Three Cambridge academics signed a separate open letter in support of Professor David Miller and 'the rights to free speech and to evidence-based & research-informed public discourse.'Lucas Maddalena

CN: This article contains detailed discussion of anti-semitism

At least thirteen Cambridge academics have signed an open letter condemning Professor David Miller of the University of Bristol for “accus[ing]Jewish students of being ‘directed by the State of Israel’ to pursue a ‘campaign of censorship’ that endangers Muslim and Arab students.”

The open letter, which at the time of publication was signed by over 650 academics, describes Miller’s statement as “morally reprehensible”, risking “the personal security and wellbeing of Jewish students and, more widely, Jews in the UK.”

Miller, a Professor of Political Sociology, had recently written to the Bristol Tab saying that “Zionism is and always has been a racist, violent, imperialist ideology premised on ethnic cleansing” and that it “is an endemically anti-Arab and Islamophobic ideology.”

Miller then proceeded to suggest that “Bristol’s JSoc [Jewish Society], like all JSocs, operates under the auspices of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), an Israel lobby group [...] constitutionally bound to promoting Israel and campaigns to silence critics of Zionism or the State of Israel on British campuses. This campaign of censorship renders Arab and Muslim students, as well as anti-Zionist Jewish students, particularly unsafe.”

The open letter responds to Miller’s comments by saying 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.”

It further adds: “We believe that extreme statements such as those of Prof. Miller recounted above are counterproductive to any good cause [...] [his] 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)”.

Joel Rosen, External Officer for the Cambridge University Jewish Society (CUJS), told Varsity that “David Miller has traduced Jewish students claiming that we are being used as pawns by the Israeli government”.

Rosen additionally highlighted a recent open letter in support of Miller which three Cambridge academics signed, arguing that “it is wholly unacceptable and inappropriate that [they] have decided to misappropriate their positions at our University to lend public support to the conspiracist [Miller]”, and that the “public letter has caused profound and foreseeable offence to Jewish students at Cambridge.”

The letter calls on “responsibilities to the wider academic community [...] to vigorously defend the principle of academic freedom and the rights to free speech and to evidence-based & research-informed public discourse.”

Varsity has spoken to two of the three academics who signed the pro-Miller letter, who both insisted that they did so in a personal capacity rather than on behalf of the University of Cambridge.

One of the academics said that their motivation for signing the letter was “the principle of academic freedom in all higher education institutions; as an alumnus of the University of Bristol, it is particularly important to me that the integrity of academic freedom is maintained in my alma mater.”


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Meanwhile the second academic, a member of the Cambridge Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said on behalf of the campaign: “We oppose anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and all forms of racism. We also oppose false allegations and the weaponisation of the positive impulses of anti-racism so as to silence anti-racist debate. We do so because such vilification has little to do with defeating the harms caused by racism.”.

However, Rosen stressed in his statement on behalf of the CUJS that “there is a fundamental and discernible difference between defending an individual’s right to free speech and defending their incendiary and baseless utterances as ‘scholarship’”, and that the Cambridge academics’ endorsement of Miller has “entirely neglected to consider the lived experiences of Jewish students at Bristol.”

The University of Cambridge adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-semitism in November, which defines anti-semitism as a “certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestions of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”