Employment Tribunal Sanctions Anti-Semitism

Lesley Klaff

Having just finished reading the lengthy judgment in the case of Ronnie Fraser v The University and College Union, I want to comment briefly on the Employment Tribunal’s response to the allegation of anti-Semitism in the UCU; and to the claim that Israel is a non-contingent aspect of Jewish identity.

Anti-Semitism was the crux of Fraser’s case. His complaint against the UCU was that the union had created a hostile environment for him as a Jewish member (‘Jewish’ being a “protected characteristic” under s. 26 Equality Act 2010) by engaging in unwanted anti-Semitic conduct. He complained that the unwanted anti-Semitic conduct, which included not only speech but also acts and omissions, was due to a prevailing culture and attitude in the union that was informed by contemporary anti-Semitism.   His written complaint, drafted by Anthony Julius who is renowned for his scholarly knowledge and innate understanding of anti-Semitism, went to great lengths to explain how and why forms of hostility to Israel and Zionism amount to contemporary anti-Semitism. The written complaint also explained that there have always been anti-Semitic Jews, as well as Jews who are ready to make common cause with anti-Semites, so that Jewish support for irrational hostility to Israel does not make it any the less anti-Semitic.



President Harry S. Truman, a history buff, said: “The only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.” As a professional historian, I confess to an occupational affliction, which might be called “the obsession with origins,” that is a more sophisticated version of Truman’s  aphorism. This causes me, like many of my professional  confreres, to believe instinctively that past is key to present, and the essence of a thing resides in its origins. Sometimes, this instinct is right—sometimes not.

Allow me to speculate first about the remote origins of the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) Movement, critiqued in my Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) Against Israel: An Anti-Semitic, Anti-Peace Poison Pill (link: www.wiesenthal.com/atf/cf/%7B54d385e6-f1b9-4e9f-8e94-890c3e6dd277%7D/REPORT_313.PDF).

BDS was officially launched only on July 9, 2005, with “the Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS” in which over 100 named Palestinian organizations declared that “fifty-seven years after the state of Israel was built mainly on land ethnically cleansed of its Palestinian owners,” they were launching a movement “inspired by the struggles of South Africans against Apartheid.”

Obviously, as we shall see, the movement gestated before 2005. Yet it can be argued that its roots go back, not only to the early twenty-first century,  but to before the modern era.


The Brandeis Center’s New Litigation Initiative

With the expansion of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, we have begun a new litigation initiative that focuses on the resurgence of anti-Semitism on universities across the nation.  Specifically, we will work with faculty and students to investigate incidents, work with administration on procedures and protocols, and file legal complaints when necessary.  Our goal is change the culture on campuses so that anti-Semitism is taken as seriously as other forms of hate and discrimination while also maintaining academic freedom and freedom of speech.




Voltaire said: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” A difficult standard not always lived up to by Voltaire—who often used invective (including anti-Semitic invective) to try to silence his own critics.

In researching and writing the Wiesenthal Center’s new critique of the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) Movement—Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) Against Israel: An Anti-Semitic, Anti-Peace Poison Pill (link: http://www.wiesenthal.com/atf/cf/%7B54d385e6-f1b9-4e9f-8e94-890c3e6dd277%7D/REPORT_313.PDF)—I was struck, again as I have been in the past, by an unfortunate paradox. In the United States—with the freest of free speech charters—political debate is poorer and more constrained than it is, for example, in the UK without a First Amendment. I won’t defend my argument here other than to point to the contrast in quality between televised coverage of the debates on the floor of the U.S. Congress with those in the House of Commons.


UCU cleared of harassment in landmark tribunal

An Employment Tribunal has found in favour of UCU on all ten complaints of harassment brought by a UCU member who opposed the union’s policy on Palestine.

The claimant had been supported in his claim by leading lawyer Anthony Julius. In giving their reasoning the Tribunal stated that ‘the proceedings are dismissed in their totality’ and ‘we greatly regret that the case was ever brought.  At heart it represents an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means.’


Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Mehmet Sahin

As the first night of Passover approaches, we are delighted that Rabbi Abraham Cooper has joined guest blogger Harold Brackman in appealing for solidarity with Mehmet Sahin, a young Muslim man who is now in hiding over death threats because he has take a stand against anti-Semitism.  Rabbi Cooper, who serves as Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and who has been described as one of the most influential rabbis in America, joins this Blog for the first time in making this joint appeal.  We are inspired by Mr. Sahin’s courage and thank Rabbi Cooper and Dr. Brackman for their important insights, which we are confident will be remembered and discussed at many seder tables tonight.   (More about Rabbi Cooper appears after the “jump”).


The Shame of the Netherlands: A Young Muslim Must Go Into Hiding for Fighting Anti-Semitism

Post by Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Harold Brackman:

Passover. This week, Jews will eat more matzo then we ever thought possible, hear more commentary about the Haggadah and its multiple messages for our time, and sit back in awe and (hopefully) love at the site at of our extended family circle.

But this Pesach, let’s all of us leave some space for one young Muslim who deserves the world’s attention and support. He is not a martyr and desperately wants to avoid becoming one. But as of now, he and his family are in hiding in an undisclosed location in the Netherlands, because of death threats.

His name is Mehmet Sahin, a doctoral student, who has volunteered to reach out to street youth in the city of Arnhem. A few weeks ago he interviewed a group of Dutch-Turkish youth on Nederlands TV2 (link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_h5s1yjsTI) during which several declared their unabashed hatred of Jews and open admiration of Hitler. “What Hitler did to the Jews is fine with me,” said one. “Hitler should have killed all the Jews,” said another.


Legal Scholar Lesley Klaff to Join Brandeis Blog

We’re delighted to welcome English legal scholar Lesley Klaff to the Louis D. Brandeis Center Blog.  Klaff, who is also a member of the Louis D. Brandeis Center’s Legal Advisory Board, will give an international perspective to the Blog, which thus far has featured bloggers from the United States and Canada.  Klaff’s expertise ranges from legal…


Historian Harold Brackman to Guest Blog on BDS and Other Topics

On Thursday, I blogged very briefly about the Simon Wiesenthal’s interesting new report on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.  SWC’s report really deserves more attention, so I am pleased to announce that its author, Dr. Harold Brackman, has agreed to join us as a guest blogger over the next couple of weeks.  Dr. Brackman will blog on the SWC report, the BDS movement, and other topics that I am sure that our readers will find informative and interesting.


Where Was The President When He Was Supposedly In Israel?

    Alyza D. Lewin photo by Rikki Lewin                                 Menachem Zivotofsky - November 7, 2011

What a week it has been for Jerusalem. The President of the United States arrived, transformed the King David Hotel into his (and his entourage’s) home away from home, and then began a series of meetings and visits – to the official residences of President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, to the Israel Museum and the Shrine of the Book, to the Jerusalem Convention Center, to Mount Herzl, Yad Vashem, and to the grave of former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin.  All of these sites are in Jerusalem.  But are they in Israel?

According to the U.S. State Department they are not.  The State Department refuses to recognize Jerusalem as being in Israel and says that the city’s status must be determined in future peace negotiations.

My father, Nathan Lewin, and I were in court this week – the day before President Obama arrived in the Middle East – on a case that concerns this very issue.  The case is Zivotofsky v. Secretary of State, and it involves the right of a Jerusalem-born American citizen to self-identify as born in “Israel” on his or her U.S. passport and birth certificate.


If you can’t Recognize Hate Speech, the sunlight can’t penetrate

This week the Online Hate Prevention Institute (OHPI), an Australian Charity which I have the privilege of leading as its CEO, released my major new report into Hate Speech on Facebook. OHPI seeks to facilitate a change in online culture so that hate in all its forms becomes as socially unacceptable online as it is in “real life”. This post provides an over view of OHPI’s new report and its real impact, which extends far beyond exposing specific examples of hateful content.


Simon Wiesenthal Center Issues New BDS Report

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has just issued a new report on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, authored by Dr. Harold Brackman, “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Against Israel: An Anti-Semitic, Anti-Peace Poison Pill.”  The beautifully produced report argues that the “essence” of the BDS movement can be understood in terms of Natan Sharansky’s famous “three…


Autonomous Histories

The Kantor Center at Tel Aviv University is circulating a very interesting Call for Papers on “Autonomous Histories and Studies of the Holocaust,” which the Center is co-convening with four other institutions.  (LDB Advisor Dina Porat heads the Kantor Center.)  The impetus for the conference is the perception that Holocaust studies have developed within two separate silos: in one, historians study the perpetrators to discern their motives, while in the other, researchers develop “autonomous histories” of the persecuted (Jewish) communities.  The conveners ask what can be learned about the conflict, interplay, and meeting points between these two separate scholarly inquiries.  This is a fascinating question which is also more broadly applicable to a basic question of anti-Semitism scholarship, to wit: to what extent should anti-Semitism be considered exclusively a Jewish problem, exclusively a gentile problem, or a problem which requires that we consider the evolution of both Jewish and gentile communities?  The Call for Papers follows the jump.


About Danit

As a young Jewish professional, activism has shaped much of my life.  I grew up in a traditional household where the civil rights of the Jewish people were a priority.  Events shaping Israel and the American Jewish community were a constant topic of conversation at the dinner table.  I also started to show a real interest in the legal field, such as completing an internship with the Nassau County Attorney’s Office.


Welcome New Bloggers

The Louis D. Brandeis Center Blog welcomes two guest bloggers and two new regular bloggers this week: Alyza Lewin, Andre Oboler, Richard Cravatts, and Danit Sibovits.  All four reflect the Brandeis Center’s commitment to combatting global and campus anti-Semitism, while protecting free speech and academic freedom, and promoting justice for all people.


The Apartheid Slur: An Intellectual Affront and Obstacle to Peace

Spring is here. And just as it portends the melting of snow and the budding of flowers, on campuses worldwide for the last few years spring has also brought a flurry of absurd anti-Israel activities inaccurately comparing Israel to the old South Africa with its reprehensible racist apartheid regime. We need to fight this modern blood libel passionately and intelligently, what Daniel Patrick Moynihan called this “Big Red Lie,” noting its Soviet and Palestinian origins as a propaganda play in the United Nations, not a serious intellectual analysis on universities. 


The Evil Overlap: Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism

In my first Blog post, I described Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s heroic fight against the UN’s infamous Zionism is racism resolution in 1975 – and how Americans responded, joining a chorus of righteous indignation. This post, with material directly excerpted from Moynihan’s Moment: America’s Fight Against Zionism as Racism, published by Oxford University Press, 2013, all rights reserved, explains the evil overlap between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. 


Deadline Approaches for ISCA Call for Papers

Reminder for Anti-Semitism Scholars:  This Friday is the deadline for response to the Call for Papers for Prof. Alvin Rosenfeld‘s 2014 international conference on “Deciphering the ‘New’ Antisemitism” at Indiana University.  Rosenfeld serves on the Louis D. Brandeis Center‘s academic advisory board as well as heading IU’s Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism (ISCA’s).  ISCA’s first two conferences were first-class scholarly events, so we strongly recommend that serious anti-Semitism scholars, regardless of discipline, consider submitting a proposal to Prof. Rosenfeld by the end of the week.  The official Call for Papers follows below (read more).


Moynihan’s Moment: An All American Hero Fighting Anti-Semitism

Whoever you are, wherever you stand politically, we are all affected by living in an age when Israel is traumatized – and anyone who is Jewish or cares about the Jewish state is traumatized, to one extent or another. You can see this trauma in the defensiveness of Israel’s defenders and the viciousness of Israel’s detractors. And we are now seeing a dangerous escalation. Bad enough that, back in the 1970s, it became politically acceptable to call Zionism racism. Today, we have a Turkish premier calling Zionism a crime against humanity.  Bad enough that, even in the 1990s, as the Israelis and Palestinians were negotiating through the Oslo framework, whatever its flaws, many progressives and intellectuals were questioning Israel’s right to exist. Today, mainstream publications like the New York Times casually runs blog posts, like the recent one from Joseph Levine, saying Israel as a Jewish State lacks legitimacy.