Bristol University is not currently taking action against a professor for teaching students that “parts of the Zionist lobby” are bankrolling hatred of Muslims.
The lecture, given by sociology professor David Miller in February, prompted concerns from Jewish students, who felt “uncomfortable and intimidated” according to a complaint, the Sunday Telegraph reported last week.
A complaint from the Jewish Society was rejected by the university on the grounds that the lecture did not contain material hostile to Jews, the newspaper claimed.
Lecture material, released online by the Community Security Trust (CST), described “parts of” the Zionist movement as being among the “five pillars of Islamophobia.”
CST is a UK Jewish charity that protects British Jews from antisemitism & terrorism. We do not lobby for Israel: it is wrong to describe CST’s work as that of an “Israel lobby group” as this slide does, or to conflate combating antisemitism in the UK with pro-Israel lobbying /6 pic.twitter.com/Xh9AfrvPaL
— CST (@CST_UK) September 8, 2019
A slide-show depicted a web of Jewish groups and individuals under the heading “Israeli Government.” These included Labour peer Lord Levy and the CST.
Students who gave testimony to the CST felt “distressed and frightened,” the community security charity tweeted.
It is unacceptable that students whether Jewish or not “should be taught such an error-strewn & potentially damaging lecture,” the charity wrote on Sunday.
But professor Miller, whose research interests include “concentrations of power in society,” denied teaching “conspiracy theories.”
He told the Sunday Telegraph: “It is a matter of public record that Islamophobic organisations and movements are in receipt of funding from specific groups and individuals. Some of these are also prominent in the Zionist movement.
“Students of all backgrounds can find some of the material challenging if it goes against their existing beliefs or knowledge-base.”
In a statement, UJS said: “Academic freedom does not extend to teaching material which implies that the communal bodies of the Jewish community are in some way under the control of Israel, weaving a web of control and influence – a classic antisemitic trope.
“Until the University of Bristol starts listening to its Jewish students rather than dictating to them what is and isn’t antisemitism, Jewish students will not have trust in their institution to take anti-Jewish racism seriously.”
Bristol University, which has not adopted the IHRA definition due to concerns about freedom of expression, will be reviewing the decision in the next academic year.
A spokesperson for the university said it has taken action in response to a complaint from the CST to ensure lecture material is “accurate, clear and not open to misinterpretation.”
The spokesperson added: “We have not received any complaints directly from any students who attended this lecture. No disciplinary action is currently being considered.
“We have no evidence to suggest that Jewish students feel unsafe here at Bristol, but we would urge anyone who feels that they have been discriminated against or subject to hate speech or harassment, to contact our support services so we can offer appropriate help and support.
“Academic freedom and freedom of expression are at the heart of our mission as an academic institution. We enable and promote free speech and encourage debate of all kinds, including the examination and discussion of complex and contentious issues.”
Professor David Miller has been reached for comment.