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Combatting academic censorship of the Palestinian narrative in the UK

May 29, 2024 at 8:47 am

(L-R) Dr Brendan Ciaran Browne, Antony Lerman and Professor David Miller at MEMO’s hosted event, Academic Censorship in the UK, in London on 28 May 2024

Tonight MEMO hosted an event on Academic Censorship in the UK, in which a panel of experts discussed efforts to subdue the Palestinian narrative within academia, as well as to assess the methods and mechanisms used toward that suppression.

Held at London’s iconic P21 Gallery, the event’s panel consisted of Dr Brendan Ciaran Browne, assistant professor of conflict resolution at Trinity College Dublin who was recently a target of academic censorship over his work on Palestine, Professor David Miller, a British sociologist with a research focus on Islamophobia and propaganda, as well as Antony Lerman, former founding director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) and an author specialising in anti-Semitism, Middle Eastern politics and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Professor David Miller, who was wrongly sacked by Bristol University back in 2021 for his anti-Zionist views before winning a landmark court case this year against his dismissal stated that “You can’t have academia without freedom of speech and thought, and without those freedoms you can’t have science.”

He also highlighted the plight of British Muslims – and Muslims throughout the West – in the targeting of anti-Semitism allegations, saying that “there’s an absolute war against Muslims [by Zionists]” and that “Muslims are by far the worst sufferers of that discrimination”.

Professor Miller even targeted the ideology of Zionism as a whole and called for its demise, stating that “We need to talk about the ending of Zionism as an ideology altogether”, explaining the need for what he called “DeZionisation” in academia and other fields.

READ: Not in our name: UK Jewish Academic Network forms to counter misuses of anti-Semitism

Dr Brendan Ciaran Browne, who was recently disinvited and turned away from a conference he was meant to speak at in Austria’s capital Vienna, lamented that “the impact of all this [censorship] is stigma… The space for academics gets marginalised, you become a pariah.”

When talking of the legal consequences of allegations of anti-Semitism, Brendan insisted that “We need to be going to our trade unions and saying that our employer has a duty of care… You don’t have to foot the bill or sell your home” to fight such allegations. He further insisted that “We need to own our language and not be too afraid to use it.”

Miller supported that stance, warning against thinking that one will be safe from anti-Semitism allegations if they duck and hide. “We can fight” such cases, he insisted, advising that “if you can, make sure you have an anti-Semitism lawyer.”

Tonight’s event comes amid the numerous pro-Palestinian protests and encampments that have swept through universities in the UK, as well as the US, with some of those institutions having cracked down on such expression, threatened students with legal action or ordered police to arrest pro-Palestinian students.

READ: The irony: Israel’s supporters use ‘woke’ playbook to censor Palestinian voices