Sharonna Karni Cohen
Sharonna Karni Cohen

No professor should be antisemitic

Since the recent actions by David Miller and the investigation into whether this leading professor at a top university in the UK is anti-semetic or not, I have decided to share a letter I wrote to Bristol University about my time there. 
I am yet to receive a reply. One of the only times I experienced anti-semitism was during my time at the university including light comments from fellow students about being Jewish & having it easier or direct comments about my Israeli national identity.  My thesis actually received one of the lowest grades in the year. While I was not proud then, I share these words today with concern about the future of academia. Freedom of speech is necessary. Hate speech is not. 

Dear Bristol University Board of Governors,

I have decided to write this in light of everything going on with David Miller.

It takes me back to my own time at Bristol University as a sociology student. I “graduated” in 2010. I did not attend my own graduation since I was so depressed and ashamed when I received my results.

I tried to deny that it could be in any way related to the subject I chose for my dissertation, my last name or place of birth. My dissertation was about the IDF and I even appealed since the grading and feedback made no sense.

I received little help in the matter and actually was even questioned as to whether I have evidence for not attending my graduation ceremony during the appeal process.

I moved back to Israel two months after finishing my studies at Bristol to work on a book after speaking to the historian Martin Gilbert. Today I am an entrepreneur in Tel Aviv with artists and customers from around the world including Palestinians and Israelis.

When I read the news and hear David Miller, I feel saddened. In this video, specifically 5:45, when David says there is not a serious problem of antisemitism in the UK, he is being anti-semitic. By denying it, he is expressing to his audience and followers information that is incorrect. “After the 2019 figures from the Community Security Trust (CST) revealed a record high of 1,805 antisemitic incidents in the UK for the year.” Written by Martin Armstrong in February 2021.

In minute 6:30, Miller explicitly connects between Judaism and Zionism. They are two separate identities. I find it ironic that I need to explain to a sociologist the difference and even more ironic after re-reading my dissertation which is actually diving into the difference.

I actually quote David Miller’s book On Nationality in my dissertation multiple times. Miller argues that even though “every nation must have a homeland, it is by no means that every member should have been born there” and immigrants need to prove to their new society that they are “made of the right stuff” (1975: 26).

I am not proud of all the government’s actions in Israel and await a new leader. I dream of peace. Yet, to quote Miller, I am proud of being “made of the right stuff.” Standing up for my identity, when it is needed. I feel appalled to think I possibly received a lower grade than deserved for a very objectively written dissertation.

11 years later I  stand by those that request for David Miller to be removed from the staff of Bristol University.

Currently, a not-so-proud alumni member of Bristol University, yet grateful that you read these words and also grateful for the friends I made in my time there.

Looking forward to your response and thank you!

Sharonna

While I have not heard back from the University yet, I am optimistic there will be a reply. In the meantime, may the words push the fight towards a brighter light.

About the Author
Sharonna is a dreamer and co-creator. She is the founder of Dreame; a global collective of artists turning the imagination into art. Dreamers are invited to send a memory, story, vision, dream or imaginative thought on dreame.me. The words are then turned into customised artworks; printed on yoga mats, framed prints and phone cases. Dreame also created The Big Dream; large art installations puzzled out of yoga mats in Kikar Rabin and Gai Bin Hinom in Jerusalem so far envisioning the future. She is the co-founder of Rega Salon; a jazz, art and vegetarian pop up space on Shenkin 57. Sharonna is an advocate of disconnecting, diving into our subconscious and dreaming every day.
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