The University of Bristol professor who was sacked after making comments about Israel will be appealing the decision this week in a bid to get his job back.
Professor David Miller’s sacking in October came after a disciplinary hearing and two internal investigations following a series of complaints against him made after a 2019 lecture on Islamophobia.
Although both internal investigations found his comments did not constitute unlawful speech, the university decided to sack the professor with immediate effect as he “did not meet the standards of behaviour [we] expect from [our] staff.”
Many campaigners and MPs, including Thangam Debbonaire, applauded the university’s decision at the time.
In February of this year, Miller spoke at an online event where he criticised the president of the Bristol Jewish Society, which resulted in the student president receiving online abuse.
Shortly afterwards, Bristol Students Union condemned Miller for antisemitism, alongside the Union of Jewish Students.
But in response to his sacking a Change petition was also set up, gaining almost 40,000 signatures in support of Prof Miller.
The Support David Miller Campaign wrote an open letter to the University Vice Chancellor supported by over 400 academics, including several dozen Bristol University academics.
A separate letter, signed by hundreds of Jewish supporters, stated that “Jewish opinion on Zionism has always been diverse” and that the attacks on Prof Miller will “chill free speech on Israel if left unchallenged”.
Who is David Miller and what is his view?
David Miller has been a sociology professor for over three decades.
He is a specialist in Islamophobia but has come under heavy criticism for naming the Zionist movement as one of the “five tenets of Islamophobia.”
He also founded the organisation Spinwatch, the UK’s lobbying watchdog that has investigated various UK lobby groups.
David Miller told Bristol Live: “Although the QC had decided in both cases that not a word or comma or sentence that I’d used was anti-semitic, the second investigation concluded that I had upset students.
“I’ve been an anti-racist all my life but was sacked for upsetting students.
“If people can be sacked for upsetting students then there’s going to be an awful lot of sackings.
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“It’s not been a decision based on any rationality, it’s been based on pressure.
“The Palestinians are really the emblem of all of this.
“They are under occupation, they are under a process of ethnic cleansing and it’s because I have spoken up for that, I’ve been sacked.
“My position [against the settlements] is a very widely respected international position.
The first complaint against him came from The Community Security Trust, an organisation that supports the Jewish community against antisemitism.
Prof Miller said he believes the CST is an organisation who “are unwilling to tell the difference between antisemitism and anti-Zionism”.
What is the Community Security Trust?
The Community Security Trust became independent from the Board of Deputies of British Jews in 1986 and gained charitable status in 1994.
Its mission is to protect the Jewish community against antisemitism, support victims and promote research into antisemitism, among other activities.
The group’s founding chairman, Gerald Ronson is a British property developer. He is currently a member of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation and was awarded a CBE in 2012 for philanthropy and charitable services.
The initial complaint made by the CST was rejected by the University of Bristol on the grounds that it is a third party organisation.
Dave Rich, director of policy at CST said they initially complained after being contacted by two of David Miller’s students who wanted to remain anonymous: “CST’s involvement in the complaints against Professor Miller began when two of his students contacted CST to complain about a lecture he taught that they believed had contained antisemitic language and imagery.
“CST investigated their complaint, agreed with their view and wrote to Bristol University on their behalf because they wanted to remain anonymous.
“This is normal practice in the world of hate crime victim advocacy that CST works in.
“We subsequently advised and supported Bristol University Jewish Society when they made their own separate complaint about Miller, on behalf of their members.
“The idea that CST somehow “recruited” students to make complaints against Miller is completely false.
“The truth is that his own students believed him to be teaching antisemitism to his class and wanted to complain.
“Their clearsighted courage is what drove these complaints and we admire and applaud them for their persistence and determination.”
In response to Prof Miller’s claims, Mr Rich added: “Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are not the same thing, but they are often closely related.
“Miller’s form of anti-Zionism replicates antisemitic conspiracy theories about powerful, wealthy Jews in shadowy networks of power, using their money for manipulative and harmful purposes.”
Details regarding Prof Miller’s appeal hearing, taking place this week, remain confidential.
The University of Bristol said in a statement regarding David Miller’s sacking in October that it is unable to provide further comment.
“Given the degree of public interest in this matter we hope our community will appreciate the care and attention with which the University must approach it,” it read.
“We cannot provide any further update on this process; in line with ACAS guidance, such internal processes should remain confidential.”
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