Bristol University has sacked a professor who accused Jewish students of being “pawns of a racist regime engaged in ethnic cleansing”.
David Miller also claimed Jewish students run a “campaign of censorship” on behalf of the Israeli government and Jewish communal institutions work for the “Israel lobby”.
The university released a long-awaited statement on Friday, following a six-month investigation. It read: “We can confirm that from today (Friday 1 October) Professor David Miller is no longer employed by the University of Bristol.
“We have a duty of care to all students and the wider university community, in addition to a need to apply our own codes of conduct consistently and with integrity. Balancing those important considerations, and after careful deliberation, a disciplinary hearing found Professor Miller did not meet the standards of behaviour we expect from our staff and the University has concluded that Professor Miller’s employment should be terminated with immediate effect.”
It continues: “The university regards the principle of academic freedom as fundamental and would like to reiterate that we take any risk to stifle that freedom seriously. The investigation included an independent report from a leading Queen’s Counsel who considered the important issue of academic freedom of expression and found that Professor Miller’s comments did not constitute unlawful speech.
“We recognise that these matters have caused deep concern for people on all sides of the debate, and that members of our community hold very different views from one another. Professor Miller has a right of internal appeal which he may choose to exercise and nothing in this statement should be taken to prejudge that prospective process.”
Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl said: “The university made the correct – albeit long overdue – decision in announcing the termination of David Miller’s employment. This sends a clear message to any academics who use their positions at respectable institutions in order to spread conspiracy theories and make Jewish students feel unsafe. Free speech should not include hate speech. We commend the efforts of UJS and Bristol JSoc in standing up for Jewish students.”
The Union of Jewish Students and Bristol Jewish Society said: “We are delighted to see a decision has finally been made. It has been over two years since UJS, CST and the Jewish community raised their heads and their voices in protest at the harassment, targeting and vicious diatribe shared by Professor Miller with his students. This announcement concludes months and years of tireless campaigns and actions to try and get the university to listen.”
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism, a group of MPs, said the decision should be “welcomed by all decent people.”
However, it said that it would discuss with the leading university “how it will now make amends for its overly long and secretive process” and what steps were being taken to ensure Jewish students felt safe on campus.
Meanwhile Campaign Against Antisemitism, which had begun legal action against the university over the Miller case said the firing came within a month of the proposed suit. “We pay tribute to them for standing up against antisemitism and to our legal counsel for helping us secure this victory in the fight against anti-Jewish racism on campus,” said its chief executive, Gideon Falter.
He added that the group was prepared to take legal action at other institutions if necessary, to uphold Jewish students’ rights.
Earlier this year more than 500 academics signed a letter “wholly condemning” Miller for “breaking all academic norms regarding the acceptable treatment of students”. More than 100 MPs and peers also accused Miller of “inciting hatred against Jewish students”.
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