Of late we have witnessed a new methodology used to suppress those who speak out against anti- Semitism in academia. Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a Hebrew lecturer at UC Santa Cruz, and Ronnie Fraser, a lecturer in mathematics in London, have respectively taken on their schools and unions with regard to how anti-Semitism has infected their organizations and caused an uncomfortable, even hostile, environment based on the politics of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
In Fraser’s case, he took on Britain’s University and College Union (UCU), claiming that the union had created a hostile environment for him as a Jewish member by engaging in anti-Semitic conduct. He argued that the behavior of the UCU, which included not only speech but also acts and omissions, was due to a prevailing culture and attitude in the union which was fed by contemporary anti-Semitism. Fraser lost the case, and the judgment revealed troubling issues about how some view those who try to identify, and expose, anti-Semitism as it currently exists in institutions of higher education.
The tribunal in the Fraser case not only found against the math instructor, but seemed to suggest in its ruling that Fraser got what he deserved, that he knew, or should have known. As the tribunal put it, that Fraser “is a Campaigner.
He chooses to engage in the politics of the union in support of Israel and in opposition to activists for the Palestinian cause… ,” and “a political activist accepts the risk of being offended or hurt on occasions by things said and done by his opponents….”
But this disingenuous decision is based on the defective view that an educational union should be acting in the first place as a political advocacy organization for the Palestinian cause; that it is appropriate that it obsessively and with vitriol attacks any union members who support Israel and accuse them of being racists, and that when a Jewish union member then feels that his Jewishness and personal morality are being attacked because he does not share the general anti-Israel sentiments shared by the UCU membership, he is merely “engaging in a political debate that is bound to excite strong emotions.”
The reality is that by the standards of the EUMC working definition of anti-Semitism (a definition this union, tellingly, had previously decided to reject completely), the union’s actions often times could be construed as slipping from mere advocacy of the Palestinian cause to what could certainly sound like, and, to a Jewish person, feel like, anti-Semitism.
Whether or not the union feels it is being anti-Semitic is not relevant; anti-Semites rarely admit to their behavior.
And the tribunal also weakened the ability of the victim here by asserting that attachment to Israel itself was not intrinsic to Jewishness, and that even if the union had chronically slandered, libeled and attacked Zionism and Israel, Fraser’s Jewishness was not, and should not, be an element in that debate. In other words, the fact that he was Jewish was only incidental …read more