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UK police: Academic calling Jewish students ‘pawns’ of Israel may be hate crime

Bristol University sociologist David Miller cites Jewish Society when endorsing ‘end of Zionism as a functioning ideology’; some claim comments fall under academic freedom

University of Bristol sociologist David Miller in a video uploaded February 15, 2020 (Screen grab/YouTube)
University of Bristol sociologist David Miller in a video uploaded February 15, 2020 (Screen grab/YouTube)

JTA — A British university professor may have committed a hate crime when he labeled Jewish students “pawns” of Israel during a lecture, a police spokesperson said.

Avon and Somerset Police made the statement on Thursday — an unusual case of police action on matters that many Britons say fall under academic freedom.

In a February 13 video conference titled “Labour Campaign for Free Speech,” University of Bristol sociologist David Miller endorsed the “end of Zionism as a functioning ideology.”

He also called protests by the university’s Jewish Society, a union of Jewish students, over his previous fulminations against Jews and Israel proof that there’s “a real question of abuse here — of Jewish students on British campuses being used as political pawns by a violent, racist, foreign regime engaged in ethnic cleansing.” He cited the Jewish Society’s support for Zionism.

In 2019, Miller suggested that British Jews were using interfaith events with Muslims, including a chicken soup cookout, to increase the acceptance of Zionism among Muslims.

His February remarks sparked calls by many British Jews for Miller’s dismissal.

About 200 academics from the United Kingdom and the United States, including linguist Noam Chomsky and gender theorist Judith Butler, signed a petition defending Miller as “an eminent scholar.”

On Thursday, the official Twitter account of the University of Warwick liked a tweet defending Miller. A spokesperson said it was a case of “unauthorized access.”

The University of Bristol has said it is committed to academic freedom but also to preventing discrimination.

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