On 7th August, David Miller posted material on Twitter (renamed ‘X’) that has produced concern and discussion among individuals and organisations (including BRICUP) that had supported him throughout the attacks on him and his subsequent sacking by the University of Bristol. The attacks on him had alleged antisemitism.

Before commenting on David Miller’s posting we need to set the context and the historical moment at which he chose to do so.

Since 1948, Palestinians inside Israel have been discriminated against, and those expelled in a process of ‘ethnic cleansing’, and their descendants, have been consigned to refugee camps and denied the right to return to their homes. Since 1967 the colonial project has been extended to the West Bank and Gaza, with the former illegally settled and the latter turned into a prison camp. Murderous military assaults on the camps and on Gaza kill hundreds of Palestinians annually. Meanwhile, Palestinian universities are systematically harassed, and sometimes closed for protracted periods, by the occupying Israeli authorities.

Today, the ultra-Right Israeli Government is in a process, not just of expanding the illegal settlements but of preparing the formal annexation of the occupied West Bank into Israel. We see in tandem the intensification of the campaign of violence and intimidation against Palestinians by organised gangs of illegal Jewish settlers, protected and aided by the Israeli Army. Palestinians are cohering in popular mutual solidarity to defy these acts of intimidation and murderous attacks.

In an attempt to undercut criticism of its ongoing colonisation, Israel’s supporters are aggressively promoting the discredited IHRA ‘Working Definition’ of antisemitism. The aim is to silence Palestinian voices and to disable Palestine solidarity. The UK university sector has been a major target of this campaign, with universities facing intense pressure to adopt the IHRA and silence critics of Israel. The recent report of the European Legal Support Centre documents how this has worked across Europe.

BRICUP is active in opposing the adoption of this misleading and discredited definition. We do so in defence of the academic freedom to investigate both Israeli policy and the political ideology and practice of Zionism, and of the political freedom to campaign for the political and human rights of Palestinians.

One element of BRICUP’s efforts has been our active support for David Miller, then a Professor at the University of Bristol, when he was attacked aggressively for his criticisms of Israel and of Israel’s Zionist supporters in the UK.  Responding to intense political pressure the University of Bristol eventually dismissed Miller from his chair. He was twice cleared by the University’s chosen legal expert, so the charge of antisemitism could not be sustained. Instead the cited grounds for dismissal were breaches of the University’s policy on respectful relations with students. This dismissal, based not on the facts of the case but on the University’s felt need to respond to the attacks on it, constitutes one of the clearest breaches of academic freedom for many years.

BRICUP was right to support Miller against dismissal, and continues to do so.

However, in BRICUP’s view Miller’s recent social media statement (reproduced below) is completely unacceptable. In it he affirms that Jews are no longer discriminated against, that Jews are ‘over-represented’ amongst cultural elites (cultural, economic, political) world-wide, and hence are now themselves in a position to discriminate against marginalised groups.

Miller ignores the persistence of antisemitism across Europe and in the Americas, and its increase over recent decades with the rise of populist movements, and the resurgence of fascist organisations. Moreover, his supposed ‘facts’ are highly susceptible to an antisemitic interpretation; indeed, for historical reasons they are almost bound to be interpreted this way. He uses some of the most historically prominent elements of antisemitic rhetoric. His assertion of ‘over-representation’ inevitably encourages hostility towards Jews. And in treating ‘Jews’ as a homogeneous entity, his post deploys the characteristic feature of all racisms.

We make no judgment about David Miller’s personal and political views. Neither his personal attitude to Jews nor his political intention in posting this message make any difference to the consequences his statement is likely to have. As an organisation that rightly defended David Miller against the attempt to dismiss him because of his criticisms of Israel, we urge him now to delete this message, and to apologise for its content.

Today, the political focus needs to be on the intensifying Israeli colonisation of Palestine, and the struggle of Palestinians against it. Instead, David Miller has provided ammunition to those who seize any opportunity to assert that criticism of Israel is motivated by antisemitism.

British Committee for the Universities of Palestine

18 August 2023


David Miller’s Post

The facts:

1. Jews are not discriminated against.

2. They are over-represented in Europe, North America and Latin America in positions of cultural, economic and political power.

3. They are therefore, in a position to discriminate against actually marginalised groups.