Defend Freedom of Speech – Defend David Miller!

The Bristol University professor has come under attack by the pro-Israel lobby for demanding the “end of Zionism” at a Conference on Free Speech!

We are deeply concerned about what looks like a coordinated attack on Professor Miller, who appeared at the February 13 launch conference of the Labour Campaign for Free Speech (full video below). The Jewish Chronicle has featured hostile articles about him on their front page for a few days running and a number of Zionist groups such as the Campaign Against Antisemitism and the Community Security Trust organisations have joined in the attacks. 

Clearly, the aim is for David Miller to be dismissed by Bristol University. It is also a warning shot aimed at other academics to keep their mouths firmly shut on the issue of Israel/Palestine. It has to be seen in the context of Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’s threat to defund universities that  do not adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which in its examples deliberately conflates anti-Zionism with antisemitism. 

This is particularly ironic, as the government is simultaneously talking about installing a so-called “Free Speech Czar”, whose main purpose seems to be to protect right wingers from being criticised by the left.  

The Jewish Chronicle is particularly incensed by two parts of David Miller’s speech: 

  • That David called for an “end of Zionism”. This does not mean he is antisemitic. Zionism is not a religion, it is a reactionary political ideology, based on the systematic and brutal discrimination of the Palestinians and the non-Jewish population of Israel. Large numbers of Jewish people are not Zionists and there are millions of Zionists who are not Jewish.
  • That David correctly pointed out that Jewish Student Societies (J-Socs) on campus are part of the pro-Israel movement. Indeed the umbrella organisation UJS, which represents alls 67 J-Socs, is a member of the Board of Deputies and is affiliated to the World Zionist Organisation, which openly funds the settlements in the West Bank. One of UJS’s four ‘core values’ is “engagement with Israel’, among its ‘Objectives’ is the aim of “inspiring students to making an enduring commitment” to Israel.  

We oppose the attempts to undermine free speech on campus, in the Labour movement and, increasingly, wider society. Freedom of speech and debate are integral to  education, inquiry and a democratic public life. We firmly reject the idea that the Palestinian struggle against oppression and for basic human rights is antisemitic.