The Jewish Chronicle
PROTEST OVER ‘END OF ZIONISM’ ACADEMIC
COUNTDOWN presenter Rachel Riley has accused Bristol University of enabling Professor David Miller’s “antisemitic campaign” in a packed online protest over the university’s failure to take action against the academic.
Thousands of students and campaigners against antisemitism from across the UK joined the virtual Get Hate Off Campus rally on Wednesday.
The event, organised by Bristol Jewish Society and the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), saw Ms Riley joining speakers including Lord John Mann, Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl and the local MP for Bristol West, Thangham Debbonaire.
UJS President James Harris and Edward Isaacs, the Bristol JSoc President who has been at the centre of the sociology professor Miller’s attacks, were also among the speakers.
Ms Riley compared the abuse she had faced since speaking out against Labour antisemitism to the treatment of Jewish students at the prestigious university.
“The parallels between my experiences and the experiences of Jewish students at Bristol today are stark,” she told the online audience.
Ms Riley noted how members of Bristol JSoc had become the target of “the usual suspects” who have been “spurred on by an antisemitic campaign by a Bristol University professor and spurred on and empowered by the silence of his academic institution.”
Ms Riley continued: “I can’t imagine having to go through this as a teenager at university — it is hard enough doing so as an adult.”
Mr Miller told the JC last week that Jewish students were “political pawns” of a “violent, racist foreign regime engaged in ethnic cleansing”. In an earlier rant, he had called for “the end of Zionism”.
UJS president Mr Harris told the rally that “for too long Jewish students in Bristol have been singled out and targeted by Professor David Miller and have been failed by their university.”
He added: “It is two years since Bristol JSoc submitted a complaint about antisemitic conspiracy theories being spouted in David Miller’s lectures and two years on he is still using his platform to single out and target Jewish students.”
Bristol West Labour MP Thangahm Debbonaire spoke of her anger and sadness that it was necessary to call the rally in a city that liked to boast about its diversity and openness to all.
She said: “Two years since I first became aware of was happening, here we still are.
“I have to say how important I think it is that allies step up. It must never be down to Jewish students to stand up against antisemitism.
“You are doing an amazing job, and you are really inspiring. But we are all affected by antisemitism.”
Addressing Prof Miller directly, she said: “You have to think very seriously about whether or not you are the right person to be in charge of educating the next generation… whether you should be in charge of educating anybody.”
Lord Mann issued a damning rebuke to the university over its Royal Charter, which says it should be a welcoming place for everyone who studies there.
“The Royal Charter of the University of Bristol does not say ‘members are one body politic — but not the Jewish students’,” he said.
“It doesn’t say ‘these people by their very existence are fostering Islamophobia. It does not say ‘welcome to Bristol, we define you as racist, Jewish people’.”
Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl noted Prof Miller’s “crackpot” theories which claim Jewish organisations were “part of some shadowy matrix designed to establish Israeli control in the UK,” or his “years of work trying to discredit those in Syria who have stood up against a brutal dictator.”
In an emotional but hugely effective address, Bristol JSoc president Mr Isaacs said he had “never expected” to be giving the speech he made at Wednesday’s rally when he was appointed to his role. He told the audience that his students would not give up their fight to ensure the University of Bristol took action against the controversial professor.
On Tuesday, Bristol JSoc and the UJS issued an angry statement after meeting senior management at the university to discuss “proposed next steps” over possible action following Professor Miller’s remarks.
The statement said: “Today Bristol JSoc and UJS met with members of the senior management team at the University of Bristol, to relay our concerns over the current situation and to hear their proposed next steps.
“Yet again, the university has failed to give concrete steps on what they can do to protect their Jewish students from hatred and racism both physically and digitally.
“We will not let this go and will continue to hold the University to account and get hate off campus.”
Following the 45-minute meeting, the University of Bristol said: “We had a useful meeting today with Bristol J Soc and UJS. We heard their concerns and are continuing to work with them.
“However, at the students’ request, we are unable to go into detail about the discussions.
“We remain committed to making our University an inclusive place for all students, while also upholding our commitment to freedom of speech and to the rights of all our students and staff to discuss difficult and sensitive topics.”
In a statement, the Community Security Trust (CST), which lodged a complaint against Professor Miller two years ago, said: “Bristol University seems determined to stand by David Miller, even while he spreads antisemitic conspiracy theories about its own students. Meanwhile, they have been ignoring Jewish students’ complaints about Miller for two years.
“He is unfit to teach anyone, but particularly Jewish students, and the longer this drags on the more damage it will do to Bristol’s reputation.”