The British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) has expressed its deep concern to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Bristol over the renewed attacks on the integrity of one of the University’s distinguished members of staff, Professor David Miller. It has also been in contact with Professor Miller to offer whatever support the Committee can provide.

BRICUP is not qualified to comment on Professor’s Miller’s scholarly work but affirms the responsibility of all academics, irrespective of discipline or political view, to defend his right to teach and research without the threat of external intervention. That is a principle that is at the core of academic freedom.This assault on Professor Miller’s character is an attempt to remove that freedom.

The accusations of antisemitism against Professor Miller result from his criticisms of Israel, of Israeli government policy, and of Zionism as the political ideology of the state. Such criticisms could, of course, issue from someone motivated by antisemitism. There is, however, no evidence that this obtains in the case of Professor Miller. Indeed, there is a body of evidence to show him to be a committed anti-racist.

Over the last decade, there have been repeated demands that Professor Miller be dismissed from his position. He has been a target, for reasons entirely unconnected with antisemitism, since 2011. That was the year in which he exposed the misleading information provided to the Government by the Community Security Trust in an attempt to prevent the admission to the UK of a Palestinian religious leader who was scheduled to speak at a Palestine Solidarity Campaign meeting.

As on previous occasions, the current attack on Professor Miller as an alleged antisemite relies on the highly contentious International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. This is the definition that was rejected overwhelmingly by the Academic Board of University College London in February 2021. Any definition should provide clarity – but the IHRA definition whether by accident or design is so opaque that it requires examples to give it any content.It is these contentious examples that focus especially on statements that might be made about Israel.

Reliance on this definition to identify antisemitic speech without consideration of context or motivation is entirely inappropriate. Professor Miller’s accusers present no such evidence; and surely if they had any it would have been produced.Without such evidence neither the University nor the court of public opinion should take these accusations at face value.

The potential chilling effect of the IHRA definition on academic freedom and freedom of expression needs to be resisted fiercely by all academic staff and by all educators, and especially by those in positions of trust in our academic institutions.

This assault on Professor Miller is not an isolated case. Academic colleagues at a number of other universities are currently being targeted in just this way with the aim of securing their dismissal. In all of these cases, as at Bristol, student complaints against lecturers are being assisted if not coordinated by outside bodies. A related attack was made this month at the University of Oxford on the celebrated film director, Ken Loach, a life-long anti-racist and defender of the oppressed. The campaign to ‘no platform’ him alleged antisemitism. That accusation was grounded, of course, not in any evidence of hostility or hatred towards Jews but in his outspoken support for the struggle of the Palestinians, and his criticism of Israel. His attackers cited the IHRA definition as justification.

This widespread and deplorable activity is not simply designed to achieve the dismissal of individuals. Its aim is clearly to create an atmosphere in which all academic staff self-censor when it comes to any analysis of the nature of Israel, and of the consequences of its policies.

BRICUP has urged the management group at the University of Bristol to defend the academic freedom of Professor Miller, and to defend the integrity of theUniversity’s guarantee both of academic freedom and of freedom of expression, as it is duty bound in law.