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7 Fraser versus the University College Union: A Personal Reflection Ronnie Fraser Britain’s teachers’ trade unions have long been openly hostile to Israel and were among the first Western academic organizations to embrace BDS. The University College Union (UCU), in particular, opened the floodgates of bigotry when it officially (and nastily) rejected the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) “Working Definition of Antisemitism” (which recognized some forms of anti-Israelism to be antisemitic). Ronnie Fraser had had quite enough of the anti-Israel and antisemitic harassment pervading the union and bravely turned to the courts, accepting the pro bono representation of famed solicitor Anthony Julius (who had defended Deborah Lipstadt in the widely publicized David Irving libel trial). Fraser narrates the experiences that propelled him to take on his union and the deeply flawed judicial process that ultimately gave the stamp of legal approval to British antisemitism. Demonstrating the scope of antisemitic corrosion in Britain’s academy and broader culture, he closes by relating the Far Left anti-Israel atmosphere in the unions to the antisemitism scandal that rocked Britain’s Labour Party in early 2016. The international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel has probably found more support in Britain than in any other Western democratic society. Since 2002, British activists have been part of the international BDS campaign by initiating calls for academic, trade union, media, medical, architectural, and cultural boycotts of Israel. Britain’s trade union movement works closely with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and is a key member of their British BDS campaign. Unions that are affiliated with and fund the PSC include Unite, Unison, the GMB, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), the National Union of Teachers (NUT), and the lecturers’ union, the UCU. The UCU’s support for the Palestinian cause can be traced back to the 1980s but only really took off during the Second Intifada, when British academics first called for an academic boycott of Israel.1 I was a lecturer at Barnet College at 106 | Ronnie Fraser the time and a member of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE), one of Britain’s two trade unions for academics. The Board of Deputies of British Jews, of which I was a member, asked me to find out more about my union’s support for the academic boycott of Israel. I soon discovered that the anti-Zionists within the union faced no organized opposition. I decided to stand up for Israel and formed the Academic Friends of Israel, the aim of which was to campaign against the academic boycott and antisemitism on campus. My efforts culminated a decade later in my taking legal action for unlawful harassment against the UCU. In late May 2011, the UCU Congress met to debate the proposal to disassociate the union from the EUMC “Working Definition of Antisemitism.”2 I was in hostile territory. Throughout my two days at this congress, only one person, a UCU staff member, approached me to initiate a conversation. When I did speak to other delegates, the majority of our conversations were short and unfriendly. This led me to wonder if they had been instructed not to talk to me, the Zionist Jew. At previous congresses, people had spoken to me, although my speeches were always delivered to a silent audience. I never really understood why this was so but now believe this is a form of blanking by the audience, who were not interested in the views of the only pro-Israel Jew and wanted to return to the anti-Israel fest as quickly as possible. This silent treatment even continued in the hotel where we were staying. When my wife and I sat down for breakfast on both days, we noticed that fellow delegates moved away from us. When it was time for the debate on the antisemitism motion, I sat at the front of the hall directly facing the speakers, waiting for my turn to speak. I remember sitting there listening to what was being said, shaking my head in disbelief at what I was hearing, and feeling physically sick. Eventually, it was my turn to speak, and I made this passionate speech: I, a Jewish member of this union, am telling you that I feel an antisemitic mood in this union and even in this room. I would feel your refusal to engage with the EUMC definition of antisemitism, if you pass this...


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