The sacking of David Miller by Bristol University is a very serious attack on the right to expose Zionist racist influence and lobbying in British political, academic, and social life. David Miller is a professor of Political Sociology and the initiator of Spinwatch (https://spinwatch.org/), an anti-lobbying watchdog which tackles corporate lobbying and corruption of all kinds, not just that initiated by the Israel lobby. It is known, for instance, for exposing harassment and spying by corporate interests on anti-fracking campaigners, as well as those pushing NHS Privatisation.
He is a strong opponent of Zionist racism and has been particularly outspoken in analysing and condemning the role and influence of Zionists in promoting and fostering Islamophobia in Britain and other Western countries. His criticism of Zionism does not stop at the limits defined by the ruling class and those within the left who have not broken out of our rulers’ political boundaries. He has also been outspoken, for instance, in denouncing the hoax accusations of the use of chemical weapons that have been used to mobilise imperialist wars and proxy wars against Syria, actually by Western-funded jihadists hidden behind fake ‘humanitarian’ outfits like the ‘White Helmets’. The West and its Israeli allies are quite happy using willing jihadist tools to attack Israel’s most hated political opponents in the Middle East, while making use of their indefensible actions to fuel Islamophobia in the West. The fact that Miller touches on this also marks him out for hatred from the Zionist lobby.
As someone particularly concerned with combatting anti-Muslim discrimination, Miller has been meticulous in documenting the cohesive yet diverse lobbing networks that supporters of Israel have assembled to wield influence, particularly in Britain.
His flowchart graphic “BICOM in Context”, drawn up in 2013, showed in considerable detail the connections of BICOM, the so-called ‘Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre’ as part of a comprehensive and powerful conglomeration of lobbyists, who it should be clear, organise around an ideology that is itself thoroughly racist and ethnocentric, in order to marginalise the influence of Israel’s Palestinian Arab victims, who are mainly though not exclusively Muslim. Since the Palestinian people evoke a natural sympathy from broad layers of the Muslim minority communities in Britain whose origins are mainly South Asian, Professor Miller has documented in some detail the efforts of Zionists to offset this sympathy by fanning the flames of anti-Muslim hatred and bigotry in British political life.
Miller and a group of other academics elaborated on the significance of this layer in quasi-class terms, touching on the core questions of the nature of Zionism that the left has had considerable difficulty in addressing, due to widespread guilty liberalism and fear of the Zionist canard of ‘left-wing anti-Semitism’:
“… the taboo on discussing the Israel lobby was broken decisively by Mearsheimer and Walt in their ground-breaking 2007 study …. there has been relatively little discussion of the lobby in the UK and the rest of Europe … the lobby is a significant player in UK politics, helping to blunt campaigns for Palestinian human rights, shore up support for Israel, attack and marginalise critics (including Jewish critics) of Israel and insulate political elites from pressure to act against Israel’s misdeeds. The purpose here is to provide an historically informed picture and a corrective both to US centric accounts and those that emphasise the lobby’s allegedly independent power. We illustrate that the pro-Israel lobby is not only important in the US, but is a transnational phenomenon, fostered by transnational organisations – many headquartered in Israel – and funded in large part by transnational corporate actors. Crucially, our account illustrates that the lobby is not an alien interloper, but is integrated into wider neoliberal and/or neoconservative networks, forming a fraction of the transnational power elite.”https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/uks-pro-israel-lobby-in-context/
The article also points to the change in the political physiognomy of the Labour Party on the question of Zionism effected during the Blair years, and at least raises the question of the cause of this political shift, whether it be a mechanical function of a general rightward shift in the Labour Party in the early-mid 1990s, or whether these Zionist lobbying groups played a more active role in the change being documented. The role of several very wealthy Jewish-Zionist bourgeois in this process, and the evident ethnic/communal politics that drove them, is documented meticulously:
“[Cyril] Stein, founder of the gambling company Ladbrokes, was also a major supporter of the Jewish National Fund. Whilst the mainstream of British Jewry supported the ‘peace process’ in the 1990s, he funded a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. Trevor Chinn inherited his substantial wealth from his father, who owned the car company Lex Services and was President of the Jewish National Fund of Britain as well as joint vice president of the Joint Palestine Appeal …. Chinn was also a major donor to Labour Friends of Israel and both men used their influence there to try and block movements towards peace. Gerald Ronson is a close friend of Chinn’s and the founder of the Community Security Trust, an organisation which exists ostensibly to protect the Jewish community in the UK from anti-Semitic violence, but has been criticised for a lack of transparency and accountability and for including critics of Israel in its operational definition of antisemitism.
“Chinn, Ronson and Stein were part of a circle of wealthy British Zionists who bankrolled a number of pro-Israel organisations from the 1980s, but showed little interest in the traditional institutions of Jewish life. They came to be known as ‘the funding fathers’. ‘Unelected and unaccountable,’ Geoffrey Alderman writes, they became ‘the new rulers of Anglo-Jewry’. Most were affiliated with Britain’s foremost Zionist fundraising organisation, the Joint Israel Appeal (formerly the Joint Palestine Appeal, and later the United Jewish Israel Appeal). The Joint Israel Appeal was originally founded in 1944 by Simon Marks, and under the leadership of his nephew Michael Sacher it ‘established itself as the pre-eminent and most powerful single organization in the community’. During the 1980s it was, the Jewish Chronicle reports, run by a ‘triumvirate’ of Trevor Chinn, Gerald Ronson and Michael Levy, and was ‘widely regarded as the community’s most influential organisation’. Levy, a former record company executive and a relative newcomer to the ‘funding fathers’ circle, would later play a part in the rightward shift of the Labour Party under Tony Blair – and perhaps some role in the party’s rapprochement with Israel.
“Levy was introduced to Blair by Gideon Meir, an official at the Israeli Embassy in London, and was later appointed Blair’s chief fundraiser. He became a key figure in a network of New Labour donors that allowed Blair to achieve financial independence from the trade unions and to build up a coterie of advisors – including Alastair Campbell and Jonathan Powell – who would follow him to 10 Downing Street. Trevor Chinn was one of the donors to Blair’s Labour Leader’s Office Fund, a blind trust for which Levy was, in press vernacular, the bagman. Whether it was due to the direct influence of pro-Israel donors, or simply a feature of the Labour Party’s broader move to the right, is difficult to judge, but in 2001 the Labour Party power broker, lobbyist and former Labour Friends of Israel chair Jonathan Mendelsohn commented that: ‘Blair has attacked the anti-Israelism that had existed in the Labour Party… The milieu has changed. Zionism is pervasive in New Labour.’”ibid
Zionists complain that the facts are ‘anti-Semitic’
All this material is strictly factual. A complaint was nevertheless lodged against David Miller by a member of the campus Jewish Society, with the support of that body, complaining that this material contained ‘anti-Semitic tropes’. This was backed up by an orchestrated campaign to get him sacked, including a letter accusing him of “inciting hatred of Jewish students” by over 100 MPs and peers of seven varied parties of the bourgeoisie (https://jewishnews.timesofisrael.com/100-mps-and-peers-write-to-bristol-university-over-professor-david-miller/). These are class enemies of workers and vicious racist thugs, including Tories, New Labour, Liberals, Greens and even DUP bigots from Britain’s ‘Ulster’ settler-colony, in the so-called ‘All Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-Semitism’.
The university solicited an investigation of this by a leading QC. Unfortunately for the University, reeling from the political pressure being exerted on it by professional Zionist lobbyists, the QC concluded that:
“Considered against the background of the research discussed in the Open Democracy article, the statements to which [the complainant] takes objection do not appear to me to be tropes or conspiracy theories, but are, instead, specific and apparently defensible assertions of fact…. I am not in a position to determine whether or not Professor Miller’s assertions about Trevor Chinn are accurate, but in my view they cannot properly be characterized as the product merely of stereotypes or tropes. Further, and contrary to [the complainant]’s view that it was ‘baseless’, I conclude that Professor Miller’s reference to Trevor Chinn’s ‘influence’ on the Labour Party having extended over a ‘long long time’ is supported by the research in the Open Democracy article.https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/asa-winstanley/david-miller-was-cleared-anti-semitism-leaked-document-shows
Miller’s accusers, who included the Community Security Trust (CST), claim that when Miller countered these smears by pointing out that the Bristol Jewish Society was part of the Israel lobby, he was again using a so-called anti-Semitic trope. Yet as the campaigning group “Support David Miller’ pointed out about the original complaint that was submitted by the CST itself:
“As the University is only able to accept complaints about staff from current students, it was rejected. The CST then approached Union of Jewish Students of the UK and Ireland (UJS) to front a complaint. Its then-President signed a new complaint along with the then-President of its local affiliate, Bristol Jewish Society (JSoc).
“All JSocs fall under the auspices of the UJS, which is a member of the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS), which, in turn, is affiliated to the World Zionist Organisation, the first of four Israeli ‘national institutions’ that formally constitute the Zionist movement. The UJS has as part of its constitution a core value of ‘engagement with Israel’, which entails ‘inspiring Jewish students to make an enduring commitment to […] Israel’. The union has a formal relationship with the CST and works closely with the UK outposts of two more of Israel’s ‘national institutions’ on Israel engagement programmes. One of these organisations – the United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA), the UK branch of the state of Israel’s fundraising arm – covers the core costs of the UJS. UJIA also sponsors UJS’s Israel Portal, which links to the UK outposts of Israel’s national institutions and the main Israel lobby groups in the UK. The UJS has reportedly received funding from the Israeli embassy, and the union jointly holds events with the Israeli Embassy in London, giving figures like former Netanyahu spokesman and Israeli ambassador Mark Regev the opportunity to propagandise to students.https://supportmiller.org/statement-on-dismissal
No one has dared to argue that any of these relationships documented between organizations, are untrue or in any way factually incorrect. When David Miller spoke of these relationships at a February Labour Campaign for Free Speech online meeting, he was accused of being responsible for ‘abuse’ being received by the people who made the original complaint. Yet even if such abuse happened, which is to say the least open to doubt, no connection has been demonstrated between such abuse and David Miller. Such allegations have become a time-honoured Zionist ploy to play the victim when their own racist behaviour is pointed out.
A Refreshing Change
There is so much mud being flung at David Miller, and so much time and effort has been devoted by him and his defenders to refuting such material in detail, that it is only possible to deal with some of the most important examples here. However, what is refreshing about David Miller is that he does not confine himself to the restrictions decreed by the imperialist ruling classes, viz the classic IHRA-type trope that while criticism of the Israeli ‘government’ is permitted, it is not permissible to criticize Israel’s ‘legitimacy’ or to attack the international lobbying effort that supports it:
“There will never be a possibility of engaging in real Palestine solidarity work inside the Labour Party until or unless these people are removed from the party … the question is what we do about this, and I don’t want to divide people, but it is clear to me that we cannot win this argument inside the party, and there is a need for movements, perhaps new parties outside the Labour Party which need to be built. These are not easy matters, history is not propitious. The way in which the left has fallen out with itself, amongst itself in the last 10 years since the Iraq war, does not give me great cause for confidence, but it’s the only option it seems to me. I just want to put that out there as what seems to me to be the only possibility.
“There is of course much we can do to engage in Palestine solidarity work, which many people are doing, but we must also engage the enemy in this, which is not just the British government and US imperialism, but the Zionist movement. The Zionist movement and the Israeli government are the enemy of the left, the enemy of world peace, and they must be directly targeted. I know people say, ‘we must engage in Palestine solidarity work’, but let’s be clear: that’s not enough. In order for the Palestinians to win, Zionism as an ideology, as a philosophy, as an idea, must be defeated. And that seems to me to be the clarity which the current historical moment gives us. I don’t think I need to say more than that.”https://twitter.com/CST_UK/status/1288920296876134414
The CST was ‘extremely concerned’ at these fact-based and entirely reasoned remarks. In another interview after he was sacked, with a reporter from a Muslim publication, David Miller elaborated on how Zionism is Islamophobic and racist, and promotes Islamophobia throughout the wider world:
“Its racist in the sense of … it had to justify the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, meaning the creation of settlements from the 1880s onwards, then the creation of the state of Israel itself through force of arms, though the removal of three quarters of a million of the indigenous people of Palestine, and its racist in the sense of continuing to do that. That’s anti-Palestinian racism. But they have to encourage the idea of the radical Muslim, and that the Palestinian position is not a national liberation movement, it is instead radical and Islamic and therefore … this is the kind of thing ‘we’ should target, so it fits in very well with the ‘war on terror’ rhetoric of post -9/11, and that’s the way in which Zionism needs to encourage Islamophobia and hatred of Muslims. I got to that point, not from the theoretical idea that Zionism would have to do that, but from the empirical approach, which is to follow the funding for Islamophobic groups, like the EDL and the far right, but also the neo-Conservatives and some of the other organisations which have over the last 15 years encouraged hate crimes against Muslims, encouraged discrimination against Muslims…”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKgExgL7zvc
Thus, in another ‘shocking’ complaint from the Zionists, they complained that he had characterized Zionist promotion of Islamophobia as one of its five ‘pillars’.
As well documented by the Electronic Intifada, the top QC (lawyer) who was engaged by Bristol University to ‘investigate’ concluded as follows:
“… For reasons that are explained in full below, I conclude that there is no case to answer against Professor Miller in connection with any of the matters I have investigated. Nor in my view is there a case for any of these matters to be considered under paragraph 2 of Ordinance 28 (Early Action).”Electronic Intifada, opt-cit
But the cowardly Bristol University authorities ignored their own legal adviser and sacked David Miller anyway, as his conduct was supposedly not up their ‘standards’. This appears like blatantly unlawful behaviour incited by a far right, racist lobby, and Professor Miller looks to have an extremely good case for appeal and an industrial tribunal having been cleared not only of the ‘anti-Semitism’ canard but also of any misconduct – to the point of having ‘no case to answer’ – by the enquiry set up by the University itself.
Jewish Voice for Labour and David Miller
Some of the left have shown considerable weakness over the Miller case, a product of his militancy and sharp anti-Zionism. Jewish Voice for Labour is a trend within Labour many of whose members are strongly anti-Zionist, but it still reflects some serious weaknesses. It was not founded as an anti-Zionist group, rather it had an almost civil libertarian aspect to it. As its chair Jenny Manson stated in a letter to the Guardian in 2017:
“Our statement of principles makes no mention at all of Zionism. Rather our objective is simply to uphold the right of supporters of justice for Palestinians to engage in solidarity activities. I gave an assurance from the chair that, in accordance with our statement of principles, you need hold no position on Zionism – for, against or anything else – to join and work with us.”https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/sep/28/jewish-voice-for-labour-is-not-an-anti-zionist-group
Some will therefore see this as a broad milieu in which they can fight Zionism, others will see this as an all-inclusive Jewish milieu in which the question of whether to really fight Zionism must be evaded in order to keep left-Zionists on board. The concept of a left-wing trend defined on ethnic lines is an ideological concession to Zionism, though this may not necessarily be apparent to some Jewish leftists with illusions in the revolutionary mettle of the Bundist tradition. But the Bolsheviks were hostile to this method for a good reason, as it puts communal unity above class unity, which can only be reactionary.
This softness is shown by JVL’s material ostensibly in defence of David Miller. Though it correctly notes that “The sacking of David Miller by the University of Bristol opens up a grim prospect for British academia” and concludes that “A faculty member has been dismissed – not for improper behaviour, not for unlawful speech, but because enough powerful people have made the university too frightened to stick to its principles. This is a moment of shame for the University of Bristol, and of danger for the whole UK academic system.” (ibid)
This is particularly pertinent as the racist, Zionist Jewish Chronicle, which has been caught lying and misrepresenting leftists over 30 times during the last few years of the Corbyn witchhunt, says that David Miller is “tip of the iceberg” and evidently seeks a much wider purge in academia, as do other Zionist lobby groups. (https://www.thejc.com/news/uk/miller-is-gone-but-he-is-only-tip-of-the-iceberg-1.521135)
But there are attacks on David Miller in the text of the JVL’s statement that reflect the kind of Zionist conciliationism you would expect from a movement that refuses to define itself as anti-Zionist, and which detract from his defence. Some of their criticisms undermine solidarity, such as saying that “remarks he made during a webinar … exaggerated the power and reach of Israel and its supporting ideology of Zionism” and clarifies that “Jewish Voice for Labour does not endorse formulations of critiques of Zionism and of Israel that promote an exaggerated view of Israel’s reach. That is formidable enough without exaggeration. Such formulations may fall comfortably on the ears of the already convinced but lessen the impact of other, more solidly founded critiques, and undermine the power of rational analysis.” (https://www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/statement/david-millers-sacking/)
They do not actually elaborate on what, if anything David Miller has said that is factually incorrect. They might well find that difficult, as even the QC the University commissioned to ‘investigate’ his activities could not find anything wrong with his facts. But this argument is not really on the level of facts. Quite correctly, JVL make the point that “The answer to opinions which some find offensive – even deeply offensive – is generally more free speech, not less…. Statements can be misguided, exaggerated or even quite wrong-headed without them constituting hate speech that could justify expulsion.” But the failure to clarify what he has said that is factually wrong makes this a strange polemic in the circumstances.
Other Ways to Capitulate
A hint of what may be behind this is in the Weekly Worker, paper of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), another publication on the left that conciliates Zionism and indeed unlike JVL denounces the most radical elements of Labour’s involuntary exiles who refuse to vote for Starmer in elections. While they pay lip service to David Miller’s defence, they make it quite clear their contempt for his most important insights, his attack on Zionism’s promotion of Islamophobia. Thus, they write:
“However, our full support for professor Miller’s democratic rights does not extend to unconditionally backing his politics. In fact, we have fundamental differences with him on the nature and significance of ‘Islamophobia’ as a political dynamic that shapes the foreign and domestic policies of western states.”https://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1339/defend-david-miller/
The scare quotes indicate that they reject the entire concept and existence of Islamophobia and condemn his willingness to work with Muslim groups as a “sectional and religiously sectarian form of politics” and “counter to the radical, secular traditions of the workers’ movement”. At the same time, they write the following of David Miller’s analysis:
“He places particular emphasis on the links between Keir Starmer and ‘Zionist money’, and the way in which both Labour and the Tories are financed by Israelis or those who sympathise with Israel, such as Trevor Chinn – who was said to be close to both the New Labour project and to Boris Johnson, while the latter was mayor of London.
“Trying to explain the witch-hunt against the left, or political developments more generally, in this way seriously leads us in the wrong direction. If we are going to defeat the slander that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism and defend our democratic rights for free speech, then we can really have no time at all for these conspiracy theories or talk of shadowy networks working behind the scenes.”ibid
So, despite their supposed defence, they accuse David Miller of peddling “conspiracy theories” and “talk of shadowy networks working behind the scenes”. What kind of a defence is this? It sounds like they are speaking with forked tongue: talking of ‘defence’ on the one hand, while slying giving the nod to the Zionist lies about ‘anti-Semitic tropes’ on the other.
‘Islamophobia’ has scare quotes, but their parroting of the Zionist smears certainly does not. This is because these people’s politics are a soft version of the politics of the pro-Zionist Alliance for Workers Liberty – sometimes known as “AWL-lite”. They have made a big issue of not supporting armed resistance by colonized Muslim peoples from imperialist attack. They opposed support for Iraqi armed resistance against the US/UK in the 2003 racist invasion of Iraq, and indeed condemned such resistance as ‘reactionary anti-imperialism’. Likewise, they were neutral when Israeli-backed Fatah overthrew the elected Hamas in the 2007 West Bank/Gaza coup and counter coup on the grounds that Hamas represent “reactionary anti-Zionism”.
And they condemn any attempt to analyse the power of Zionism in terms of the social weight of Israel-loyal Jewish-Zionist bourgeois communalists in the ruling classes of the Western countries. When anyone on the left tries to analyse the social weight of the Zionist lobby in historical materialist terms, the CPGB have no hesitation in completely rejecting factual rendering, and instead Nazifying (with ‘Holocaust” cartoons like the Zionists), those on the left who speak of such facts. As shown by the notorious statement of the Weekly Worker editor in 2014 when confronted with such facts:
“such ‘statistics’ say far more about the person quoting them than the people they claim to study. Even if we accept that those figures are accurate (a big ‘if’), then why would anyone consider them to be pertinent?”see our recent polemic against the CPGB’s own witchhunting activites
They put ‘statistics’ and ‘Islamophobia’ in scare quotes, but terms like ‘conspiracy theories’ or ‘shadowy networks working behind the scenes’ are not in scare quotes. These capitulators are not to be trusted. At the first whiff of serious conflict, they will throw David Miller under the bus the way they did with previous leftists who they were too cowardly to defend. They are quite capable of doing a Jennie Formby and instead of fighting against the Zionist witchhunts, starting their own. As they did with Socialist Fight in 2018, and before that Ian Donovan in 2014.
A Pointer to Consistent Marxism regarding Zionism
David Miller’s best work points in a similar direction to key elements of our own earlier materials. His detailed analysis of the role of the Israel lobby and the forces in it point to the kind of analysis in one of our basic documents, our Draft Theses on the Jews and Modern Imperialism from 2014:
“Empirical observation alone shows that Israel has organised bases of support within the ruling classes of several imperialist countries, centrally the United States, and those in Western Europe (including the UK). In the US, AIPAC (American-Israeli Political Action Committee) operates with great influence in both political parties; in the UK, there are powerful ‘Friends of Israel’ factions in all three major parties; the Conservative Friends of Israel in particularly embraces 80% of Tory MPs. This is a staggering level of sponsorship from the main party of the British ruling class; it is echoed in the other parties and this pro-Israel ideology has a similar level of hegemony to Cold War anti-communism among the ruling class.”https://www.consistent-democrats.org/draft-theses-on-the-jews-and-modern-imperialism-sept-2014/
His detailed material points in this direction. And his material on Islamophobia parallels another facet of our politics, as expressed in this complementary article to the above document, also from 2014:
“Nor is it a coincidence that the vanguard role in ideological hatred of mainly Muslim people is taken by many of those in the Western ruling classes who are most of all loyal to the Israeli state, whose land was stolen by force from the Arab people, and whose entire existence as a state is bound up with permanent war based on a racialised hatred, of Arab peoples.
At one time this expressed itself in hatred of the secular Arab left; now that has been proven impotent and discredited, the resultant growth of radical Islamic sentiment as a manifestation of resistance, means that Jewish communalists in the Western ruling classes, with Zionist politics and their own subjectively nationalist project, have been able to interact with the mainstream gentile imperial contempt for the Arab/Muslims peoples of the Middle East, and inject a more virulent strain of politicised anti-Muslim bigotry into wider political life.”The Shifting Face of 21st Century Capitalist Racism, https://commexplor.com/2014/10/27/the-shifting-face-of-21st-century-capitalist-racism/
In that sense, David Miller’s material appears to closely parallel our own, and offers the potential to develop on a parallel track to our own and perhaps enrich our own material and understanding of Zionism. For we consider, that while our material points the way to a consistently materialist and revolutionary understanding of Zionism, it cannot simply be the last word: it must develop further to build a mass international movement to overcome this ultra-oppressive phenomenon in a revolutionary way. In that regard what he represents appears to us to be something positive that should be defended in a committed manner by all the most advanced elements of the labour movement and the movement for Palestinian liberation.