A courtroom triumph for anti-Semitism tells of something rotten in Britain

I am not easily surprised by otherwise shocking news of anti-Semitism or anti-Zionism from the UK, where I lived for the first 29 years of my life. I was, for instance, disgusted but not astonished that a particular member of the House of Lords, Lord Nazir Ahmed, blamed his prison sentence on “Jewish friends who own newspapers and TV channels”. (So much more obvious a reason, of course, than the one given by the sentencing judge: that he had been texting on his phone while driving and had killed someone crossing the road.)

What I was not expecting however was that the British justice system would sanction this kind of bigotry.

Earlier this week, British academic Ronnie Fraser lost his case against his trade union, the University & College Union (UCU), for “institutional anti-Semitism”. His case was based on the long-standing opposition of the union to Israel and its litany of anti-Zionist resolutions over many years, continually singling out Israel for condemnation for example annually passing a resolution boycotting Israeli – and only Israeli – academics and universities. These activities, in the words of another British academic David Hirsh, who complained to the head of the union of institutional anti-Semitism: “normalized antisemitic rhetoric within the union and ways of thinking which treat Israelis as uniquely evil.”

A number of Jewish academics have resigned from the UCU citing harassment over their support for Israel, frequently being branded as “racists” by virtue of their affiliation with the Zionist cause.

It was against this background that the three judges of the Employment Tribunal hearing Fraser’s case, dismissed it, ruling that his complaints “are not well-founded”.

By far the most troubling part of the verdict was their judgment that “a belief in the Zionist project or an attachment to Israel cannot amount to a protected characteristic. It is not intrinsically a part of Jewishness…” Now, it is indeed the case that not all Jews are Zionists (although a 2010 survey of British Jews showed 72 percent defining themselves as such), but to claim that “an attachment to Israel” is not a characteristic of “Jewishness” betrays an appalling and profound ignorance – or something worse.

Tellingly – and disconcertingly – the ruling also seems to reject the definition of antisemitism adopted by the European Union’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, which includes the following:

“…examples of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel in taking into account the overall context could include: Denying their Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming  that the existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavour; applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation; …Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.”

It would seem clear after just a cursory examination of the details of the UCU’s policies that it is guilty of all of these examples.

It is true that this is a “working definition” and not something enshrined in EU or British law, but it has been adopted by many bodies in the UK, including the National Union of Students. It was, needless to say, formally rejected by the UCU in a resolution.

LAST month Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, in a public speech, termed Zionism “a crime against humanity” similar to fascism. And despite the rose-tinted classes through which some still see this leader of a western ally and NATO member, make no mistake, Erdogan is a political Islamist with the same anti-Semitic worldview as his ideological cousins in Hamas and Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood. It’s a philosophy which also informs much of the discourse on Israel in Britain, promoted by Islamist groups like the Muslim Association of Britain and then adopted by “useful idiot” left-wing organizations that think nothing of marching alongside racist, misogynistic, gay-hating religious fascists in the name of anti-Zionism. The University & Colleges Union is directly representative of this trend.

As for the judges responsible for dismissing Ronnie Fraser’s case, they could have educated themselves by listening to an even more recent speech by a world leader:

“For the Jewish people, the journey to the promise of the State of Israel wound through countless generations…. Through it all, the Jewish people sustained their unique identity and traditions, as well as a longing to return home. And while Jews achieved extraordinary success in many parts of the world, the dream of true freedom finally found its full expression in the Zionist idea — to be a free people in your homeland…”

President Obama eloquently expressed the essence and the justice of Zionism, speaking in Jerusalem where I’ve lived for the past five years. Meanwhile, in the country of my birth, Zionism remains vilified by some and misunderstood by many. The green light given this week to anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism by representatives of the British justice system reveals just how deep the rot has set in.

About the Author
Before moving to Israel from the UK, Paul worked at the Embassy of Israel to the UK in the Public Affairs department, and as the Ambassador's speechwriter. He has a Masters degree in Middle East Politics from the University of London. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem - though he writes this blog in a personal capacity. He has lectured to a variety of groups on Israeli history and politics and his articles have been published in a variety of media outlets in Israel, the UK, the US and Canada.