Anti-Zionist views protected after tribunal makes landmark ruling in favour of sacked professor

6 February 2024, 09:12 | Updated: 6 February 2024, 09:15

Professor David Miller who has won his case against Bristol University
Professor David Miller who has won his case against Bristol University. Picture: Alamy

By StephenRigley

Anti-Zionism is a legally protected characteristic a tribunal has ruled after it found in favour of a sacked university professor.

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Professor David Miller successfully claimed discrimination based on his philosophical belief that Zionism is inherently racist, imperialist and colonial.

Lawyers representing Prof Miller said the judgment established for the first time that anti-Zionist beliefs are protected in the workplace.

Prof Miller was a professor of political sociology at the University of Bristol from 2018 until 2021.

Professor David Miller
Professor David Miller. Picture: Alamy

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In 2019, he sparked anger among Jewish students after describing the "Zionist movement" as one of the "five pillars of Islamophobia."

Since being dismissed, the professor, who works for Iranian state-owned television channel Press TV, has described Israel as "the enemy of world peace".

The professor claimed that he was subject to an organised campaign by groups and individuals opposed to his anti-Zionist views.

He also alleged that the university failed to support him and unfairly dismissed him.

In a judgment handed down by Judge Rohan Pirani, the Bristol employment tribunal ruled that the professor’s anti-Zionist beliefs qualified as a philosophical belief and as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.

It found that he was subject to direct discrimination because of his anti-Zionist belief in relation to the university’s decision to sack him.

However, it dismissed further claims of indirect and direct discrimination.

Bristol University
Bristol University. Picture: Alamy

Zillur Rahman, partner at law firm Rahman Lowe, who represented Prof Miller, said: “This is a landmark case and marks a pivotal moment in the history of our country for those who believe in upholding the rights of Palestinians.”

Prof Miller said: “I am extremely pleased that the tribunal has concluded that I was unfairly and wrongfully dismissed by the University of Bristol. I am also very proud that we have managed to establish that anti-Zionist views qualify as a protected belief under the UK Equality Act.

“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.”

The Union of Jewish Students said it was “disappointed” by the decision which could set a "dangerous precedent."

The Community Security Trust, a Jewish charity, said it was "extremely concerned about what the tribunal considers is acceptable for a university professor to say publicly about Jewish students and Jewish societies who raised legitimate complaints about him".

Bristol University said it was “disappointed” with the ruling and was reviewing the tribunal’s findings.

A spokesperson said: “After a full investigation and careful deliberation, the University concluded that Dr Miller did not meet the standards of behaviour we expect from our staff in relation to comments he made in February 2021 about students and student societies linked to the University.

“As a result and considering our responsibilities to our students and the wider University community, his employment was terminated.

“We recognise that these matters have caused deep concern for many, and that members of our community hold very different views from one another. We would, therefore, encourage everyone to respond in a responsible and sensitive way in the current climate.

“The University of Bristol remains committed to fostering a positive working and learning environment that enriches lives and where the essential principles of academic freedom are preserved.”