud – and responsible for vexatious attacks on Corbyn at the behest of a foreign power.”

It was posted after Ms Ellman rejoined the Labour Party, which she left in protest against antisemitism.

When European Council President Charles Michel tweeted that the lesson of the Holocaust was that “silence is the first step to acceptance”, Muir TDM replied: “#FreePalestine”.

On 11 May, another user asked: “Why have the Scottish government, Nicola Sturgeon, or the SNP not uttered a single word condemning Israeli murder. Have they been captured?”

Muir TDM replied, “Yes”, and posted a link to The Jewish Manifesto for Scotland, a policy document created by the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities.

Several of the Twitter account’s comments appeared to breach the IHRA definition of antisemitism adopted by the university, a spokesperson for the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) said, adding that the posts warranted “urgent action”.

The student met with University of Glasgow Chief Operating Officer David Duncan on 11 October to discuss her concerns.

In an email sent later that day, he wrote: “the matter was dealt with informally; Dr Houston has not been the subject of formal disciplinary action.”

A new investigation could be launched if “significant” new evidence came to light, he added.
On 2 November, the student sent him two dozen screenshots of offensive social media posts made by ‘Muir TDM’.

The next week, Mr Duncan replied: “Following further investigation of the twitter feed you complained about, I have concluded that some of the contents are problematic.”

He said he had referred the matter to the Head of School for further action.

Asked which tweets he considered problematic, Mr Duncan said there were just two that he was “particularly concerned about”.

The first came in response to news that former Labour MP Mary Creagh had received an MBE despite attacking Jeremy Corbyn.

Muir TDM responded: “She got her 30 pieces of silver then?” The second called “Modern Hebrew” a “synthetic language”.

Mr Duncan said that some of the tweets “simply take a political perspective on developments in the Middle East – that to my mind is not problematic.”

The student responded with outrage. Citing the allegation that Ms Ellman worked for a “foreign power”, she wrote: “I am in disbelief as to how you cannot see how these are problematic? The impunity granted to Muir is disgusting.”

An email trail seen by the JC reveals that the complaint process has been dogged by delays.

In December, Mr Duncan wrote: “This can’t be taken forward at present because of staff illness.”

On 11 January, he added that he was “hopeful” that action would be taken “in the near future”.

A spokesperson for the University of Glasgow said: “The complaint has been upheld and action is ongoing. We are unable to comment further at this time.”

In a separate statement, they added: “In no way does the University of Glasgow or Dr Duncan find racism or racial discrimination acceptable.”

Mr Duncan insisted that he was confident he had handled the complaint “appropriately and fairly”.

He said: “I examined all the social media comments made by the subject of the complaint since the previous action by his School. I also drew on informal advice from Jewish colleagues.”

But Dame Louise Ellman told the JC: “It simply doesn’t make sense to me that the university can admit that this lecturer’s comments are wrong and then take no real action over it.”

Robert Halfon MP, who chairs the Education Select Committee, said: “University Minister Michelle Donelan and the OFS need to establish an urgent inquiry into treatment of Jewish students in Higher Education. Sadly, this kind of activity has become too commonplace.”

A CAA spokesperson added: “If the University continues to fail to take action or obfuscate, we shall be reporting it to the Office for Students.”

When approached by the JC, Dr Houston said: “The Israel lobby is an actually existing phenomenon composed of witting and unwitting assets of a hostile and illegitimate foreign state.

“That state, Israel, can only continue to exist because of a slow genocide being committed against the Palestinian people. Britons should be deeply concerned that the Jewish Chronicle, whose funders remain secret, is seeking to lead the largest political witch-hunt in British history. We should all ask on whose behalf this onslaught of censorship and intimidation is being conducted.”

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