WeeklyWorker

14.10.2021
David Miller: anti-Zionist, not anti-Jewish

Double standards

If there is free speech for gender-critical feminists, asks Tony Greenstein, why does this not apply to critics of Zionism?

Kathleen Stock is a gender-critical feminist. She believes that there are fundamentally two sexes - male and female - and that gender cannot change biological facts. She believes that someone who possesses male genitalia cannot be a woman or have access to women-only spaces, such as refuges, toilets and prisons.

Kathleen’s views can be seen here alongside other feminist philosophers and writers. My own views on the subject are irrelevant, in so far as I am neither a woman nor trans! For what it is worth, I find it difficult to accept that a man can simply declare he is a woman for that to be an accepted fact. I have little doubt that some men will self-declare in order to gain access to vulnerable women.

On the other hand, I have considerable doubt that one can simply declare that there are two sexes and nothing in between. But the point is that there is a debate to be had. The attempt by some students at Sussex University to harass or intimidate Kathleen off campus and to demand her sacking is reprehensible.

As Kathleen says, “Universities aren’t places where students should just expect to hear their own thoughts reflected back at them. Arguments should be met by arguments and evidence by evidence, not intimidation or aggression.”

That must be right. Students who expect to be comforted in their views, whether it be support of Israel and Zionism or gender politics, must expect to be challenged and if they are not up to it then they should not be at university.

To those trans activists who claim that Kathleen is a threat to their safety, one is tempted to say that she is a threat to their intellect. There is no credible argument that the slight figure of Kathleen Stock poses a physical threat to any student.

However, when it comes to professor David Miller of Bristol University, things are rather different. The contrast between the coverage of Miller and Stock is remarkable, and the stench of hypocrisy is overpowering. In contrast to the common line on David Miller, there is a united front of the establishment press that Kathleen Stock has been the subject of bullying.

The All Party Parliamentary Group wrote to Bristol University alleging that David Miller was a threat to Jewish students no less than four times. It beggars belief that David’s slight figure is a threat to anyone, let alone the Jewish American princesses and divas of Bristol University. Still less Bristol Jewish Society’s chair, David Isaacs.

For once the BBC got it right when it reported: “Bristol University: professor David Miller sacked over Israel comments.” This is what is so outrageous. David was sacked for his political opinions, which were twisted into an attack on Jewish students, because Israel calls itself a “Jewish state”.

David called for an “end to Zionism”, not an end to Jews, at a meeting of the Labour Campaign for Free Speech. He also criticised the Israeli-funded Union of Jewish Students. How was this interpreted? According to the BBC again, this was “inciting hatred against Jewish students”. Why? Israel is a foreign state. If Jewish students want to support this cesspit of racism, it is up to them, but why did David’s comments ‘threaten the safety’ of Jewish students any more than Kathleen Stock ‘threatened the safety’ of trans students?

Indeed according to The Tab, Bristol University’s student newspaper, “Bristol Uni’s professor David Miller is under police investigation following remarks allegedly made during his lectures.”1

In a statement Avon and Somerset police confirmed the investigation into “a hate crime or hate incident taking place during lectures at the University of Bristol.” Strangely, the allegation of hate speech against Kathleen Stock is exactly what trans activists are alleging, yet are Sussex police investigating her comments? Quite the contrary. They are investigating those who threatened Kathleen Stock.2

Threat to Israel

The double standards are so obvious you would need to be blind and stupid not to notice them. Yet the reasons are clear enough. What Kathleen Stock has said is an example of what might be called identity politics and poses no threat to the system we live under. David Miller, by way of contrast, by challenging Zionism, the ideology of apartheid Israel, threatens our and the United States’ relationship with that state. That and that alone explains the difference in treatment. Jewish students are therefore wheeled out (or rather Jewish Zionist students are paraded) as a soft rationalisation for what is a political position: support for Israel, right or wrong.

Did David Miller threaten to go round to visit any individual student? Did he threaten any individual student? Of course not. The threat to their personal safety is entirely in their minds. When over 100 MPs and peers - including shamefully Caroline Lucas - wrote to Bristol University’s cowardly vice-chancellor, Sir Hugh Brady, saying that David Miller had been “inciting hatred against Jewish students on your campus”, they were lying. David Miller was no more inciting hatred than Kathleen Stock.

David’s dismissal is a clear and obvious attack on freedom of speech, yet Bristol University has complied with the demands of the political establishment, while the press and police are doing their best to heighten the animosity towards him.

This is not fanciful. The Jewish Chronicle, as is to be expected, was crowing about the dismissal, but it made it clear in its leader that “Miller’s sacking should be the beginning, not the end”, and that this was never about the safety of Jewish students, but the politics of anti-Zionist lecturers:

The dismissal of David Miller matters not because it is the end of the affair, but because (irrespective of whether he chooses to fight) it should mark a beginning - the point at which cranks like him start to notice that the tide is turning and their universities will no longer be able to offer them a safe space from which to spread their toxic poison.3

What the Jewish Chronicle under its Islamophobic editor, Stephen Pollard, means by ‘crank’ is anyone who opposes the racism inherent in a Jew settler-colonial state.

In a front-page article the Chronicle claimed that “Miller is gone, but he is only tip of the iceberg”, and that “Analysis of the signatories to a letter supporting the disgraced professor reveals academics in 74 separate British institutions.” The implication is obvious. David Miller’s sacking is the beginning of a process whereby socialist and leftwing lecturers - in particular anti-Zionists - will be under threat of dismissal if they open their mouths too widely.

But what is missing at the moment is any response from David’s trade union, the University and College Union. It has been totally silent on this threat to academic freedom, despite its own official policy for a boycott of Israel. The UCU appears to have no position, which is utterly shameful.

However, I am pleased to say that Scottish UCU has agreed a policy on David Miller, which:

It is to be hoped that the UCU nationally comes off the fence and defends not just David Miller, but the principle of free speech and academic freedom.

The difference is that the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign is supporting David, whilst the Socialist Action-controlled PSC has nothing to say!


  1. twitter.com/thetab/status/1374760419810635776.↩︎

  2. See, for example, www.brightonandhovenews.org/2021/10/07/university-backs-feminist-professor-accused-of-transphobia.↩︎

  3. www.thejc.com/comment/leaders/miller-s-sacking-should-be-the-beginning-not-the-end-1.521142.↩︎

  4. www.ucu.org.uk/article/11508/UCU-Scotland-Congress-2021.↩︎