A Talk to the Hastings and Rye Palestine Solidarity Campaign by Professor David Miller
Saturday, 10 June 2023

Professor Miller is an eminent scholar known internationally for his work exposing the role that powerful actors and well-resourced coordinated networks play in manipulating and stage managing public debates including racism.

His research is crucial to deepening our knowledge in this area.

He co-founded Spinwatch and Powerbase, investigating lobby groups and their power in many areas including education, environmental policies, health provision, the Israel lobby and Islamophobia.

On June 10 2023 he gave a talk to a meeting of the Hastings and Rye Palestine Solidarity Campaign on the Zionist Movement.

For ease of reading, Professor Miller's talk is divided into sections, feel free to read the whole report or jump to sections of interest:


I was sacked by the University of Bristol in 2021 because I 'did not meet the standards of behaviour we expect from our staff.' I gave a lecture in Islamophobia in February 2019. An Israel lobby group complained about something I said in the lecture in a section of the lecture that lasted a few minutes where I had been talking about the role of parts of the Zionist movement in funding Islamophobia. That was based on research I'd done - which was evidenced in the research which shows that they do fund Islamophobic groups. The group complained. The University wouldn't take the complaint because the group wasn't a student.

So the group - the Community Security Trust - went to the President of the Union of Jewish Students and asked her to write a letter of complaint. But they wouldn't have accepted a letter of complaint from her either so they also got the President of the Jewish Society at the University of Bristol to sign the letter and that became an official complaint. I should note that the president of the local Jewish Society was a student at Bristol but was never a student of mine. I was investigated over the course of a year and a half by a QC who determined that I hadn't said a sentence or a clause or a word or a comma that was anti-Semitic, and they therefore said there was no further action to take. This was December 2020.

Six weeks later I gave a public talk at a political meeting, Labour Against the Witchhunt, in which I said: 'I have been attacked and complained about by the President of the Bristol Jewish Society and the President of the Union of Jewish students.' And those were the words that effectively got me sacked. So they investigated me again, same QC, who determined again I hadn't said anything remotely anti-Semitic but nevertheless the university separately determined that it wasn't the words I'd used or the political views I'd expressed outside of work but the way in which I had expressed the words which had caused 'Jewish students' upset and therefore that wasn't the standards of behaviour that they expected of their staff. So here I am.

I went through an appeal - it didn't work.

In October I have an Industrial Tribunal for two weeks in court. It may see me return to the University of Bristol which will be a funny event. But since then I have become 'persona non grata.' I have been disinvited from places, I can't get a job in academia obviously in this country and meetings that I have been invited to have been cancelled. Police have been called. Pressure has been put, meetings have had to be rescheduled or go round the corner. There is huge pressure to cancel any meeting where I might appear at, which is why of course the venue for this meeting was not announced in advance. It's also the case that anyone who appears on a platform with me or who has in the past appeared on a platform with me is now a legitimate target for being banned or cancelled as well. I should mention that before I was sacked I co-wrote a book about the Labour Party and antisemitism and we tried to launch it at the Labour Party conference and again that was cancelled. It's a very strange position to be in.

Since then I didn't have a job, though in January last year I began working for Press TV which is the Iranian government's TV channel which is banned in this country. I'm the producer and a regular guest on a show called Palestine Declassified, which is presented by Chris Williamson, the former Labour MP who was one of Jeremy Corbyn's strongest supporters but that didn't stop him being removed from the party. As a result we have a weekly show and the effect of me being sacked, the effect of the Zionist movement, was that I got a job and I do journalism with the Electronic Intifada and Al Mayadeen English and Mint Press, and the result was that I was able to spend much more time investigating the Zionist movement than I ever had been able to when I was at the university. I make that point because the actual empirical result of that is that I have found out so many things in the last year or two that I really had no idea about. Extraordinary things. And I suppose I have the Zionist movement to thank for that.


What I want to do today is to talk about the Zionist movement.

The reason for this is that this is one of the key reasons why the Zionist movement doesn't like me - because I don't just talk about what the occupation does. I talk about the role the Zionist movement outside of occupied Palestine, for example, in this country and in the US, France, Germany and everywhere else. They don't like me doing that because it takes the attention away from disputes about terrorism and the activities of the occupation forces and onto the support mechanisms which allow them to continue to abuse the Palestinians every day.

Israel Cohen's 'The Zionist Movement' published in 1946.

Now, what is said by the critics, is that we have this discussion about an 'imagined' Zionist movement. It is something we've dreamt up because we have a prejudice about Jews having networks therefore we thought Zionists would have networks so we dreamt up this and we made it up. My first response is to dig out this book published by the Zionist Organisation of America in 1946 by Israel Cohen, who was a leader of the Zionist movement back in the day in the 1940s and it's called The Zionist Movement. So, did I invent this? No I didn't.

It's a very interesting book, actually. It repays close reading, it looks at the whole history of the Zionist movement up until 1946 before the creation of the state of Israel. Does anyone else refer to the Zionist movement in books? Hardly at all. There's no other book in the English language which is called the Zionist movement. Part of the reason for that is that Zionists don't want to draw attention to the fact that they are empirically, a movement. Although, that's not always the case. For example, in this country we know that the Zionist Federation, which claims 36 members. It's called the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. Whereas in America the governing body is called The American Zionist Movement. It's on their website. They're not embarrassed by that. That's their term for it.

So my immediate response to such questions is to say - well, it is an empirical phenomenon. It's not just that the Zionist movement itself identifies itself as a movement, but that it actually has a structure. At the risk of boring you with the institutional structure I want to talk to you a little bit about what that is, to try to explain to you my view on how significant institutionally the Zionist movement is in this country, the US and in other countries. And why that matters in terms of what happens on the streets of Nablus or Al Quds every day of the week.

So, the Zionist movement as every history will tell you, indeed, and every website of the Zionist movement organisations will tell you, was set up over 100 years ago, as the Zionist Organisation which is now called The World Zionist Organisation. And the World Zionist Organisation has, as part of it, a number of other institutions. And these are called, in Israel, the National Institutions. So they are part of, not formally in the state, but part of, a parallel set of bodies which have a relationship with the state or government of Israel - parastatal is a term often used. The other organizations are The Jewish Agency, Keren Hayesod and the Jewish National Fund (JNF). The JNF is known for its role in the expropriation of land, the Jewish Agency for encouraging what's called the 'ascension' to Israel i.e. settling of Jews in Palestine. Keren Hayesod is the fundraising organization.

In the UK, as well as the US and almost everywhere else that the Zionist movement has a base, there are affiliates or offices for these organizations. In the UK, for example, the Jewish Agency has an office in London whereas the JNF and Keren Hayesod (in the shape of the United Jewish Israel Appeal) have representative bodies that are affiliated to the parent body in Jerusalem/al Quds.

Now the National Institutions are all based in the same building. It's called National Institutions House. I didn't make this up! And they, of course, work very closely together, as they say on their websites. You just have to look at their websites to see what they do. And then each of the Federations in the UK or US, like the American Zionist Movement for example, brings together all the formally Zionist organizations in the country and represents them to the World Zionist Organization. And they have a Parliamentary body, effectively, called the World Zionist Congress, that happens every few years and to which people in Zionist organisations outside of Palestine are able to send delegates etc. That's how it operates.

So when you have people saying, as it's been said to me, that Zionism is the IDF and 'The Israeli Government'. And what Zionism is in 'David's head' is... they have a whole long list of things. So, according to them, Zionism is only the Israeli government, and the IDF, and none of them are based in the UK. From what I've just told you, you know that that's not true. There are all list of other organisations that are part of the Zionist movement, which formally constitute the Zionist movement.

So I wrote an article about this (here). Let's count up how many formally Zionist organisations there are in this country. You start off with the National Institutions - JNF, UJIA, the office of the Jewish Agency and the Zionist Federation which is an affiliate of the World Zionist Organisation. So that's four national institutions based over here and then you look at the members of the Zionist Federation. There's 36 of them. Then you look at the memberships of those organisations themselves and others that are directly affiliated to the WZO. A whole range of different organizations up and down the country. That came to a total of at least 220 formally Zionist organisations in this country. So when I talk about the 'formal' Zionist movement I'm talking about every organization that has a formal relationship with the World Zionist Organization. So for example, the Union of Jewish Students is an affiliate of the World Union of Jewish Students which is directly affiliated to the World Zionist Organization and thus is a formally Zionist organization. If you look at the constitution you can confirm that's the case.


When people talk about the 'Israel lobby', they don't really or usually mean this wider thing called the Zionist movement. What people tend to mean when they say the Israel lobby are lobby groups which lobby for pro-Israel politics. In this country they probably mean Labour Friends of Israel, Conservative Friends of Israel, maybe BICOM [Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre], the PR agency for Israel, and a number of other organisations.
'The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy' by John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of Harvard University published in 2006.

And if you look at the path-breaking book on the Israel lobby by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, American 'realist' academics (as opposed to being Neoconservatives), they took a similar approach to the Israel lobby. They looked at the lobby groups such as AIPAC for example, the America Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is not a formal part of the Zionist Movement, it's a separate Israel lobby group. And perhaps they also talked a little bit about the pro-Israel think tanks like, in the US, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs or the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies or WINEP [Washington Institute for Near East Policy]. That's what they talk about... what are probably better known as 'Israel lobby groups'. By contrast their book only has one index entry for the United Jewish Communities which is the largest fundraising group for Israel (the equivalent of the UJIA in the UK) and central to the formal Zionist movement.

Now I would say that these organisations are informally part of the Zionist movement. They are pro-Zionist but they're not formally part of the World Zionist Organization and I think it's important to be precise about this. It's not just any organisation that I personally determine is Zionist because, as someone tweeted, I've got this 'mad anti-Jewish passion' in my head or something. No, if you want to know if it's Zionist you look and you see if it says it is Zionist first of all. And then you look and see what it's policies are etc. so there are these informal Zionist organisations in this country. Like I mentioned the Community Security Trust (CST), an organisation set up and which claims not to be Zionist in the sense it was set up to 'defend Jews against anti-Semitism' but of course the way in which CST operates is that it operates to blur together antisemitism and antizionism. For it, the major instances of antisemitism in this country come from the left. i.e. from anti-Zionists. And of course, it has historically and continues to work closely with the State of Israel.


So, there is a formal Zionist movement and an informal Zionist movement. But if you were serious about looking at the pro-Israel community, or the informal Zionist movement more broadly, you have to look at all the other organisations which themselves are organized and have memberships. So the most obvious ones that have membership are the Zionist Federation, which I mentioned in the formal movement. But then of course there are other pro-Israel groups like the Board of Deputies of British Jews which became Zionist in the 1940s roughly and which remains strongly Zionist. Although it has a formal democratic structure, and it's an organisation that has currently 202 members, it's an organisation which is very much signed up to working very closely with the State of Israel as it says in its Trustees Annual Reports. The one from 2021, for example, reports its very close relationship with the Ministry for Strategic Affairs, with the IDF's spokesperson's office and the government more generally.

The JLC, the Jewish Leadership Council, ostensibly just a Jewish communal organisation, but of course in its constitution and its statement of aims has clear pro-Israel policies. Another 36 members. Then there are 26 UK members in the Coalition of Hasbara Volunteers, There is obviously some overlap, but when we put all these organisations together we see the much wider constituency of the informal Zionist movement of perhaps 400 organisations. If you add in all the other groups that are not members of these groupings but are plainly dedicated to the cause of Israel such as the political party groups like Labour and conservative Friends of Israel or the pro-Israel think tanks like Policy Exchange, Civitas and the henry Jackson society, we get to more than 450 groups.


Also in the informal Zionist movement, I would say, are those institutions which provide the funds for all the other institutions we've been talking about. And the way to look at that is to look at charities. Perhaps one way of thinking about this is to think about all the charities that are engaged in relation to Zionism or activities in Israel. I would divide these into roughly two.

First are those foundations that provide money for other Zionist organisations to do stuff, whether it's in the UK or in Palestine. I would call these Zionist 'family foundations'. They are mostly set up by individuals or family members to disburse the proceeds of their business activities. Some of them, including amongst the biggest ones, only give money to a few Zionist causes. Others, it is almost their entire mission to give to Zionist causes. The Gatsby Charitable Foundation, for example, was set up by Lord Sainsbury, hardly gives any money to Zionist causes. The Rothschild Foundation is one amongst the biggest foundations, gives hardly any money to Zionist causes. There is another foundation called the Eranda Rothschild Foundation which gives a lot of money to Zionist causes. Whereas there are other organisations like The Gerald and Gail Ronson Family Foundation - Gerald Ronson is the Guinness fraudster who runs the Community Security Trust - gives almost exclusively to Zionist causes.

I'm currently in the middle of some research on this but I've got 170 Zionist family foundation charities, some of them with budgets for 2021 of £50,000, £100,000, £200,000. Others have budgets of a million, two, three, four five or £10 million. The ones at the top are at the millions. And that is another key part of the Zionist movement - the money to do activities. Some of the activities are in the UK and some of them are in Palestine. And in a way there is a two-step process. Some of the money goes to other charities in the UK which typically have titles in Hebrew or English. And typically the ones in English say something like: 'The British Friends of ...X project in Palestine or "Israel 48." The money comes from these foundations, goes to these other charities and they then disperse it either in this country or in Palestine. In the US. Friends of the IDF is a massive charity which spends millions of dollars supporting the IDF every year. The UK version of that is the tongue-twisting organisation: The UK Friends of the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel's Soldiers. It sends lots of money to the IDF every year.


The area which is perhaps the most controversial which substantiates the point I was making earlier about the way in which the Zionist movement is day by day sponsoring the oppression of the Palestinians is the sending of money to charities in Palestine or this country who support activities in the settlements. So there is an organisation called UK Friends of the City of David, which directly sponsors digging under Al Aqsa mosque and settlements around that part of Al Quds. And there are many other charities like that, some of them sponsoring Yeshivas in the settlements in the West Bank, some of them sponsoring work among the disadvantaged, but only of course for Jews in the West Bank, not Palestinians. And there's tonnes of money, millions of pounds every year from this country alone, going to support activities in the settlements, including house demolitions, building new settlements, education, healthcare, archaeological digs etc. to colonise Palestinian land.

That is a key way in which the Zionist movement in this country, and indeed in other countries, is directly subsidizing the horrors that we see every day on the television in Palestine.


So I would say that those organisations are also a part of the Zionist movement. Now if you include all of those organisations together, just thinking about the UK, probably we're talking about 3,000 organisations. They don't all support stuff in the West Bank, some give money to "Israel 48" etc. There's all sorts of different things that they do. But that is a lot of organisations and people have no idea really of the extent of the activity that is conducted in this country to support the oppression of the Palestinians. That, it seems to me, is what the Zionist movement is - it's a collection of organisations which work together to pursue Zionism, which by necessity must contribute to the oppression of the Palestinians.


There are many different types of Zionism and one of the criticisms I get is: 'Well, David just wants to flatten all these people and say Zionism is bad and Zionists are all as bad as each other.' And, in a way, I do think that because, definitionally speaking, the thing that unites all Zionists is that they're Zionists. But the question is - what is Zionism? Now, it seems to me that it's perfectly plain what Zionism is. You read a few Zionist websites and they tell you what they are. They are dedicated to the creation and maintenance of a Jewish state in the historic territory of Palestine. Some of them present it differently, they also talk about the self determination of the Jews and their historic homeland and that type of thing. I wouldn't accept any of that but by and large the definition of Zionism isn't really controversial. It's about setting up a Jewish state in the territory of Palestine. And what's a Jewish state? It's a state where Jews have more rights than non-Jews, by definition. They don't like that bit of the definition but that, empirically, is what seems to me to be the case. And so when people say to me: 'Well, there are left-wing Zionists, there are socialist Zionists. They aren't as bad. Why do you insist on criticizing them? They could help us. Some of them are in favour of BDS. Some of them favour the end of the occupation...'

Okay, let's look at these organisations. Let's look at Yachad that says it is anti-occupation or the other Jewish anti-occupation organisation like Na'amod. Let's look at what their politics are, what they believe in. I co-wrote a book on the Labour party and antisemitism and one of the other co-authors is called Justin Schlosberg. Justin's a nice guy. He took exception to something I wrote a few months ago and he had a go at me on Twitter and said: 'there are and always have been plenty of Zionists who never identified with WZO, especially after 1942. The early (Socialist) kibbutz movement was ardently Zionist and largely opposed to any sort of exclusionary Jewish state.' So I wrote an article on that as well.
Noam Chomsky spent time on a Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz in the 1950s.
What he's talking about is the further left Zionist faction which some of you will know about - Hashomer Hatzair were the furthest left of the Zionist groups. Hashomer Hatzair set up and were core to the Kibbutz movement, the Kibbutz Artzi movement as it was known, all through the territory and astonishingly when you look back at it really, Noam Chomsky spent time on a Hashomer Hatzair in the 1950s, Bernie Sanders spent time there, Tony Benn spent VE Day, the end of the war, on a Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz which was then still Palestine, before the state of Israel was created. And another person Tony Cliff, the leader and founder of the Socialist Workers Party, spent time on a Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz. And if you read what he wrote in 1946 about Socialist Zionism, you can be in no doubt about what that kind of socialism was. In 1942, at the Biltmore Conference they voted against the Jewish state. But by 1945 that position had collapsed and it had collapsed into supporting the Jewish state and when you looked at the kibbutzim, it was the same as the other kibbutzim in that they were for Jews only. No Arabs were allowed, no Palestinians were allowed. The first Arab joined a kibbutz in 1976. The most radical ones of them decided that their socialist experiment would only come to fruition if they could encourage the Arabs to have their own kibbutzim. But there would be no access to the kibbutz for the Palestinians.

The scales fell from my eyes when I read more about this. This is Israel Cohen from The Zionist Movement, written in 1946:

'In 1909 the first cooperative firm on Jewish National Fund land was established at Degania and yielded good results and was soon followed by the formation of other cooperatives in other parts of the country. The cooperatives carried out the 'occupation' or preliminary development of all tracts of land bought by Jews from 1908. But they had difficulty taking over the cultivation of such estates under their collective control except in the case of JNF land. The Jewish workers were naturally the most ardent champions of the principle that colonization should take place only on such land. Not only because of their Socialist outlook but also because they knew that private settlers, even against their will, found themselves obliged to take cheap Arab labour. They therefore introduced a collective system in which all members of the group shared in the ownership of the estate and drew the same compensation. Any profit produced belonged to all in common and was devoted to the improvement and further development of the farm for the equal benefit of all.'

And you see it there - the ones who were the most aligned to the Jews-only policy were the socialists! And in a way socialist ideology was required in order to put that into place because they had this blind spot, they weren't going to have 'cheap Arab labour'. And it's extraordinary, looking back on it now, that at the root of the most radical of the most left wing groups, in favour of the state of Israel, on the kibbutzim there, they had a policy which was racist. So when people say to me - you lump all Zionists together - and in that sense, yes. Because Zionism is intrinsically racist. The State of Israel is intrinsically a racist endeavour.


But that doesn't mean that there aren't factions within Zionism. We should pay attention to that because it can be useful to us and because its more useful to understand the full range of views that there are in a social movement like that. There's the socialist Zionists, and then the revisionist, and then the further right factions of the religious Zionists and the neo-fascist groups who are currently pushing the government in particular directions.

One of the actions in support of Professor Miller in Bristol.
So it seems to me that while we shouldn't be using the term Zionist simply as a term of abuse, nor is it necessarily a problem to say: 'Zionism is intrinsically racist'. Let me give you one example on this. Last week we did an episode on Noam Chomsky. Noam had his meetings with Jeffery Epstein and Ehud Barrack. I know Noam Chomsky, I've worked with him, I've edited books that he's had chapters in, met him a few times, and I admire him greatly. He has contributed very meaningfully to the study of American Foreign Policy and indeed to the study of Palestine. But one of the things which we say in the show is in the end Chomsky is in favour of a two state solution which is effectively in my mind a Zionist solution. But the reason he's in favour of that is that because that's the least worst solution he can see. His actual preferred solution would be a bi-national state, which means one state in which there are two national groups recognized. I think that betrays a certain residual Zionism in his thinking. The Jews aren't a nation in Palestine. They are a religious grouping, or an ethnic grouping if you like. When Golda Meir talks in that famous clip about having a Palestinian passport she means that there are no Palestinians. But of course before the creation of the state of Israel, before the settlements started by Ashkenazi Jews from Europe, there were Jews living in Palestine. But they were Arabs - now they're called Mizrachi - but they're just Arabs, part of the country. Those Jews, in what sense are they a nation? They were simply part of what was then Palestine.

So I suppose there's a need to be very clear about what Zionism is. How one can analyse it and how one can imagine a future without or beyond Zionism is what I have, as a result of the predicament that I have found myself in, come to spend most of my time doing and I guess I will do that for quite a bit longer.


We must start to target those organisations which are directly sponsoring and supporting settlement activity in the West Bank. There are hundreds of these organisations - just pick the worst ones. Go to their offices and tell them to close down. The Charity Commission should not be allowing this. It's not a charitable purpose to steal Palestinian land, to chuck people out of their homes and undermine the places they live in by doing archaeological digs there. These things are manifestly war crimes and charities in this country should not be doing that. It would not take much to organise a campaign to shut down charity x or y and that seems to me to be a tangible thing that people can do and would be much more effective than boycotting Puma. That's part of the reason I think we should study the Zionist movement because there's a lot to understand about it and when we understand more about it we see what the pressure points are.