Former Derby North MP Chris Williamson has called out the University of Bristol for its “outrageous lack of solidarity” with sociology Professor David Miller, currently under attack by the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews has been targeting Miller, a professor in the University of Bristol’s sociology department, with a series of accusations, most recently blaming the academic on Friday for putting Jewish students at risk of “real physical harm” by sharing his view that the “Zionist movement” is the “enemy of world peace.” The group’s latest letter was addressed to Hugh Brady, the university’s vice chancellor.
It is with regret that we have felt the need to write the following letter to Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor of @BristolUni. But the situation calls for it. We urge allies to join our community in standing with @BristolJsoc against the vile behaviour of David Miller. pic.twitter.com/sd93pgVfze
— Board of Deputies of British Jews (@BoardofDeputies) February 19, 2021
Specifically, Miller had stated that Jewish students on UK university campuses were “being used as political pawns by a violent, racist foreign regime engaged in ethnic cleansing” – that is, the Israeli government. The Board of Deputies framed the statement as targeting the students themselves, even though “being used as political pawns” suggests that they are being led by the nose.
Williamson, a former Labour MP, tore into Brady for his university’s failure to muster more than a “mealy-mouthed response” to attacks by a “politically motivated lynch mob,” a lack of action that had encouraged “bad faith actors to continue pursuing this censorship drive.”
Williamson should know. He is no stranger to spurious allegations of antisemitism himself, and was suspended from the Labour Party for arguing the party had apologized unnecessarily for something of which it was not guilty – namely, the ‘chronic antisemitism’ the party was accused of by its own Blairite faction and media collaborators. Williamson witnessed the danger of excessive apologies secondhand, having watched his colleague Jeremy Corbyn get slowly buried under a pile of unnecessary apologies as the party’s phantom antisemitism plague invited further attacks upon him.
Declaring the rhetorical assault on Miller to be part and parcel of “a pernicious campaign of censorship that is currently being waged against British universities by apologists for the State of Israel,” Williamson urged Brady to come forward with “an unambiguous statement in support of Professor Miller,” to whom – as his employer – he owed it to protect him from “malicious complaints.”
Miller himself refused to be silenced, issuing a statement Friday morning that affirmed his belief “Zionism is and always has been a racist, violent, imperialist ideology premised on ethnic cleansing.” Hitting back at the Union of Jewish Students, whom he accused of targeting him with “a campaign of manufactured hysteria for two years” of efforts to have him fired, he claimed the group even planted a fake student in one of his classes, who was not registered for the class at all, but was merely there “for the purpose of political surveillance.”
For the past two years Professor David Miller of Bristol University has been subject to a slanderous hate campaign portraying him as an anti-Semite for his opposition to Zionism. Read his statement on the reality of the situation: pic.twitter.com/A45EZd7N4i
— Louis (@Louis_Allday) February 19, 2021
Miller concluded that the war on academics critical of Zionism was “an age-old Israel lobby tactic imported from the US, where academics are routinely harassed for teaching about Zionism and its effects.” Should any other foreign lobby try such an approach, they would be “laughed out of the room,” Miller pointed out, insisting “Israel and its advocates deserve the same treatment.”
Far from rendering Jewish students unsafe, Miller declared, the campaign of censorship against critics of the Zionist regime put Arab and Muslim students in danger – as well as anti-Zionist Jewish students.
While the comments about Zionism seem to have topped the list of the Board of Deputies’ grievances, the professor was also denounced as a conspiracy theorist for directing the Organisation for Propaganda Studies (which, among other wrongthink views, takes issue with the squeaky-clean image of Syria’s White Helmets favored in the UK and US). Additionally, his concerns over the meddling of pro-Israel organizations in the previous two UK elections were pooh-poohed as mere fantasy, even though in one case an Israeli foreign agent was actually discovered working undercover in Labour Friends of Israel, caught on film plotting the downfall of Corbyn and his allies.
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