Apr 102013
 

Mondoweiss
Philip Weiss
Adam Horowitz

An important case in Britain, pointed out to me by Abdeen Jabara and Antony Loewenstein, who writes,

“Memo to British Zionists; being anti-Zionist [is] as human as oxygen: Witness the debacle within the British Zionist establishment, via Haaretz, and the increasingly desperate ways that so-called leaders there will do anything to defend Israeli policies without for a minute actually considering what the Jewish state has become; a brutish occupier.”

The case involves a suit brought against an academic union by an Israel-supporting professor who wanted the tribunal to condemn anti-Israel speech as anti-Semitism because, he claimed, an affinity to Israel was an intrinsic part of his and others’ Jewish identity.  Anshel Pfeffer in Haaretz says the ruling that such speech does not constitute anti-Semitism has produced “turmoil” in the ranks of British Jewry. I particularly like the bit at the end, where the judge told the plaintiff if he doesn’t want to get his feelings hurt, he should avoid political debate:

The case was to have been the culmination of 11 years of pro-Israel activism by [Ronnie] Fraser, a mathematics lecturer who had been fighting against what he saw as a virulently anti-Israel tide, with a distinct tinge of anti-Semitism, rising in the union to which he belongs.

Alongside him was Anthony Julius, one of the most prominent Jewish lawyers in Britain and a tireless opponent of anti-Semitism. Supporting the two were a cast of witnesses including Jewish and sympathetic non-Jewish activists, academics and politicians….

The lawsuit was backed both financially and in terms of considerable research resources by organizations linked to the central British Jewry leadership forums, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council.

But beyond the factual disputes in the case, the fundamental basis of the Fraser’s accusations was that Jews possess a strong feeling of affinity toward Israel that is an intrinsic part of their Jewish identity. Therefore, he claimed, when an organization to which they belong constantly attacks Israel in a manner they deem unfair, it constitutes a direct attack on their identity…
The defendants also had their own Jewish supporters. Fifty Jewish UCU [University and College Union] members signed an open letter praising their union and denying that there was any sort of institutional anti-Semitism within its ranks. Julius responded that it was simply a standard anti-Semitic ploy of dividing Jews into good-Jew/bad-Jew categories.
But the well-built and detailed case was shattered by the tribunal’s ruling. The panel, headed by Judge A.M. Snelson, accepted UCU’s version of all the events in question, and found that most of the claims were no longer valid in any case, due to a change in the laws.
Beyond that, it fundamentally disagreed with the central claim underpinning the complaints. The tribunal wrote in its judgment that “a belief in the Zionist project or an attachment to Israel or any similar sentiment cannot amount to a protected characteristic. It is not intrinsically a part of Jewishness.”
And while many Jews would agree with that ruling, the tribunal did not stop there. At the end of its 45-page ruling, it launched into an extraordinarily hostile invective against the very nature of the case brought before it. Though the panel was generally sympathetic to Fraser himself, it stated that as an activist “he must accept his fair share of minor injuries. … A political activist accepts the risk of being offended or hurt on occasions.”

In addition, Ben White reports the case may have been supported by the Israeli government:

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”.

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