It has now been reported publicly that, last month, the University of Bristol’s Appeal Panel upheld the University’s decision last year to terminate the employment of David Miller, which took place one month after Campaign Against Antisemitism brought a lawsuit on behalf of current students against the institution, amidst an outcry from the Jewish community and its institutions.
Our legal case against the University concerned alleged unlawful harassment on the basis of Jewish ethnicity and Judaism, amounting to breaches of the Equality Act 2010, as well as breaches of contract. We launched proceedings in late August and the University swiftly realised that it was putting itself in legal jeopardy by sustaining Prof. Miller’s employment at the institution.
A number of brave students at the University stepped forward to act as complainants in the litigation. We also wish to thank Asserson Law Offices, led by senior partner Trevor Asserson, and barristers Derek Spitz of One Essex Court and Benjamin Gray of Littleton Chambers.
The lawsuit related to Prof. Miller’s speech on a Zoom webinar in February last year in which he said that the “Zionist Movement” is “the enemy” that must be engaged, that it is “the enemy of world peace,” and that those associated with Zionism, including Jewish students on Bristol campus, “must be directly targeted”. Taken together, the implication of Prof. Miller’s remarks is that all decent people who support “world peace” should view Bristol Jewish Society and the Union of Jewish Students, and Jewish people, including those who identify with those bodies, and the vast majority of Jewish students as an “enemy” that must be “directly targeted”.
He also said that interfaith work between Jewish and Muslim groups is “a trojan horse for normalising Zionism in the Muslim community”. He also claimed that Jewish students, by virtue of being Zionist, “encourage Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism”.
Prof. Miller has a long record of inflammatory statements about the Jewish community.
Bristol had come under increasing pressure from the Jewish community, which was united in its disgust at Prof. Miller’s comments and the drawn-out investigation that the University was conducting with no apparent end in sight. But the University failed to act for months. Prof. Miller’s statements and the University’s failure to condemn them and take swift action against him were the subject of a great deal of attention from the Jewish community as well as hundreds of academics and Parliament, including a written question by Lord Austin and an intervention from Robert Halfon MP. Prof. Miller was also defended by an array of controversial ‘usual suspects’ whose interventions did nothing for his collapsing credibility.
We thank others in the Jewish community, MPs and academics for the pressure that they brought to bear on the University of Bristol.
The legal claim that we spearheaded contended that Prof. Miller’s statements sought to create a hostile environment for Jewish students. It further alleged that the University was liable for Prof. Miller’s conduct, and was further liable in its own right, for unlawful conduct in breach of the Equality Act, and for its breach of its contract with students.
Other than a final call for prospective claimants, we minimised the public profile of the case in order to protect the identities of the brave student claimants who not only believed that enough is enough but that, in order for things to change, they must also act on that belief. We are enormously grateful to them for their courage. Despite the lower public profile of the case, the University was in no doubt about our intentions and resolve. A month after the launch of the lawsuit, Prof. Miller was fired for gross misconduct.
In a statement exemplifying just why Prof. Miller has no place on a university campus, the Support David Miller campaign said this week: “Support David Miller – a volunteer-led anti-racism campaign, composed of academics, students and independent researchers – has repeatedly expressed concerns that the University of Bristol’s disciplinary processes have been compromised by assets of a hostile foreign state. The State of Israel and its assets in the UK seek to eliminate all critics of Zionism from UK university campuses. Zionism is the racist ideology that professes a G-d-given right of European and other Jewish colonisers to occupy and seize Palestinian land, homes and resources. Professor Miller has been subjected to this censorship campaign because of his research showing that Zionist campaign groups have funded and promoted Islamophobia in the UK and abroad.”
Prof. Miller, who has indicated his intention to appeal the University’s latest decision to the Employment Tribunal, said: “I’ve been targeted by a pernicious witch-hunt, led by known assets of the State of Israel in the UK and funded by the dirty money of pro-Israel oligarchs. This is an attempt at entryism and political intimidation. The University of Bristol has wilted under this new wave of McCarthyism. The University treated this appeal as a mere formality, with a pre-determined outcome. I’ll be challenging the University’s perverse decision at an Employment Tribunal, to help stop our fundamental rights of free expression and academic freedom being further corroded at the behest of a hostile and illegitimate foreign regime.”
Gideon Falter, Chief Executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “This ruling is a further vindication of the courageous Jewish students on whose behalf we brought proceedings against the University of Bristol last year. Following the launch of our lawsuit and an outcry from across the Jewish community, it was clear to the University that it would be held to account in court and had to act to protect Jewish students in accordance with the law, and David Miller was fired within a month. Universities across the country should be warned that we will do whatever it takes to defend Jewish students from racists on campus by upholding their rights in court where necessary.”
The case was the latest step by Campaign Against Antisemitism to defend the rights of individual Jewish students. We believe that universities and students’ unions must be robustly held to account when they fail to defend Jewish students or when they allow their lecturers to discriminate against or harass them.
If any students are concerned about antisemitism on campus or need assistance, they can call us on 0330 822 0321, or e-mail [email protected].