The government has been urged to intervene in the growing controversy over the Bristol University professor who called Jewish students “pawns of a racist regime engaged in ethnic cleansing”.
Jewish MP Robert Halfon has written to the vice chancellor of the university calling on it to act, as he appealed to the Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, for issue to be addressed urgently.
This comes after sociology lecturer David Miller accused Jewish students of running a “campaign of censorship” on behalf of the Israeli government. He also reportedly accused Jewish communal institutions, including the Union of Jewish Students and Board of Deputies of working for the ‘Israel lobby’, and being “pawns of a racist regime engaged in ethnic cleansing”.
Earlier this month Jewish students accused Bristol of having “yet again failed” to act following a meeting with its leadership.
Halfon told the House of Commons on Thursday, that Bristol University “cares nothing, sees nothing and does nothing about” Jewish student concerns.
“They appear to regard Jewish students as an inconvenience and a nuisance and refuse to take serious action.”
Responding to his claim that Jewish students are “not welcome”, the leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said it is a “deeply concerning issue” and “appalling to hear that Jewish students have reported antisemitism at Bristol.”
He said he had passed it on to the secretary of state and universities minister.
In his letter to Bristol’s vice chancellor Professor Hugh Brady, Halfon, who is also the chair of the education select committee, said he was “extremely concerned” by the situation. He accused the institution of giving Miller “a platform to promote conspiracy theories about Jewish influence and control, using classic antisemitic tropes to characterise the State of Israel.”
Asking the vice chancellor “whether or not Professor Miller will be facing disciplinary proceedings”, Halfon said “as a Jewish MP.. it saddens me that some young Jewish people feel unsafe” attending, and it “demonstrates little understanding of the threats both Jewish students and all those of the Jewish faith face, online and in person.”
He said “some institutions are regarded as no-go zones for Jews” and “it is deeply distressing that Jewish students avoid studying certain subjects out of fear that they will be discriminated against for protesting about antisemitism.”
This comes after more than 500 academics signed a UJS-organised letter opposing Professor David Miller, in response to a letter in support of him, which had around 200 signatories.
A spokesperson for the University of Bristol said: “We have received a significant number of emails and letters in relation to Professor Miller’s recent comments, expressing a range of views on what is a complex issue. We thank people for sharing their views on this important matter.
“As already stated, we do not endorse the comments made by Professor Miller about our Jewish students. We are proud of our students for their independence and individual contributions to the University and wider society.
“We take all allegations of discrimination, racism and hate speech very seriously. Equally, we must balance the rights and often wide-ranging views of students and staff with institutional policies and national law concerning academic freedom and freedom of speech.
“Any action which we might take as an employer is a private matter. We are under obligations of confidentiality in relation to all of our students and staff, which we will continue to comply with.”
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