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UK News

University of Bristol opens investigation into professor's Israel remarks

by Will Maule

The University of Bristol is investigating a member of its faculty over allegations that he made anti-Semitic remarks. 

David Miller, Professor of Political Sociology, is reported to have said that Israel seeks to "impose [its] will all over the world". 

Jewish News reports that Prof Miller also asserted that Jewish students were “pawns of a racist regime engaged in ethnic cleansing”.

The parliamentary All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-Semitism (APPG) said the professors' comments had "brought the university into disrepute".

In a statement, the university said it recognised that the matter "has caused deep concern for some members of our community, and also that people hold very different views on the issues raised".

"The University has offered support to both students and staff who have been affected by it," it added.

The university confirmed that it had "already initiated an investigation" into the matter. "The investigation is being carried out in accordance with the University's internal process and, as we have explained in a previous statement, that process is confidential," it added. "In particular, it is not appropriate for the University to make any comment on this matter while the investigation we have referred to is underway." 

It added that its freedom of speech policy "underlines the vital importance of the right of staff and students, as members of a free and democratic society, to speak openly without fear of censorship or limitation, provided that this right is exercised responsibly, within the law, and with respect for others who may have differing views".

"The University's clear and consistently held position is that bullying, harassment, and discrimination are never acceptable," it added. "We remain committed to providing a positive experience for all our students and staff, including by providing a welcoming environment for Jewish students, and to fostering good relations and an inclusive University community." 

Prof Miller's remarks came up in parliament earlier this week, with Lord Parkinson saying the Government considers Miller's views to be "ill-founded and wholly reprehensible".

He noted that universities are "independent and autonomous organisations" which is why the Government had chosen not to intervene. 

"It is the responsibility of the University of Bristol to determine whether or not Prof Miller's remarks constitute lawful free speech," he said.

"In doing so, the government's view is that they may wish to consider, in particular, his remarks about current students at the University of Bristol.

"Regardless of whether or not it is found that Prof Miller's conduct constitutes lawful free speech, the government considers that the University of Bristol could do more to make its condemnation of that conduct clear to current and future students and to show its commitment to creating a welcoming environment for Jewish students."

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