Bristol university students protesting for Palestine last October

Anti-Zionist academic David Miller’s landmark victory at an employment tribunal against the University of Bristol should be warmly welcomed.

It strengthens pro-Palestine people at work against bullying bosses and intimidating managers.

The tribunal said Miller was unfairly and wrongfully dismissed. He successfully claimed discrimination based on his philosophical belief that Zionism is inherently racist, imperialist, and colonial.

This judgment establishes for the first time that legally anti-Zionist beliefs are protected in the workplace.

Miller was a professor of political sociology until he was dismissed in October 2021. This followed an avalanche of complaints from a small section of students, MPs, the Labour mayor of the city, the All Party Group on Antisemitism. They decided to attack him because he had spoken out strongly against Zionism.

His solicitors, Rahman Lowe said, “The case has drawn attention to the challenges faced by academics and individuals advocating for justice, fairness, and equality in Palestine. It also underscores the issue of weaponising antisemitism to stifle discussions on Zionism.”

You don’t have to agree with everything that Miller says—and Socialist Worker has not always done so—in order to celebrate this judgment.

Pro-Palestine workers can already point to the recent International Court of Justice decision that there is a plausible case that Israel is carrying out genocide.

Now the employment tribunal has defended anti-Zionists. It’s also true that the verdict was unlikely to have happened without the eight national demonstrations in London and all the other mobilisations for Palestine.

A statement from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine campaigning group said, “Why did Bristol take its disastrous decision to fire David Miller? The self-evident answer is that it crumpled in the face of an extraordinary pile-on by more than the usual suspects.

“Bristol is the extreme case of ethical collapse. But where were the supposed official guardians of academic freedom and of free speech when Bristol was trashing them both? The answer is that virtually the whole official structure of UK academia bent before the gale-force gusts of official and unofficial demands for the censure of those who speak up for Palestine.

“Sadly the UCU union, which should be the voice of support for academic freedoms, has also failed to step up to the plate. UCU members need and deserve a union that will stand up for the principle and practice of academic freedom.”

The employment tribunal did not order David Miller’s reinstatement to his post, and he is left with heavy legal expenses. He should be offered his job back.

But those shortcomings should not detract from what has been gained. It’s time to keep organising pro-Palestine walkouts and protests, and challenge the suffocating hold of pro-Israel views in so much of education.

With the reality of Zionism on display, there is also an opportunity to challenge those institutions that adopted the IHRA definition and examples of antisemitism. This has been used to prevent free speech on Israel.

It’s time to go on the offensive for Palestine.

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