Unfounded attacks on Professor David Miller

Professor H R Brady,Vice-Chancellor and President
University of Bristol
by e-mail only: vc-epa@bristol.ac.uk

Open Letter by Dr Renato T. Loeffler

Unfounded attacks on Professor David Miller

Dear Professor Brady,

As a descendant of a Jewish family which suffered persecution by the Nazi regime in Germany during the period 1933-1945, and as a graduate and former employee of the University, I feel strongly compelled to defend Professor David Miller against his detractors. Unlike the vast majority of people who are harassing Professor Miller I actually listened, in its entirety, to the Zoom meeting that has caused uproar among a vocal minority of Jewish people in the UK. I agreed with most of what David Miller said in his presentation. Accusation is not the same as proof.

There is no such thing as “the Jewish community” nor is there any organisation that can represent Jewish people in the UK in all their diversity, and particularly not the large number of non-practising Jews. The faith-based organisations (such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews) that claim to represent Jewish people in the UK speak only for those Jewish people who unquestioningly support Israel and the Zionist project.

In the last few years, this vociferous minority of Jewish people in the UK has whipped up a politically-driven propaganda campaign against the Labour Party, while claiming to fight “anti-semitism”. As Professor Miller has clearly demonstrated in his book Bad News for Labour: Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief these claims are mostly vastly exaggerated, and on occasion wholly invented. The real objective of their campaign has always been to silence all criticism of the reprehensible actions of the state of Israel, particularly in the Occupied Territories. Professor Miller has incurred the particular ire of the extreme supporters of Israeli actions by his methodical identification and reporting of the weaponising of anti-semitism to attack the Labour Party and its leadership.

I am Jewish, and proud of my ancestry and of the long-lasting cultural heritage associated with it. My grandparents were murdered because the Nazi leaders wanted to create an ethnically pure Aryan state in Germany. As a consequence I feel a strong duty to oppose by all possible legal means the similar attempt to create an ethnically pure Jewish state in Israel/Palestine, which is the main objective of Zionism. It is a bitter irony that the victims of racist persecution should now have become its perpetrators.

As far as the University of Bristol Jewish Society is concerned, when I became a student at Bristol in 1967, it would never have entered my mind to join such a group.

I would welcome your assurance that the University of Bristol will continue to defend freedom of speech and to oppose censorship in a way that academic institutions in Germany (to their eternal shame) failed to do in the period from 1933 onwards.

Yours sincerely
Dr Renato T. Loeffler

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.