Following the defeat of Academic Friends of Israel Director Ronnie Fraser’s legal action against the University and College Union, responses from pro-Israel groups and activists have diverged in terms of attributing blame for this significant setback to Israeli government-backed lawfare.
Some have suggested that the case should never have been brought at all, while others have insisted that once Fraser and his lawyer Anthony Julius decided to bring the case, they had no choice but to back the effort.
Yet the most extraordinary reaction has come from a senior charity official, Director of Communications at the Community Security Trust Mark Gardner. Commenting on a public Facebook post by anti-boycott activist David Hirsh, Gardner responded to the title of Hirsh’s piece in The Jewish Chronicle (“Does the UCU harbour hate?”) thus:
“Harbinger of hate”? “Sneering bastards”? Incredible language from the public face of what is meant to be a well-respected anti-racism charity that enjoys close ties with British government for its work monitoring and tackling antisemitism.
It says a lot about where CST is coming from that a senior official would attack an Employment Tribunal judge in such a fashion — and that there will likely be no repercussions for doing so.
In contrast, read the thoughts on the case by Adam Wagner, a barrister specializing in human rights:
Of course, some criticism of Israel is linked to or motivated by anti-Semitism, but isn’t it time to stop using vast resources to paint legitimate debate as racial hatred? As well as failing miserably as an pro-Israel argument, this approach also risks fatally undermining work against real anti-Semitism. Aren’t we just a little bit ashamed for major communal leaders and organisations to have backed a claim showing a “disregard for pluralism, tolerance and freedom of expression”?
[This case] involved not just the looney fringe but central figures in the community, who have been branded exaggerators, manipulators and arrogant liars. More importantly, the ‘anti-Zionism equals racism’ argument is plainly bankrupt and has no purchase in wider society.