Bristol University criticized for lukewarm response to antisemitism claim

Jewish students at BU have accused the institution of mishandling a complaint regarding a lecture claiming the "Zionist movement" as one of the "five pillars of Islamophobia."

September 10, 2019 11:16
2 minute read.
Bristol University from Cabot Tower

Bristol University from Cabot Tower. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Jewish students at Bristol University in the United Kingdom have accused the institution of mishandling a complaint regarding a lecture claiming the "Zionist movement" as one of the "five pillars of Islamophobia."

In March, sociology Prof. David Miller claimed in a slideshow presentation that the “Zionist movement (parts of)” is one of the “five pillars of Islamophobia,” in addition to the “neo-conservative Right,” some of whose founders and leaders were Jewish. Examples included Norman Podhoretz and Irving Kristol, who was known as the “godfather of neo-conservatism.”

One problematic slide showed a network of UK Jewish organizations and individuals culminating in the top "contributor" "Israel Government."

"In context of a lecture about Islamophobia this echoes conspiracy & dual loyalty tropes. It is extremely disturbing that this was taught to students," tweeted The Community Security Trust (CST), one of the so-called "Islamophobic" organizations featured in the slide.

"This is a disgraceful, wholly untrue slur against CST that we completely reject," they added.

In response, a Bristol University spokesperson said the university had “taken action in response to this to ensure that the lecture material in question is accurate, clear and not open to misinterpretation.”

The spokesperson added that there’s “no evidence to suggest that Jewish students feel unsafe here at Bristol,” but called for those who felt discriminated to reach out to its support services.

Even so, the spokesperson claimed no disciplinary actions were "currently being considered."

Mark Gardner, director of communications for CST, told The Jewish Chronicle that his organization had been “deeply shocked by Bristol’s failure to seriously engage with the content of both our complaint and that of the Jewish students."

He added "The university has been an utter disgrace.”

Nina Freedman, president of the Jewish Society at the university, said she was “severely disappointed” with the university’s response and “their refusal to use the IHRA definition of antisemitism to judge this case."

She elaborated, "I firmly believe that the university should adopt this definition in order to safeguard their students against anti-Jewish racism.”

Prof. Miller told the Sunday Telegraph that it was “a matter of public record that Islamophobic organizations and movements are in receipt of funding from specific groups and individuals. Some of these are also prominent in the Zionist movement.”

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