700 Muslims from around the world, led by the divisive British politician Salma Yaqoob, rapper Lowkey and leaders of the controversial CAGE activist group, have signed an open letter claiming that Prof. David Miller is being censored from criticising Israel.
The letter states that “as British Muslims” the supposed “orchestrated pile-on by pro-Israel groups, politicians and public figures against Professor David Miller is a tactic we recognise very well.”
Prof. Miller, a Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Bristol, is a conspiracy theorist with a history of controversy relating to Jewish students. In his latest outburst, which is under investigation, he asserted that “Zionism is racism”, declared his objective “to end Zionism as a functioning ideology of the world” and accused the Bristol University Jewish Society of being part of a worldwide Zionist conspiracy, adding that it is “fundamental to Zionism to encourage Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism”. At the same online event, Prof. Miller also observed that the Jewish Society and the Union of Jewish Students are Zionist, thereby implying that Jewish students (and the wider Jewish community) inherently “encourage Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism”.
He also portrayed the International Definition of Antisemitism as an attack on free speech and accused the Israeli Government of engaging in an “all-out attack” on the global Left as part of an “attempt by the Israelis to impose their will all over the world”. In comments reminiscent of the darkest years of the United Nations, Prof. Miller insisted that “Zionism is racism” and asked how “we defeat the ideology of Zionism in practice”, “how is Zionism ended” and about the way “to end Zionism as a functioning ideology of the world”.
The letter goes on delusionally to declare that Prof. Miller’s “work on Islamophobia is among the most highly respected in the world” and that “the campaign against Professor Miller is about censoring speech on Islamophobia and Israel. This campaign is carefully calibrated to muddy the waters between anti-Zionism (opposition to a dangerous, racist political ideology) and hatred of Jews. The attacks on Professor Miller are an example of how the IHRA Working [International] Definition of Antisemitism is being weaponised by supporters of Israel and by Islamophobes.”
The letter is a fine example of the ‘Livingstone Formulation’, by which allegations of antisemitism are dismissed as malevolent and baseless attempts to silence criticism of Israel. In its report on antisemitism in the Labour Party, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that suggestions of this nature were part of the unlawful victimisation of Jewish people in the Party.
Moreover, according to the International Definition of Antisemitism, “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination (e.g. by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour)” is an example of antisemitism.
The letter ends by demanding that the University of Bristol releases a statement in support of Prof. Miller and meets with activist groups who back him. The letter comes in spite of (indeed because of) the united revulsion of the Jewish community towards Prof. Miller and the University’s failure to discipline him. The University insists that its investigation into Prof. Miller is ongoing.
The leading signatory of the letter is Ms Yaqoob, the former Respect Party leader and now member of the Labour Party who unsuccessfully ran for Mayor of the West Midlands this year. She has her own deeply troubling record in relation to the Jewish community. In a 2013 tweet that she has since deleted, Ms Yaqoob stated: “Iceland arrests 10 Rothschild bankers…wow”, and linked to an article making this false claim and featuring a prominent image of the banker and philanthropist Lord Jacob Rothschild. The article linked in turn to a longer piece on the “Political Vel Craft” website, which is known for disseminating extreme conspiracy theories.
Other signatories include staffers from the controversial groups Interpal, Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) and CAGE, the latter two of which have previously been criticised for promoting problematic or extreme views, which they deny. They do not advocate violence.
Just last month, the Chief Executive of MEND was revealed to have compared Israel to Hitler in a Facebook post. According to the International Definition of Antisemitism, “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” is an example of antisemitism.
Another signatory is the rapper Kareem Dennis, known as Lowkey. Mr Dennis is a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). A month-long investigation by Campaign Against Antisemitism in 2017 exposed extensive antisemitic bigotry amongst PSC supporters on social media. Mr Dennis has previously described Israel as a “racist endeavour” in direct and deliberate contravention of the International Definition of Antisemitism, described Zionism as “antisemitic”, spoken of the “Zionist lobby” in the context of global capitalism, has reportedly backed the disgraced former Labour MP Chris Williamson and has repeatedly supported the antisemite Jeremy Corbyn.
A further signatory of the letter is Tariq Ali. It is not clear if it is the same Tariq Ali who has previously tried to link Israel to the killing of George Floyd and declared that some Israelis “have learnt nothing from what happened in to them in Europe. Nothing. They talk a lot about saying all those marching for Palestine are antisemites. This of course isn’t true, but I will tell you something, they don’t like hearing. Every time they bomb Gaza, every time they attack Jerusalem – that is what creates antisemitism. Stop the occupation, stop the bombing and casual antisemitism will soon disappear.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Antisemitism Barometer 2019 showed that antisemitism on the far-left of British politics has surpassed that of the far-right.