The past week as seen yet another attack by antisemitism “smearmongers” and the target this time is academic Professor David Miller, professor of political sociology at Bristol University. Professor Miller was speaking at an online event which was hosted by Labour Against the Witchhunt. During his talk Miller stated that he had been “attacked and complained about by the head of the Bristol JSoc Jewish society along with the president of the Union of Jewish Students [UJS].” He also stated that “JSocs [Jewish Societies] are all part of UJS, UJS is member of the World Union of Jewish Students, which is a direct member of the World Zionist Organisation, and in its constitution UJS of course mentions being pro-Israel.” If you follow what goes on in the political world with regard to the antisemitism smear campaign you may think, like I do, that this means that they are part of the Israel lobby. Professor Miller has been subjected to a 2 year campaign by pro-Israel activists to get him dismissed from the University of Bristol where he teaches political sociology, and in particular about corporate and state power, lobbying tactics and Islamophobia.
Professor Miller regularly speaks out against Zionism, which is a racist political ideology. Zionists believe Judaism is a nationality as well as a religion, and that Jews deserve their own state in their ancestral homeland, Israel. The only problem with this is that they consider Palestine to be their ancestral homeland despite the fact that it was never called Israel before 1948 or appeared on any maps before then. Anti-Zionism is too often conflated with antisemitism and too often this is why people end up being accused of antisemitism. Former Labour MP Chris Williamson, who has been a target for antisemitism smearmongers has spoken out against the accusations against Professor Miller and posted the following on Twitter –
“I’m outraged at the Israel lobby’s attempts to pressure @BristolUni into sacking Professor David Miller. I’ve written to the Vice Chancellor, calling on him to put an end to this vicious campaign. I encourage you all to do the same.”
This attack on Miller comes less than a week after a report by University College London’s academic board stated that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of “antisemitism” “is not fit for purpose within a university setting and has no legal basis for enforcement.” The board then voted to endorse the report and it will now be down to the university management to decide on whether the decision should be implemented or not. The report will also have an impact on attempts made by Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson to pressure universities into accepting the IHRA’s definition.
In an article Professor Miller writes …
“And of course, there’s the time-honored tactic of smearing any critic of Israel or Zionism as an “anti-Semite” or a “self-hating Jew” on the basis that Zionism is somehow a facet of Jewish identity rather than a racist, modern political ideology with secular origins premised on ethnic cleansing and anti-Arab racism.”
he is of course talking about the conflation of anti-Zionism with antisemitism, and there seems to be an ever increasing amount of people who are unwilling to differentiate between the two. Professor Miller also writes –
“Given the size of Britain’s Israel lobby and the extent to which it has already penetrated public institutions, this naturally has the effect of minimizing and sidelining genuine concerns about anti-Black racism and Islamophobia as well as shouting down the ways in which the state of Israel is deeply engaged in promoting both of those types of racism.”
Professor Nira Yuval-Davis, a British and diasporic Israeli sociologist, a professor emerita and Honorary Director of the Centre for Research on Migration, Refugees and Belonging at the University of East London, gave a talk on The IHRA definition of antisemitism and discussions about race in Britain. This talk was presented to Social Scientists Against the Hostile Environment webinar ‘Imposing racialised state discourses: Racism in Britain today.” In the talk she argues strongly that treating antisemitism as exceptional works to the disadvantage of creating solidarity between Jews and other groups facing racial hatred. She also said that “One of the most controversial recent acts of exceptionalism has been enacted by the Minister of Education, Gavin Williamson when he wrote to the VCs of all British universities demanding – with a threat of sanctions – that they adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism.” Williamson has not demanded that universities adopt a single definition for Islamophobia, or any other form of racism, just this one regarding Jews. This act of exceptionalism, in addition to everything else, creates a division between antisemitism and racism against other racially marginalised groups.
By attacking people like Professor Miller, Ken Loach, Michael Rosen and many others with claims of antisemitism, these pro-Israel activists are in fact making the problem of antisemitism worse. They are drawing attention away from the real rise in antisemitic attacks in the UK and other places plus if they cry “wolf” too many times, people will stop paying attention which will be dangerous if ever they actually reveal somebody who is truly racist. This final paragraph is my opinion but the rest of the article is drawn from what others have written and what I have read.
Chief Rabbi, Mainstream Media and the smears against Jeremy Corbyn (Guest post by Peter Gregson) Chairperson of LAZIR)