UK tribunal says academic discriminated against due to anti-Zionist beliefs

Professor David Miller hails decision after employment tribunal rules he was unfairly and wrongfully dismissed by University of Bristol.

David Miller
David Miller said he was 'very proud' to have established that anti-Zionist views qualify as a protected belief [Screengrab/YouTube/Support David Miller]

A professor sacked by the University of Bristol after being accused of anti-Semitic comments says he feels vindicated after a United Kingdom tribunal ruled that he experienced discrimination based on his anti-Zionist beliefs and was wrongfully dismissed.

David Miller had been let go by the institution in late 2021 after a disciplinary hearing concluded that the academic “did not meet the standards of behaviour” expected by university staff.

The professor of political sociology launched employment tribunal proceedings claiming unfair dismissal, breach of contract and discrimination or victimisation on grounds of religion or belief.

At the conclusion of proceedings on Monday, Miller successfully claimed discrimination “based on his philosophical belief that Zionism is inherently racist, imperialist, and colonial, a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010”, said his legal representatives, Rahman Lowe.

“This judgment establishes for the first time ever that anti-Zionist beliefs are protected in the workplace,” the firm said.

Miller, who was also found to have been unfairly and wrongfully dismissed, said he was “very proud” to have established that anti-Zionist views qualify as a protected belief.

“This was the most important reason for taking the case and I hope it will become a touchstone precedent in all the future battles that we face with the racist and genocidal ideology of Zionism and the movement to which it is attached,” Miller said.

“The determination that I was sacked for my anti-Zionist views is a huge vindication of my case all the way through this process,” he said.

“The University of Bristol maintained that I was sacked because Zionist students were offended by my various remarks, but it was plain from the evidence of its own witnesses that this was untrue, and it was the anti-Zionist nature of my comments which was the decisive factor,” he added.

A ‘landmark’ case

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 received a complaint from the Community Security Trust charity, which said his lecture was a “false, vile … antisemitic slur”.

After an investigation of the complaint, no further action was taken against the Scottish-born academic.

But further complaints were made to the university about him after he took part in an event called “Building the campaign for free speech” in February 2021, in which he spoke of being publicly criticised for his views on Palestine and Israel.

This led to the launch of disciplinary proceedings that culminated in his dismissal in October 2021.

Zillur Rahman, who represented Miller, hailed Monday’s “landmark case” saying it “marks a pivotal moment in the history of our country for those who believe in upholding the rights of Palestinians,” Rahman said.

He added that the timing of the ruling will be welcomed by those facing persecution in their workplaces for speaking out against Israel’s war in Gaza.

The University of Bristol said in a statement that it acknowledges the judgement of the tribunal but is “disappointed with its findings”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies