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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
George Lithgow

Under-fire academic says university failed to defend him from ‘attacks’

PA Wire

An academic facing criticism over his comments about Israel said his employer failed to defend him when he was being “attacked and defamed”.

Professor David Miller was criticised for views he allegedly expressed while working at the University of Bristol.

The professor of political sociology was sacked by the institution in October 2021 after a disciplinary hearing found he “did not meet the standards of behaviour” expected of university staff.

He claimed “Zionist organisations” had targeted UK universities through a “censorship campaign”.

Giving evidence at an employment tribunal at the Bristol Civil Justice Centre on Tuesday, Prof Miller said he was targeted by groups that “launched attacks on academic freedom”.

The academic said Bristol University “refused to defend me against things it knew to be untrue, things which were very damaging to me”.

Prof Miller launched employment tribunal proceedings, claiming unfair dismissal, breach of contract and discrimination or victimisation on grounds of religion or belief.

The tribunal could become a test case as the academic tries to argue his anti-Zionist stance is a protected philosophical belief, his lawyers said.

Asked about abuse directed at the then-president of the Bristol University Jewish Society (JSoc), Edward Isaacs, as a result of his criticism of Prof Miller, the academic denied there was any such backlash.

Previously employed as a professor of sociology at the universities of Bath and Strathclyde, Prof Miller told the tribunal JSoc was a “racist” group because it supported Zionism.

Prof Miller drew controversy during a lecture at the university in 2019, when he said the Zionist movement was one of five pillars driving Islamophobia in the UK, the tribunal heard.

The University of Bristol subsequently got a complaint from the Community Security Trust charity, which said his lecture was a “false, vile… antisemitic slur”.

During an investigation, it was heard that the university lecturer’s behaviour led to Jewish students “being subjected to weeks of harassment and abuse”.

But a report into academic freedom of expression concluded Prof Miller’s comments “did not constitute unlawful speech”.

Speaking shortly after his dismissal, Prof Miller said the university “embarrassed itself” by “capitulating to a pressure campaign… overseen and directed by a hostile foreign government”.

The employment tribunal continues.

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