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Major defeat in case claiming union was anti-semitic

Pro-Israel pressure groups in the UK have suffered a major defeat in efforts to repress Palestine solidarity activity within the trade unions, as an Employment Tribunal dismissed a high-profile case brought against the University and College Union (UCU).

Academic Friends of Israel director Ronnie Fraser, represented by leading lawyer Anthony Julius, claimed he suffered antisemitic harassment in the UCU, complaints judged by the tribunal to be “without substance” and “devoid of any merit”.

Fraser called dozens of witnesses, including MP John Mann, former MP Denis Macshane, the Jewish Leadership Council’s Jeremy Newmark, Harry’s Place blogger Sarah AB, and Michael Whine of the Community Security Trust (CST).

Newmark was found to have given partly “untrue” evidence, as well as making a “preposterous claim” while “playing to the gallery”. Both Mann and Macshane were deemed to have given “glib evidence, appearing supremely confident of the rightness of their positions”.

The tribunal’s conclusions were damning:

Lessons should be learned from this sorry saga. We greatly regret that the case was ever brought. At heart, it represents an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means. It would be very unfortunate if an exercise of this sort were ever repeated…

We are also troubled by the implications of the claim. Underlying it we sense a worrying disregard for pluralism, tolerance and freedom of expression.

While the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) welcomed the ruling and its implications for trade unionists wishing to pursue boycott campaigns, anti-boycott activist David Hirsh claimed the Employment Tribunal’s decision was itself anti-semitic.

Revealingly, Israel advocates had been hoping for a “huge victory“, and the likes of Martin Bright hailed Ronnie Fraser for “an act of considerable personal courage”. An editorial in The Jewish Chronicle called it “this decade’s version of the Irving trial“.

Was the Israeli government involved too? A senior official at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently revealed that, “over the last six months Israel has taken on two (court) cases in partnership with UK Jewry” in fighting Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS). This very likely includes Fraser’s case, yet Anthony Julius had previously denied any such links, saying that to assume the case was “being supported by the Israeli government” is a “fantasy”.

Last autumn, Jews for Justice for Palestinians called Fraser’s demands “bizarre and undemocratic”, and described the case as a “ludicrous, bullying and dictatorial attempt at shutting down debate”. They were right.

Published first by Liberal Conspiracy.

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