FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How a London court Repudiated Zionist Abuse of the Anti-Semitism Charge

Taunting and tainting opponents with the charge of anti-semitism is a long-standing Zionist ploy, familiar to everyone involved in the Israel-Palestine issue. As their support weakens in the face of evidence-based argument, Israel’s advocates have stepped up their use of the accusation as a means to close down debate, particularly on proposals for boycott, divestment and sanctions.

A key component in their armoury is what’s been called “lawfare”: attempts to use the courts to stifle opponents. This strategy, which has been employed in the US, France and Britain, suffered a significant reverse at the end of March, when an Employment Tribunal in London comprehensively rejected a claim made by Ronnie Fraser, of Academics for Israel, against his union, the University and College Union.

Fraser and his celebrity lawyer, Anthony Julius, argued that debates and decisions on Israel-Palestine issues within UCU amounted to “harassment” against Fraser as a Jew. They made ten specific allegations to support this charge; every one of them was dismissed by the Tribunal as false or irrelevant.

Jonathan Freedland once lauded Julius’s musings on anti-semitism as “forensic”. But when subjected to a genuinely forensic examination at the hands of the Tribunal, they were shown to be anything but. In fact, the Tribunal’s point by point demolition of Julius’s arguments shows just why Zionists are so fearful of open, fact-based, rational discussion. (For a thorough examination of the Tribunal’s findings and the aftermath, see Mark Elf’s excellent blog, http://jewssansfrontieres.blogspot.co.uk.)

The judges had harsh words for a number of Fraser’s witnesses, particularly the chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, Jeremy Newmark, whose testimony as to his alleged treatment at a UCU meeting was labelled “false”. Two Labour MPs, John Mann and Denis Macshane (still in Parliament when the hearings were held last autumn), appeared for Fraser but did him no favours. They were criticised by the Tribunal for giving “glib evidence…Neither seemed at ease with the idea of being required to answer a question not to his liking.”if-i-am-not-for-myself-pbk-250

The Tribunal also found no evidence of the “atmosphere of intimidation” alleged by Fraser. UCU’s adherence to democratic procedures was fully exonerated. Unions in general should be relieved that the judges have found that they are not liable for psychological “damage” arising from debates among members.

Most significantly, on the core question of whether opposition to Israel or Zionism amounted to anti-semitism, the Tribunal reached a clear-cut, unimpeachable conclusion. “A belief in the Zionist project or an attachment to Israel or any similar sentiment cannot amount to a protected characteristic,” they declare, adding “It is not intrinsically a part of Jewishness.” It’s welcome to have this simple truth, so fiercely denied by Israel’s advocates, upheld as logical and lawful.

Julius had argued that although not all Jews were Zionists the great majority felt an affinity for Israel. The Tribunal found this argument unpersuasive; a political view cannot claim “protected” status simply because many members of a particular religion or “race” hold it. If that were to be the case, political debate would be shut down. The Tribunal was clearly aware of that danger, as their final words on the case indicate: “We greatly regret that the case was ever brought. At heart, it represents an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means… The Employment Tribunals are a hard-pressed public service and it is not right that their limited resources should be squandered as they have been.”

In the pro-Israel camp, the humiliating ruling has caused consternation. Some are now calling for what is known as “the European Union Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia’s ‘working definition’ of anti-Semitism” to be adopted in British law. According to this definition, opposition to Zionism, descriptions of Israel as an “apartheid” or “racist “ state, and calls for boycotts are all in themselves anti-semitic. It has never had any official status within the EU and has been quietly dropped by the EUMC’s successor body, the Fundamental Rights Agency. Clearly, it would endow Israel and supporters of Israel with a protected status enjoyed by no other state or political opinion. This from people who accuse their opponents of “singling out Israel”. Worryingly, a similar definition was adopted last year by the California state legislature, without a single vote against.

It apparently does not trouble the self-appointed protectors of the Jewish community that inscribing the “working definition” into law would make the British state the adjudicator on what does and does not constitute Jewishness. Historically, Jewish freedom and equality has been advanced as and when the state’s role in relation to religion opinion has been diminished. Here we see again how the Zionists’ abuse of the anti-semitism charge actually undermines the real struggle against anti-semitism.

There’s been no mention of the Tribunal ruling anywhere in the mainstream media. Of course, had the judges found the UCU guilty of “harassing” its Jewish members, the story would have been on every front page.

Mike Marqusee is the author of If I Am Not for Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew (Verso).

More articles by:
September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
Mairead Maguire
Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era
Dean Baker
The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessary
Wim Laven
Hurricane Trump, Season 2
Yves Engler
Smearing Dimitri Lascaris
Ron Jacobs
From ROTC to Revolution and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
The Cannibals of Horsepower
Binoy Kampmark
A Traditional Right: Jimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats
Laura Flanders
History Markers
Weekend Edition
September 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Obama’s Imperial Presidency
Joshua Frank
From CO2 to Methane, Trump’s Hurricane of Destruction
Jeffrey St. Clair
Maria’s Missing Dead
Andrew Levine
A Bulwark Against the Idiocy of Conservatives Like Brett Kavanaugh
T.J. Coles
Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Celebrity Salesman for the Military-Industrial-Complex
Jeff Ballinger
Nike and Colin Kaepernick: Fronting the Bigots’ Team
David Rosen
Why Stop at Roe? How “Settled Law” Can be Overturned
Gary Olson
Pope Francis and the Battle Over Cultural Terrain
Nick Pemberton
Donald The Victim: A Product of Post-9/11 America
Ramzy Baroud
The Veiled Danger of the ‘Dead’ Oslo Accords
Kevin Martin
U.S. Support for the Bombing of Yemen to Continue
Robert Fisk
A Murder in Aleppo
Robert Hunziker
The Elite World Order in Jitters
Ben Dangl
After 9/11: The Staggering Economic and Human Cost of the War on Terror
Charles Pierson
Invade The Hague! Bolton vs. the ICC
Robert Fantina
Trump and Palestine
Daniel Warner
Hubris on and Off the Court
John Kendall Hawkins
Boning Up on Eternal Recurrence, Kubrick-style: “2001,” Revisited
Haydar Khan
Set Theory of the Left
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail