The University of Bristol has sacked the pro-Palestine Professor David Miller following a sustained campaign from pro-Israel groups.
In a statement today the university said his conduct “did not meet the standards of behaviour we expect from our staff.”
“We have a duty of care to all students and the wider University community, in addition to a need to apply our own codes of conduct consistently and with integrity. Balancing those important considerations, and after careful deliberation, a disciplinary hearing found Professor Miller did not meet the standards of behaviour we expect from our staff and the University has concluded that Professor Miller’s employment should be terminated with immediate effect,” the statement said.
However, the university added that Mr Miller’s anti-Israel remarks did not constitute “unlawful speech.”
It said: “The University regards the principle of academic freedom as fundamental and would like to reiterate that we take any risk to stifle that freedom seriously. The investigation included an independent report from a leading Queen’s Counsel who considered the important issue of academic freedom of expression and found that Professor Miller’s comments did not constitute unlawful speech.
“We recognise that these matters have caused deep concern for people on all sides of the debate, and that members of our community hold very different views from one another.
“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. We cannot provide any further update on this process; in line with ACAS guidance, such internal processes should remain confidential. Professor Miller has a right of internal appeal which he may choose to exercise and nothing in this statement should be taken to prejudge that prospective process. On that basis, the University does not intend to make any further public comment at this time.
“The University remains committed to fostering a positive working and learning environment that enriches lives and where the essential principles of academic freedom are preserved.”
‘No longer safe for Muslim, Arab or Palestinian students’
Following his sacking, Miller said the university’s decision was “designed to send a chill down the spines of academics around the world who expose Zionist racism.”
In a statement he said: “The University of Bristol has embarrassed itself and the entire British academic sector by capitulating to a pressure campaign against me overseen and directed by a hostile foreign government. It has run a shambolic process that seems to have been vetted by external actors.
“Israel’s assets in the UK have been emboldened by the University collaborating with them to shut down teaching about Islamophobia. The University of Bristol is no longer safe for Muslim, Arab or Palestinian students.
“I stand by my evidence-based comments and I will be challenging this decision, all the way to an Employment Tribunal if necessary.”
Miller is an academic expert in propaganda and political pressure groups and has been a key critic of the Israel lobby for the last decade, as well as of Zionism.
Those putting pressure on the university to sack him included the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Zionist Federation, the Jewish Labour Movement and the Community Security Trust.
The Support David Miller Campaign said: “The University of Bristol has today succumbed to a longstanding pro-Israel pressure campaign targeted at Professor David Miller, based on his important scholarship on Islamophobia.
“In 2019, Professor Miller gave a lecture on the ‘Five Pillars of Islamophobia’ as part of a module called ‘Harms of the Powerful’. Among those five pillars are ‘parts of the Zionist movement’.
“Following the lecture explaining how parts of the Zionist movement promote Islamophobia, the British pro-Israel campaign group, the Community Security Trust, lobbied Bristol to censor him. That complaint was dismissed after a full investigation found that Professor Miller had neither broken any laws nor the University’s rules.
“Following a speech Professor Miller gave at an online conference in February 2021 – in which he called for ‘an end to Zionism’ and again linked the influence of parts of the Zionist movement in stoking Islamophobia – the pressure campaign reached fever pitch.
“The leading elements of the UK’s Israel lobby, and its fellow travellers, were mobilised against Professor Miller, including the: Community Security Trust; Board of Deputies of British Jews; All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism; Jewish Leadership Council; Union of Jewish Students, and other pro-Israel groups.
“The campaign also relied heavily on pro-Israel student actors, including the current President of Bristol JSoc Edward Isaacs, Bristol Live columnist Ben Bloch, Guido Fawkes columnist Sabrina Miller, and UJS President Nina Freedman.
“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.
“Despite engaging an expensive Queen’s Counsel earlier this year to assess Professor Miller’s remarks, who concluded that his ‘comments did not constitute unlawful speech’, Bristol has astonishingly claimed that it takes ‘any risk to stifle [academic] freedom seriously’.
“That QC report also concluded that Professor Miller’s remarks were neither ‘antisemitic’ nor amounted to ‘discrimination or harassment of a form which threatens to breach the Equality Act 2010’.
“Bristol has not only been bludgeoned into sacking Professor Miller today by a barrage of pro-Israel actors, but it has also been hoodwinked by false claims of danger being posed to ‘Jewish students’. Bristol refused to meet with a number of Muslims and people of colour, as well as our Support David Miller campaign group, instead taking evidence largely from white pro-Israel Jews.
“This episode, which has targeted a committed anti-racist academic, will go down as one of deep shame in British academic history.”
On the other hand, the Union of Jewish Students and Bristol Jewish Society welcomed the university’s decision.
They said: “UJS and Bristol Jewish society are delighted to see that a decision has finally been made by Bristol University regarding Professor David Miller. It’s been over 2 years since UJS, CST and the Jewish community raised their heads and their voices in protest at the harassment, targeting and vicious diatribes shared by Professor Miller with his students.
“It has been 7 months since complaints were made about his statements regarding the Jewish Society its president and UJS. This announcements concluded months and years of tireless campaigns and actions by students to try and get the university and authorities to listen and we are pleased that action has finally been taken.”