The Anti-Semitism of the UCU

Almost two years ago I reported about the British University and College Union (the UCU) rejecting the EUMC working definition of antisemitism in favour of their own distorted version. In that post I quoted Ronnie Fraser, a member of the UCU, who protested against the motion to reject the EUMC definition and complained of an anti-Semitic atmosphere inimical to Jewish members in the UCU.

The time that has passed since that shameful day has not improved matters within the UCU.  My occasional Guest Post writer and commenter Brian Goldfarb updated me last week (via The Elder of Ziyon) about an article by Ben Cohen in Commentary Magazine which reported that a UK Employment Tribunal has dismissed Ronnie Fraser’s appeal against the UCU for discrimination against him (and other Jewish members) by virtue of their repeated passing of boycott motions and their dropping of the European Union Draft Definition on Antisemitism.

As Brian writes:

According to the Commentary report, “several passages in the verdict argued that the UCU’s officers were not themselves responsible for the specific instances of anti-Semitism Fraser’s complaints highlighted, while another lazily bemoaned the “gargantuan scale” of the case, asserting that it was wrong of Julius and Fraser to abuse the “limited resources” of the “hard-pressed public service” that is a British employment tribunal.” Re the first part of that sentence, it is almost impossible to ignore the comment from Tom Hickey, made in the June 2007 edition of the online British Medical Journal, “In the case of Israel, we are speaking about a society whose dominant self image is one of a bastion of civilisation in a sea of medieval reaction. And we are speaking of a culture, both in Israel and in the long history of the Jewish diaspora, in which education and scholarship are held in high regard. That is why an academic boycott might have a desirable political effect in Israel, an effect that might not be expected elsewhere.”

Tom Hickey was and is a member of UCU’s Executive Committee, and if this doesn’t at least verge on the antisemitic, to say nothing of racism (no-one other the Jews cares for their children’s education), then it’s difficult to see what does. The second bespeaks an impatience with detail and close argument. Even without looking further (and I will, in a moment), this raises a question as to whether this might in itself be sufficient grounds for an appeal to the High Court, given that it could only be on a point of law: that the law had been interpreted wrongly. Failure to adequately consider the law may well be a point of law in itself.

Looking further, certain events in the UCU (repeated boycott resolutions, inviting Bongo Masuku of COSATU, adjudged to have made antisemitic comments in South Africa) “convinced both Fraser and his lawyer, the prominent scholar of anti-Semitism Anthony Julius, that the union had become institutionally anti-Semitic and was therefore in violation of British laws protecting religious and ethnic minorities.” The judgement would also appear to deny any possibility for whatever the trade union equivalent of corporate responsibility is. This is ‘interesting’ (i.e., odd), given that, while their lawyers constantly tell them that they cannot act on any boycott motion that Annual Conference passes, members of the National Executive equally constantly present these Resolutions and speak in favour of them.

And we haven’t yet come to the fact that the self-same Executive Committee members who “were not themselves responsible for the specific instances of anti-Semitism” cited in the case papers nevertheless were the ones who dropped the UCU’s use of the European Union’s Working Definition of Antisemitism. Puts them in good company: the UK Green Party has done exactly the same. This all gets much worse and much more political (which is not exactly the job of a tribunal or court in a democracy under the rule of law) when:

The verdict also contained extraordinary personal attacks on the integrity of Fraser’s witnesses, among them Jewish communal leader Jeremy Newmark and Labor Party parliamentarian John Mann, and even insinuated that the plain-speaking Fraser was unwittingly being used as a vassal by the articulate and florid Julius!

John Mann is plain-speaking and exceedingly anti-racist Labour MP, one of the major members of the Parliamentary All-Party Committee on Antisemitism, which is exactly what it says: all-party.


Ultimately, though, highly partisan political considerations decided the outcome. After dismissing all 10 of Fraser’s complaints …the honorable judges then leveled some acutely politicized accusations of their own. Fraser and his supporters were accused of showing a “worrying disregard for pluralism, tolerance and freedom of expression.” Their broader conclusion, that it “would be very unfortunate if an exercise of this sort were ever repeated,” is clearly designed to discourage other potential plaintiffs from pursuing complaints against the UCU.

This gets worse. As the Commentary article goes on to say:

Most disturbing of all is paragraph 150 of the verdict, which will doubtless become shorthand for one of the most insidious attempts to redefine anti-Semitism ever devised. After accepting that British law does protect “Jewishness” as a characteristic of individuals, the judges went on to say that “a belief in the Zionist project or an attachment to Israel … cannot amount to a protected characteristic.”

This excerpt of the verdict should not be understood as protecting the rights of anti-Zionists to free speech. It is, rather, about protecting anti-Zionists from accusations of anti-Semitism by arguing that anti-Zionism is, by definition, not anti-Semitic.”


More fundamentally, the verdict denies Jews the right to determine those elements that comprise their identity and leaves the definition of what constitutes anti-Semitism to (often hostile) non-Jews

It’s the ‘by definition” part that is most worrying. We’ve been here before. Of course, it isn’t antisemitic by definition, but it may be antisemitic in practice, which the ruling appears designed to rule out of contention.

I urge you to read the whole article. I will leave you with one thought: given the various findings by the European Court of Human Rights (and please don’t confuse it with the UNHRC), it would be very interesting if the money could be found to take the case there. Especially given the political nature of the judgement and the apparent lack of a willingness to examine the evidence presented.

I thank Brian for his cogent analysis of the case and the Commentary Article.

For more reports on this tribunal, see the Jerusalem Post and the Jewish Chronicle.  In addition, several other blogs have picked up on this story, notably CiFWatch, Engage (see below) and Harry’s Place.

David Hirsh at Engage (h/t CiFWatch) wrote an excellent piece about the UCU tribunal. Here are a few highlights but read it all:

The Tribunal found against Fraser on everything: on technicalities, on legal argument, and on every significant issue of substance and of fact.  The Tribunal found everything the UCU said in its defence to be persuasive and it found nothing said by Fraser or any of his witnesses to be of any value.  The culture, the practices and the norms inside the union were found to be not antisemitic, either in intent or in effect.  Indeed, everything that Fraser and his witnesses experienced as antisemitic, the Tribunal judged to have been entirely appropriate.  In particular what was appropriate was the way that union staff, rules, structures and bodies operated.  Fraser said that there was a culture in which antisemitism was tolerated but the Tribunal did not accept that even one out of the very many stories that it was told was an indicator of antisemitism.

Instead the Tribunal found that “at heart” the case represented “an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means… ”


Fraser said that the key mode of intimidation in the UCU was a constant allegation of bad faith – the allegation that Jews who say they feel antisemitism are actually lying for Israel.  The Tribunal replied that the Jews who say they feel antisemitism are actually lying for Israel – they are dressing up a political end as a problem of racist exclusion.  In other words, the Tribunal answers that the accusation of bad faith made against Jews who say that they experienced antisemitism is appropriate.  The Tribunal employed The Livingstone Formulation.


It is unimaginable that a tribunal today would say the same thing to a woman who complained of sexual harassment at work after she chose to wear a tight skirt to the office; or after she had chosen to campaign in favour of women’s rights.  But this is what the Tribunal said to a Jew.


Whatever it is that Ronnie Fraser suffered within the union, he has now suffered doubly in the Tribunal.  That which he experienced as antisemitic was not only judged by the union, but now also by the Tribunal, to be not antisemitic; further, it was also judged to be entirely appropriate.

The anti-Semitism that was displayed by the UCU which was the basis of Fraser’s complaint is only exacerbated by the disgusting attack on Fraser’s character and that of his witnesses. It is quite literally sickening. If this is the future of British academia, then how can anyone see any place for Jews in British academic institutions in the future?

Another Engage article cynically asks “Who gets to judge what is Anti-Semitism“, slamming those boycott-supporting UCU members for their hypocrisy and anti-Semitism.

Adam Levick at CiFWatch wrote a very moving article in support of Ronnie Fraser (also published in the Algemeiner) on CiFWatch in which he made some very salient points:

Ronnie Fraser may have lost one legal battle but, in boldly challenging those intoxicated by hatred towards the only Jewish homeland that ever was and ever will be, he hopefully will inspire others to continue the broader fight. 

The economic, social, academic and political exclusion of millions of Jews from the international community, in the form of boycotts or other such codified restrictions, has a dark and dangerous history, and is anathema to progressivism and equality even broadly understood.  

Further, questioning the Jewish state’s right to live, whether such a rejection of Jewish self-determination is couched as a “one-state solution” or by other such euphemisms, represents an assault on Jews’ political rights, an ominous threat to their physical safety, and should be seen by genuine anti-racists as morally beyond the pale.

Jews in the UK and elsewhere need to see in Fraser’s refusal to bow down, in the face of a reactionary assault by the British elite against fundamental Jewish rights, the broader truth that equality for Jewish minorities which is contingent upon passing a political litmus test – implicitly requiring that they morally distance themselves from fellow Jews in the only state with a Jewish majority – is not ‘equality’ at all.


It is a fool’s errand to civilly debate with those who advocate for the erosion of Jews’ inalienable right to equality.  So, let Ronnie Fraser remind Jews around the world that they must reject the political urge to “get along to go along”, that they will never truly be free until all Jews are truly free, and, most urgently, on the necessity of understanding the historical and moral imperative that there are some things in life worth fighting for.

I stand in admiration of Ronnie Fraser at his determination and courage in facing up to the dispiriting, ominous and career-threatening anti-Semitism that pervades British academic unions today. He should be a shining example to us all.  And Brian Goldfarb’s suggestion above about taking the UCU to the European Court of Human Rights should be investigated and pursued as far as possible. These anti-Semites must not be allowed to get away with their bigotry.

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10 Responses to The Anti-Semitism of the UCU

  1. As there is little to explain why so many Jews are “liberals,” there is little to explain why so many are anti-Semitic. It is enough that Jews in a multicultural environment can always expect to be “defined” as at best “tolerable” and at worst “expendable.” To expect Jews to be “allowed” in the midst of universal hatred is as naïve as to expect Palestinians to accept the legitimate state of Israel. It is long overdue that we Jews recognize we have only limited acceptance in multicultural societies – and although we have Israel, it is and always shall be in danger of extermination. We need another sanctuary less threatened but as welcoming of Jews as is Israel. There are over 1.5 million Jews in Europe threatened with anti-Semitic dangers. They are only more fearful of leaving for Israel than they are of remaining. We need to given them another option before it’s too late

    • anneinpt says:

      Elliot, when you say:

      As there is little to explain why so many Jews are “liberals,” there is little to explain why so many are anti-Semitic.

      I presume you mean to say “why so many people are anti-Semitic” and not “why so many Jews are anti-Semitic”. My post certainly doesn’t deal with anti-Semitic Jews (of which there are sadly plenty).

      I agree with your conclusion that Jews will only ever be at best “tolerated” in the long run. However I disagree that another safe haven for Jews besides Israel is needed. If another Jewish country is created somewhere else in the world, by all logic won’t it be as threatened as Israel itself? Why should non-Jews tolerate another Jewish interloper state in their midst? It would become yet another endangered Jewish center which Israel would probably have to come to its rescue.

      Moreover, if more (if not all) of those threatened and beleaguered Jews would come to live in Israel, together with more of those armchair Zionists around the world who love Israel from afar, then Israel would become stronger and even mroe able to withstand the attacks against it.

      Of course I understand that not all Jews can make aliya, and there is a lot to be said for a strong Diaspora to support Israel from without, but Israel needs more aliya from strong Western countries, from people who come to Israel out of positive feelings of Jewish identity and Zionism, and not just as refugees fleeing trouble.

      • Elliott E Alhadeff says:

        Anneimpt –

        I realized the oversight only after posting the ambiguity of my remark. Of course, I meant others than Jews when I referred to inexpilcable anti-Semitism.

        Israel, so long as it remains in the midst of religiously motivated savages, bent on the destruction of Jewish/western culture practitioners, will be existentially vulnerable – from either organized or asymmetric ABC attack. Nevertheless, I do not advocate the substitution of Israel for an alternative. Instead, I suggest a more inviolate alternative – e.g., a Caribbean or group of Caribbean or other islands, preferrably along the cruise line routes, where their presence is not as radically opposed and were border enforcement against existential threats is far easier and much more effective. Given this alternative, I believe isolated Jews, whether threatened by existing anti-Semetic bigots or seeking a better choice than between the dangerous and less dangerous, would be greatly attracted to this “New Israel” if known to be administered and supportive of Jewish investment and inhabitants.

  2. TerryDD says:

    Annie, forgive me if I sound confused. I read Mr. Hickey’s first two sentences “‘In the case of Israel, we are speaking about a society whose dominant self image is one of a bastion of civilisation in a sea of medieval reaction. And we are speaking of a culture, both in Israel and in the long history of the Jewish diaspora, in which education and scholarship are held in high regard. ‘ to be exceptionally accurate. That is not to say the Islamic world has not presented the world with immeasurably beneficial concepts (e.g.; the number ‘0’ and ‘Arabic Numerals’). But where Jewish culture thrives upon superior education and scholarship, the Arab/Islamist world appears quite the opposite (e.g.; an illiterate woman running for Pakastani elective office).

    However, my confusion centers around the essential concept of ‘Semitic Peoples’. As both Jew and Muslim share the same father (Abram), both would, to my confused state, both be ‘Semitic’. Thus, wouldn’t anti-Semitism apply to both peoples? Please help me understand.

  3. Brian Goldfarb says:

    Terry, allow me to get in first.

    First, Hickey (as I thought I’d made clear) first makes a comment on Israeli Jews having a deep concern over their children’s education. If he had stopped there, this would have been acceptable, if a little suspect. Suspect, because of the implication that Israeli-Arabs didn’t care about their children’s education. However, he then goes on the add “…and in the long history of the Diaspora…”, thus eliding Israeli Jews and all Jews, world-wide. Whether he realised it or not (and he has never revisited this), this is an antisemitic trope: only Jews, world-wide care about their children’s education. Given that he wished (wishes) to boycott only Israeli universities, why include Jews all over the world?

    Further, this is also a racist trope: only Jews care about their kids education. Not African-American (let alone other, hyphenated, but European origin Americans), not African, Asian…parents care about their offspring’s education.

    Should you need a detailed reference, one can be supplied, but Tom Hickey, British medical Journal, June 2007, should bring it up. Won’t take long.

    More serious and worrying is this canard about the meaning of “antisemitic”. The overwhelming majority of scholars using the term “semitic” are clearly and obviously referring to a group of languages that are used and originated in the Middle East: Hebrew, Arabic, Amharic, Aramaic, and, I’m sure, others. The term “anti-semitic” (now written without the hyphen) was invented by one Wilhelm Marr, a viciously anti-Jewish German, to apply specifically and only to Jews. Anyone who proposes this argument makes themselves suspect as to their motives, such is the universal acceptance as to which group of people the term “antisemitic” applies.

    There is, however, some dispute as to whether Marr was, in fact, the originator of the term. Google the term, and read the Wikipedia article that gets thrown up.

    It’s interesting to note that antisemites often use this argument to deflect criticism from their statements (actually assertions) about Jews and/or Israelis. And they’re not alone: it is increasingly common for many in the Middle East (Arabs, include Palestinians) to mount this very argument to avoid being labelled, accurately, as antisemites.

    • anneinpt says:

      Thanks for the detailed and informative reply Brian.

      Terry – I think you’ll find the answers to all your questions in Brian’s comment. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

    • TerryD says:


      THANK YOU for your most concise and informative explanation. I guess it’s these little nuancy things that help keep this Gentile confused about Jewish thought. It is the rampant antisemitism constantly demonstrated by our President, his Regime and the odd elected Professional Politician that makes me angry. Israel, as a nation, as a people as a culture have the same Right to Exist as anyone, indeed one could argue a ‘more equal than others’ Right given the history and hagiography. I’ve labored long and hard to remove the antisemitic beliefs of my parents and still held by my brothers and yet I find this evil concept continually growing in and amongst some whom I consider friends.

      I distinctly remember meeting my first true Israeli in Toulon, France. My ship was docked there for the Christmas/New Year period. An Israeli gunboat was moored close by. As I was walking past his boat, the young Israeli quite literally jumped off the deck, grabbed my hand and shook it hard (and long). I was the first American sailor he had met that did not look down my nose at his ship and the crew. Why would I do that? Even though it was cold and dreary outside, this young man’s fervor was warm and inviting. I received permission to partake of a meal with the crew (after, of course talking with the boat’s Captain and my Commanding Officer). This happened when I was a young, some say naive sailor and I retain the very fond memories of what true comradeship and the Brotherhood of the Sea means. I learned that, even though Gentile, I made a Jewish friend.

      • anneinpt says:

        Terry, thank you for your great comment and your lovely heart-warming story.

        • TerryD says:

          Annie, you are most welcome. I guess I should also say “Congratulations!” (or Mazal Tov) on the birth of your grandchildren. As a grandfather myself, I know the joy and the hope of the future that comes with each blessed grandbaby.

  4. Pingback: A closer look at the New Antisemitism (hint: it’s the same as the old) | Anne's Opinions

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