|Ben White on Liberal Conspiracy writes of the recent judgment by an employment tribunal in the case of Ronnie Fraser vs University and College Union (UCU).|
Fraser challenged UCU over its refusal to adopt a particular definition of anti-semitism and was claiming ‘unlawful harassment’, claims which were roundly dismissed by the employment tribunal.
The tribunal saw a roll call of witnesses for the plaintiff, Fraser, including a blogger from Harry’s Place, Booker Prize winner and Independent columnist, Howard Jacobson, as well as representatives from the Jewish Leadership Council and the Community Security Trust.
Chair of the APPG on anti-semitism, John Mann also appeared, as did former MP Denis MacShane. Of their testimony and the tribunal’s ruling, Jews Sans Frontieres observes, “I hope other MPs take note that false allegations of antisemitism don't fare so well in a forensic environment.”
A point of great significance in the ruling is the judgment that "a belief in the Zionist project or an attachment to Israel" is "not intrinsically a part of Jewishness" and therefore should not be conflated with claims of anti-semitic behaviour.
In a statement, UCU’s barrister, Anthony White QC, argued:
"The respondent [UCU] is a democratic organisation with a campaigning role. Internal debate on political issues of interest and concern to its members is central to the existence and functioning of the respondent.
"The fact that he [Fraser] (and others) disagreed with a number of motions which were passed by the respondent's congress, or with statements made by participants in the debates, or with certain opinions expressed by members of the respondent, does not mean that those motions or statements or expressions of opinion amount to harassment."
The tribunal in its ruling on the case stated:
“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.”
You can read the full judgment here.