University of Bristol faces boycott over sacking of Professor David Miller

The University of Bristol. Editorial credit: Claudio Divizia

Civil society organisations and activists in the UK and overseas are threatening to organise a mass boycott of the University of Bristol unless it reverses its dismissal of Professor David Miller for his outspokenly critical stance on Israel and its supporters.

In a letter sent to the university today, they accuse the university of caving in to the demands of the pro-Israel lobby and violating the freedom of speech that is necessary for intellectual enquiry.

In doing so, they say, the university is no longer a safe space for students and staff.

Professor David Miller, who was professor of political sociology and a member of the School for Policy Studies, was sacked last month after a concerted campaign by pro-Israel campaigners to have him removed from his post on allegations of antisemitism.

Despite being cleared of those charges, the university fired him nevertheless saying his conduct had fallen below the standards expected from its staff.

Professor Miller has a history of research in the areas of Zionism and Palestine. Recently, he identified Zionism as being one of “five pillars” of Islamophobia designed to discredit the Palestinian cause by painting it as extremist.

The letter, which is signed by a broad range of organisations and activists from the UK and abroad, serves notice on Bristol University that unless it reconsiders its decision, they will bring “the full force of civil society and public opinion to bear on your institution for as long as it takes to redress this injustice,” including persuading academics and students that the university cannot be relied upon to guarantee their right to freedom of expression.

The chair of the Islamic Human Rights Commission which organised the letter, Massoud Shadjareh, said: “For Bristol University to capitulate to political pressure and sack a lecturer for just doing his job represents an unacceptable and outrageous form of censorship. It has created a situation whereby the expression of anti-Israel views are effectively prohibited amongst students and staff. This double standard can’t and won’t be tolerated.”

Below is the letter in full:

Professor Hugh Brady

Vice-Chancellor and President

University of Bristol

11 October 2021

Re: Dismissal of Professor David Miller

Dear Professor Brady,

We, the undersigned, are writing to protest in the strongest possible terms your decision to sack Prof David Miller.

Prof Miller’s dismissal followed a concerted campaign by the pro-Israeli groups against him for his impeccable research in the areas of Islamophobia and Palestine and the Israel lobby.

We are appalled by the fact that although Prof Miller was cleared of the charge of anti-Semitism laid against him by pro-Israel organisations, your institution elected to dismiss him anyway on the grounds that he did not respect contrary views being criticised. In other words, his comments offended some of those whom his work identifies as racists, upholders of an apartheid regime and perpetrators of systematic oppression.

David Miller

In firing Prof Miller, you have chosen to take sides with a foreign state that has left no stone unturned in its determination to silence voices that criticise its abominable racist behaviour at home and in the international arena. This is evident from the fact that you have given credence to complaints from the forces ranged against Prof Miller (inter alia Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Zionist Federation, the Jewish Labour Movement and the Community Security Trust) all of whom are apologists for the Israeli state.

The dismissal is also an affront to the right of Prof Miller, and the wider university population, to freedom of speech, a principle that is held even more sacred in academic settings and without which intellectual enquiry cannot properly take place. Censuring academics because their views offend people on the opposing side of the debate sets a dangerous precedent for universities that cannot be allowed to stand.

The upshot of your decision is that Bristol University is no longer a safe space for Muslim, Arab and Palestinian students, and staff. Likewise, all those who criticise the Israeli state and its apologists as racist. None of these groups can now expect to express critical views on Israel without fear of reproach.

We hereby serve notice that unless Prof Miller is reinstated, we intend to bring the full force of civil society and public opinion to bear on your institution for as long as it takes to redress this injustice. This will include persuading national and international students and academics to boycott Bristol University because it cannot be relied upon to guarantee freedom of expression for racial and religious minorities, as well as political dissent which offends its targets.

Yours sincerely,

Daud Abdullah, Middle East Monitor (MEMO)

Samir Al-Haidari, Ahlulbayt Islamic Mission (AIM)

Abbas Ali, Inminds Human Rights Group

Azad Ali, Operations Director, CAGE

Robert Andrews, EuroPal Forum

Dew Baboeram, Decolonial International Network (DIN)

Zaher Birawi, Chairman, Palestinian Forum in Britain

Professor Hagit Borer, Fellow of the British Academy (FBA), QMUL

Professor Haim Bresheeth, SOAS University of London

Jonathan Boud, Harrow Law Centre

David Cannon, Jewish Network for Palestine (JNP)

Rabbi Ahron Cohen, Neturei Karta

Abbas Edalat, CASMII

Prof Ramón Grosfoguel – University of California, Berkeley

Richard Haley, Chair, SACC

Ibrahim Hewitt, Senior Editor, Middle East Monitor (MEMO)

Ahammed Hussain, CEO, Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK

Selma James, International Jewish Anti Zionist Network UK

Dr. Olsi Jazexhiu, Assistant professor, international Islamic University, Malaysia

Mohideen Abdul Kader, Citizens International, Malaysia

Michael Kalmanovit, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network UK

Raza Kazim, Middlesex University

Dr Les Levidow, Senior Research Fellow, Open University

Yasser Louati, President, Committee for Justice & Liberties, Paris, France

Ilana Machover, The London Support Group of Israeli Conscience Objectors

Gareth Murphy, Branch Secretary, Unite Community Camden LE/00018

Mick Napier, Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Professor Ilan Pappe, Director of the European Center for Palestine Studies, University of Exeter

Ismail Patel, Frends of Al,Aqsa

Roshan Muhammed Salih, 5Pillars

Massoud Shadjareh, Chair, Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC)

John Tymon, Football Against Apartheid

Imam Dawud Walid, Islamic researcher and author

Sam Weinstein, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network UK

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