More than 400 leading academics from the UK and from across the globe have signed a letter accusing Professor David Miller of making “morally reprehensible” statements that “risk the personal security and wellbeing of Jewish students and, more widely, Jews in the UK.”
The letter, publicised by the Union of Jewish Students on Tuesday, said that the Bristol University sociology lecturer’s recent statements were “purportedly about ‘Zionism’ and the so-called ‘Zionist movement’” but instead some were directed at Jewish students, UK university Jewish Societies (JSocs) and the Union of Jewish Students
Amongst the signatories were academics from Oxford, Cambridge, Kings College, Liverpool and Manchester University’s from the UK, while academics from America, Australia, Israel Germany and Sweden also gave it their support.
Prominent names include Sir Simon Schama, Professor of History and Art History at Columbia University, Lord Triesman, a former academic and higher education minister, Professor Vernon Bogdanor, of Kings College London.
The mathematics professor Sir Bernard Silverman is amongst several from Bristol University itself to sign the letter.
Also amongst the signatories is Professor David Feldman, director of Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, at Birkbeck, the University of London.
Leading campaigners against antisemitism, including Goldsmiths academic David Hirsh and the Community Security Trust’s Dave Rich are also on the list of supporters of the new letter.
The letter was a response to a letter in support of Professor Miller than sparked communal anger after it was circulated online last weekend.
The new letter highlights the professor’s statement to the Bristol Tab on 18 February, with signatories confirming they were “alarmed Professor Miller specifically accused Jewish students of being ‘directed by the State of Israel’ to pursue a “campaign of censorship” that endangers Muslim and Arab students.
It also raises further concerns about his appearance at a Labour Against The Witch-hunt event on February 13th were he described Bristol Jewish Society and the Union of Jewish Students as “formally members of the Zionist movement.”
The letter states: “We believe that Prof. Miller’s depiction of Jewish students as Israeli-directed agents of a campaign of censorship is false, outrageous, and breaks all academic norms regarding the acceptable treatment of students.
“We believe his classification of Bristol Jewish Society and the Union of Jewish Students as part of a movement he has described as an “enemy” to be “targeted”, and his singling out of individual student leaders within those organisations, emphasises the threatening nature of his remarks.
“His claim that Jewish students are engaged in activities on behalf of Israel that endanger Arab and Muslim students increases the reckless and inflammatory nature of Prof. Miller’s comments.”
It continues: “In addition, we believe that Prof. Miller’s comments represent the latest manifestation of a long and ignoble tradition of conspiracy theories concerning Jewish individuals and institutions (and latterly, concerning the State of Israel) – a tradition that includes slanders and libels concerning the Rothschild family, George Soros, and other prominent Jews, the infamous ‘Dolchstoss’ or ‘stab-in-the-back’ myth in interwar Germany, the ‘Illuminati’ conspiracy theory, accusations that the Israeli state was behind the 9/11 attacks, and the ‘dual loyalty’ trope which accuses Jewish citizens of Western countries of having greater loyalty to Israel, and thereby posing a menace to the countries in which they reside.
“We believe that extreme statements such as those of Prof. Miller recounted above are counterproductive to any good cause, and in particular, counterproductive to the cause of the Palestinians, whose interests will not be served by convincing Muslim and Arab students in Britain that Jewish students are their enemy, or by convincing Jews in Britain and elsewhere that Western academic or political opinion is implacably hostile to them.”