This is another guest post by frequent contributor Brian Goldfarb, who has written before about Prof. David Miller. I would recommend reading not only Brian’s previous article (linked below) but also his comments to that post which include several important links.
Hopefully, regular readers of Anne’s blog will have read this article of mine on Prof. David Miller, published back in April of this year – my personal title for this was “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you” which those old enough may recall as a witticism from (the still alive) Henry Kissinger. Fortunately, Anne knew better than this and so retitled the piece.
As I commented at the opening of the piece, although I had only a few weeks earlier sent Anne another article on this topic, antisemitism is the gift that just keeps giving. One of the main elements in that article was a report on the Professor of Political Sociology at Bristol University, David Miller.
To summarise what was then known about him, he was reported as openly, in his lectures (at least, but he might also be repeating these comments in small groups as well), accusing Jewish students of being witting agents of Israel, as a foreign power. There was more, but it’s in the original article. Even a casual reading of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism will show that this stance is, at the very least, questionable, especially for a Professor of Political Sociology and is what got Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in serious trouble with the (Blair [Labour] Government established) Equality and Human Rights Commission. And we all know where that led. Among, apparently, much else, he is reported as having said (in open class, remember)
“Jewish students [are] pawns of a racist regime engaged in ethnic cleansing”.
He means Israel, of course. And he said much else along the same lines.
And I’m not going to bother to give him any credibility by refuting his arguments again. If you’re here, you know all this anyway.
As noted at the time, he had been suspended, pending a university inquiry into his alleged behaviour – in open class, note, not on social media, where reasonable rules of “free speech” might apply and allow this sort of language. That said, such language has come back to haunt prominent people, often at a much later date. He had also, overlapping this suspension, gone on sick leave, although he did manage to leave his sick bed long enough to appear on a far left (virtual via zoom) conference, as noted in that article.
The local police force, the Avon and Somerset Police Force, had opened an inquiry into whether his reported words represented a breach of the law on discrimination and harassment. What is not known to me at the time of writing is whether that police force had decided not to pursue their enquiries, whether they had decided there was no merit in any accusations against him, or, even, whether their enquiries were actually ongoing.
There was a further period of anxiety when, still pending the outcome of the internal inquiry, Miller was reinstated, and so could continue, presumably, making the sort of statements I reported in the article. I noted in the original article that had I been a student of his, I would have been very worried at the reception my written work might receive at his hands.
It is undisputed that we all have, within legal limits, a right to our own views and to be able to air them. I hold views that a proportion of my fellow British citizens would disagree with. But, as a University lecturer (which I was for the whole of my working life), I would never have dreamed of airing them in class: they were irrelevant to the (social science) topics I taught.
Then, all of a sudden, Bristol University decided that Miller was no longer the sort of lecturer they wanted or needed on their staff. This happened at the beginning of October this year. Thus, we find a number of articles from around that time. For example, this from The Times of Israel: [The following quotations are from that article.] You will note that the University is somewhat mealy-mouthed about why they sacked Miller. Thus, the following:
“In a statement on Friday, the university said that it did not find Miller’s comments to be “unlawful speech,” but that Miller was fired because he “did not meet the standards of behavior we expect from our staff.”
This seems to be saying that Bristol University is saying that he had to go, because he wasn’t a nice person, but he didn’t break the law. If he didn’t break the law, why are they sacking him? Out of embarrassment?
My suspicion is that there is possibly a feeling in the management ranks of Bristol university that one doesn’t talk to students like this. The way he allegedly attacked (there is no lesser word that will fit this particular bill) the Jewish students, not only in his own classes but throughout the university, hardly encourages the critical approach needed at this level if students are to succeed at the tasks set them. How can (in this case, Jewish students, but this might equally apply to women, members of ethnic minorities or even members of other non-Christian religions) any group be expected to question the approach of their tutors if they are to learn the critical tools necessary to succeed in their studies when faced with this sort of speech from their lecturers?
Elsewhere, David Miller is quoted as disputing the University’s decision and its reasons for it (well, he would, wouldn’t he), saying among other things:
“Israel’s assets in the UK have been emboldened by the university collaborating with them to shut down teaching about Islamophobia. The University of Bristol is no longer safe for Muslim, Arab or Palestinian students.”
Not a word, note, about his, so far undisputed by him apparently, statements making Bristol University “no longer safe for Jewish students.” Presumably, in the words of the title of British Jewish comedian David Baddiel’s latest book: “Jews Don’t Count”, certainly as far as the ex-professor is concerned.
To me (not that I’m biased, you understand), this sounds like special pleading but worse, from his point of view, a repetition of what he is alleged to have said in open class (as reported in the original article), which does, prima facie, appear close to, if not actually, overstepping, the lines set down in the IHRA definition. As the Americans would say, he is doubling down on what he allegedly said in lectures, although I am not aware whether he denies making the original statements.
Miller said that he planned to appeal the decision. Of course he’s appealing, and my wife (a now retired lawyer) isn’t surprised. But he might not win, especially if the University Of Bristol sticks to its guns and even more so if the Avon and Somerset police force decides that it has accumulated sufficient evidence to charge (the now former) Professor of Political Sociology with committing an offence under the UK law.
The last word from the ToI article goes to the Union of Jewish Students:
“The Union of Jewish Students, an organization representing Jewish students in the UK, celebrated the decision in a series of tweets. “This announcement concludes months and years of tireless campaigns and actions by students to try and get the university and authorities to listen, and we are pleased that action has finally been taken,” they wrote.”
We are now in mid-December: any case will not be heard until the spring, so will drag on well into next year.
If it has any bearing on this situation, we might also bear in mind that David Miller is someone who has clearly stated his support for Assad of Syria, going as far as to say that at least one of the chemical attacks on civilians in Syria, usually assigned to the Assad regime was, in fact, a “fall flag” attack by the White Helmets – an unarmed, pacifist organisation, which responds with assistance to those attacked as above by Assad or anyone else.
Brian, as usual, many thanks for your update on this sorry subject and your pithy commentary. I find your last paragraph to be the most salient and also the most alarming – Miller’s support for the murderous Assad regime and their shocking violations of human rights on their own population by the most horrific methods known to man. For that alone, never mind the Jew-hatred and Israel-hatred of Miller, this professor should be stripped of his academic credentials and trepidation.