Leading Jewish figures joined students tonight to demand Bristol University finally takes action against a professor who has “targeted Jewish students” on campus.
The online rally, organised by the Union of Jewish Students, comes amid the ongoing furore surrounding Professor David Miller, who urged the “end of Zionism” and labelled Bristol’s J-Soc “pawns” of Israel.
Speakers, including Lord John Mann, Thangam Debonnaire MP, and Countdown’s Rachel Riley, slammed the university for failing to take action, saying Jewish students have been made to feel unsafe on their own campus for too long.
To date, Bristol has refused to spell out what action could be taken, saying “action which we might take as an employer is a private matter.”
“What he’s doing, let’s be clear, is identifying Jewish students as targets for intimation and harassment,” Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies said.
“The university clearly feels all they have to do is hunker down and weather the storm – this is just not going to happen.”
Lord John Mann, the government’s adviser on antisemitism, accused the university of failing to live up to its own charter, the legally binding document which gives it university status.
“[It] doesn’t say one body politic, but not the Jewish students,” he said. “It doesn’t say members of the university, but not the J-Soc.
“It doesn’t say one body politic, but there are these people who’re told by their very existence that they’re fostering Islamophobia.” He added: “We demand that you actually be a university. No more, but also no less.”
Riley, who has spoken out about her abuse at the hands of trolls after speaking out against antisemitism, said her experiences mirrored the abuse faced by Bristol students.
“I’ve been labelled a hypocrite, a lying propagandist, a Nazi sympathiser, a Zionist shill, an agent of Israel,” she told the rally, viewed by hundreds on social media. “The parallels between my experience and those of Jewish students at Bristol are stark.”
Debbonaire, the MP for Bristol West, told the ‘Hate Off Campus’ rally that she was “horrified” to see the comments made by Miller, urging allies to stand up in solidarity.
“What I’ve seen is the blocking, the mocking, the abuse towards Jewish students who are trying to have a debate,” she said.
“If you’re a professor who’s unwilling to listen to the concerns of your students … you have to think very carefully about whether you’re the right person to be in charge of educating the next generation.”
Students have repeatedly told of how they have been made to feel unsafe at Bristol. A complaint was submitted two years ago, but little action has been taken, they say.
Edward Isaacs, the president of the Bristol JSoc, which had been singled out for criticism by Miller, said the comments had directly caused him abuse.
“The university’s silence has made them complicit in hate speech,” he said. “Until the university acts, and finally protects Jewish students, who knows how many more Jewish students will be singled out and targeted?”
Campaigners are now urging allies to take a picture with the hashtag #HateOffCampus in a bid to maintain pressure on Bristol’s senior leadership.
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