An investigation is underway into potential hate crimes committed by a Bristol academic who has been calling for an end to Zionism. Zionism is both an ideology and nationalist movement that espouses the re-establishment of and support for a Jewish state centred in the area roughly where Canaan, the Holy Land, or the region of Palestine is. He has also been discussing the notion that Jewish students have been political spies focused on him, and some of his comments contributed to the head of the JSoc group at Bristol university receiving online hate. On top of this, he has linked Zionism, Judaism and Islamophobia.
Who is the lecturer under investigation?
The lecturer, David Miller, is a sociology academic for Bristol University and has been condemned by the Jewish community after accusing Jewish students for being ‘pawns’ of Israel. The issue has gone as far as Parliament, and hundreds of MPs have signed a letter which urges the university to take action. So far, all the university has announced is an internal confidential investigation into the professor.
What has the response been?
Within Parliament, Lord Parkinson spoke on behalf of the government and said that “We consider that the University of Bristol could do more to make its condemnation of Professor Miller’s conduct clear. Students also can and should contact the police if they believe the law has been broken. Professor Miller has expressed some ill-founded and reprehensible views and the government wholeheartedly rejects them.”
Other academics have spoken out about the situation, simultaneously condemning Miller but also defending his academic freedom. New Statesmen fights against this, stating that people are making a ‘convenient distinction’. They go on to talk about Miller’s inherent anti-Semitism in his work and claims that the university knew about this upon hiring him.
Officers with Avon and Somerset Police are encouraging students to speak out in order to help the investigation determine whether any hate crimes have taken place. Anyone with information is being asked to contact 101 and quoting the reference 5221036233.
How has the university responded?
A Bristol University representative said: “The University is seeking clarification from Avon and Somerset Police. If notified of a formal investigation, we will of course cooperate. Our freedom of speech policy underlines the vital importance of the right of staff and students, as members of a free and democratic society, to speak openly without fear of censorship or limitation, provided that this right is exercised responsibly, within the law, and with respect for others who may have differing views.”
According to students at the university, Miller is on sick leave and his personal tutees have been reassigned.
When attempts to contact Miller have been made, a spokesperson for the Support David Miller campaign responded with: “Far-right Zionist hate groups around the country are known to use spurious police complaints to intimidate pro-Palestine activists”.
JSoc hasn’t made comments to anyone but did post this on their Facebook, along with a video about stopping hate.