24 May 2013

Photographer Hit by Steel Bullets 4 Times at Silwan

Turning the other cheek?

This video was made yesterday by Tommy Donnellan. Tommy had only a camera in his hands and was deliberately targeted by the IDF, this is evident from the pictures,  and hit 4 times by steel bullets.  The bullets are euphemistically called "rubber bullets"  are in fact steel bullets with a paper thin coat of rubber.  

The damage to Tommys leg is clear from the video.  The very very brave soldiers, covered head to toe with bullet proof underclothing were firing these bullets at the stone throwing children.

Please circulate widely to demonstrate to people how democratic rights are implemented in the occupied territories.

18 May 2013

The Death of Shmuel Zyglebojm - Polish Jewry's Representative in London

70 Years Ago the Representative of Polish Jewry Committed Suicide in Protest at the world' indifference to the Holocaust as the Zionist Leaders Made the Creation of Israel the Priority

Shmuel Zyglebojm
Today the holocaust is on the lips of every reactionary buffoon.  European far-Right politicians pay homage to Yad Vashem by day and then join the Waffen SS ‘veterans’ by night.  But at the time the world Zionist leaders kept quiet.  No Madison Square demonstrations or pickets or Hollywood glitz.  Then all eyes were on building the Aryan (Zionist) state.

Shmuel Zygielbojm was one of 2 elected Jewish leaders in the Polish government-in-exile.  The other one, a Zionist, Ignacy Schwarzbart, who proved worse than useless and like his comrades said nothing publicly about the holocaust.  Quiet whispers in the Establishment’s ears about that which they already knew.

In the last Jewish Council seats in 1938 the Bund (anti-Zionist) obtained 17/20 seats.  The Zionists precisely one.  A pattern repeated all over Poland.  As the holocaust approached Zionism proved its uselessness in its belief that anti-Semitism couldn't be fought.  It was as a final gesture that this hero to Jewish people took his life as the Zionists sought  to keep silent and silence ot hers.
Tony Greenstein

Seventy years ago, as the Warsaw Ghetto was crushed, Szmul Zygielbojm suicide in London was not a futile gesture.

Posted: 17 May 2013 05:30 PM PDT
Cross-post from

Seventy years ago, the Warsaw Ghetto uprising was crushed. In London, Szmul Zygielbojm took his own life in protest. He was a Polish Jew, a socialist and the representative of the Bund (the Jewish workers’ party) in the Polish government in exile.

He left behind a letter in which he explained his action:

 “The latest news that has reached us from Poland makes it clear beyond any doubt that the Germans are now murdering the last remnants of the Jews in Poland with unbridled cruelty. Behind the walls of the ghetto the last act of this tragedy is now being played out.

The responsibility for the crime of the murder of the whole Jewish nationality in Poland rests first of all on those who are carrying it out, but indirectly it falls also upon the whole of humanity, on the peoples of the Allied nations and on their governments, who up to this day have not taken any real steps to halt this crime. By looking on passively upon this murder of defenceless millions – tortured children, women and men – they have become partners to the responsibility.

… I cannot continue to live and to be silent while the remnants of Polish Jewry, whose representative I am, are being murdered. My comrades in the Warsaw ghetto fell with arms in their hands in the last heroic battle. I was not permitted to fall like them, together with them, but I belong with them, in their mass grave.

By my death, I wish to make the strongest possible protest against the passivity with which the world is looking on and permitting the extermination of the Jewish people. I know how little life is worth today, but since I was unable to do anything during my life, perhaps by my death I shall help to break down the indifference of those who have the possibility even now, at the last moment, to save the handful of Polish Jews who are still alive from certain annihilation.

… My life belongs to the Jewish people of Poland, and therefore I hand it over to them now. I yearn that the remnant that has remained of the millions of Polish Jews may live to see liberation together with the Polish masses, and that it shall be permitted to breathe freely in Poland and in a world of freedom and socialistic justice, in compensation for the inhuman suffering and torture inflicted on them. And I believe that such a Poland will arise and such a world will come about…”
Shmuel Zygielbojm


George Jochnowitz May 11, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Laurel Leff, in her book BURIED BY THE TIMES, reports that the the full text of Zygielbojm’s letter appeared in a news story in the Times–on page seven.
Bob Cartwright May 12, 2011 at 12:15 am

Jan Karski had recently brought specific news of the holocaust to Britain and later America. He had met with the leader of the Bund in Warsaw, Leon Feiner. Feiner told Karski “Tell the Jewish leaders, that … they must find the strength and courage to make sacrifices no other statesmen have ever had to make, sacrifices as painful as the fate of my dying people, and as unique.”

Newspaper accounts based on Karski’s reports were published by The New York Times on November 25 and November 26 and The Times of London on December 7.

In December, Karski described the conditions in the ghetto to Zygielbojm. Zygielbojm asked whether Karski had any messages from the Jews in the ghetto. As Karski later wrote, he passed along Feiner’s message:

This is what they want from their leaders in the free countries of the world, this is what they told me to say: “Let them go to all the important English and American offices and agencies. Tell them not to leave until they obtain guarantees that a way has been decided upon to save the Jews. Let them accept no food or drink, let them die a slow death while the world is looking on. Let them die. This may shake the conscience of the world.”

Two weeks later, Zygielbojm spoke again on BBC Radio concerning the fate of the Jews of Poland. “It will actually be a shame to go on living,” he said, “if steps are not taken to halt the greatest crime in human history.”

On April 19, 1943, the Allied governments of the United Kingdom and the United States met in Bermuda, ostensibly to discuss the situation of the Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe. By coincidence, that same day the Nazis attempted to liquidate the remaining Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto and were met with unexpected resistance.

By the beginning of May, the futility of the Bermuda Conference had become apparent. Days later, Zygielbojm received word of the suppression of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the final liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto. Zygielbojm then killed himself as a protest against the indifference and inaction of the Allied governments in the face of the Holocaust.
Michael Kaminski MEP of Poland's Law & Justice Party - opposed any  apology by Poland for Jedwabne, when anti-Semitic Poles burnt alive some 600 Polish Jews.  Rudolph Vrba, the famous escapee from Auschwitz, whose  Protocols were covered up by the Zionists, called Israel a 'State of Judenrats) - quisling Jewish Councils
In his “suicide letter,” addressed to Polish president Władysław Raczkiewicz and prime minister Władysław Sikorski, Zygielbojm stated that while the Nazis were responsible for the murder of the Polish Jews, the Allies also were culpable:
The responsibility for the crime of the murder of the whole Jewish nationality in Poland rests first of all on those who are carrying it out, but indirectly it falls also upon the whole of humanity, on the peoples of the Allied nations and on their governments, who up to this day have not taken any real steps to halt this crime. By looking on passively upon this murder of defenseless millions tortured children, women and men they have become partners to the responsibility.

I am obliged to state that although the Polish Government contributed largely to the arousing of public opinion in the world, it still did not do enough. It did not do anything that was not routine, that might have been appropriate to the dimensions of the tragedy taking place in Poland….

I cannot continue to live and to be silent while the remnants of Polish Jewry, whose representative I am, are being murdered. My comrades in the Warsaw ghetto fell with arms in their hands in the last heroic battle. I was not permitted to fall like them, together with them, but I belong with them, to their mass grave.

By my death, I wish to give expression to my most profound protest against the inaction in which the world watches and permits the destruction of the Jewish people.
Zygielbojm’s suicide was a deeply reasoned and socially responsible act. But according to the values prevailing in our own society, it should be dismissed or even condemned as a “futile gesture”, a “pointless sacrifice” – and therefore something pathological, neurotic, “self-indulgent”. All my political life I have heard this said about any sacrifice made for a just cause. It was said in the 80s about the miners who tried and failed to save their communities, and about the councillors who stood up for local democracy against rate capping and got surcharged and chucked out of politics for their pains. It’s being said now about Palestinian hunger strikers. It has been the stock-in-trade of Third Way, post-social democratic politics, where to sacrifice one’s political career or “viability” by standing up against power and prejudice is viewed as a self-evidently self-defeating folly. Surely it is this ideology of self-serving “pragmatism” that ought to be dubbed “self-indulgent”? What’s truly pathological and neurotic is the “common sense” of egocentric individualism, the obsession with personal success and status, the desperation to conform to an inhuman, destructive social order.

Mike Marqusee (with amendments to letter)
May 2013

13 May 2013

Time to say Goodbye

As Anti-semitism in the Palestine Solidarity Movement has all but vanished the purpose of this blog has become redundant

Over the past 3 months, posts have become rare on this site.  Other commitments have compounded this problem.

When the Blog started in January 2008 Gilad Atzmon, supported by the Zionists, was running wild over the solidarity movement entrapping not a few people who believed that what Israel was doing was a consequence of something inherently

Today, except at the fringes, Atzmon is a discredited figure.  In 2012, a holocaust denier Frances Clarke-Lowes was expelled from PSC to the fury of the Zionists and Harry’s Place. As I argued then, Atzmon was a deliberately divisive character whose main objective was to cause disharmony inside Palestine Solidarity.  He failed.

Jewish rather than the Zionist settler-colonial movement.  It is like saying that White Supremacy in South Africa had something to do with the genetic make-up of the coloniser

As BDS goes from strength to strength – with Stephen Hawking, the latest prominent figure to join the campaign, Atzmon rails in his seclusion, making occasional outbursts attacking BDS as being 'Jewish'.

In May 2013 the situation has changed.  Indymedia woke up, the original cause of allegations of anti-Semitism and eventually learnt the lesson.   The movement has taken off.  My greatest privilege was speaking at UNISON’s 2007 and 2008 AGMs where a total boycott was passed by over 80%. of conference.
speaking at PSC Conference
Sadly I don’t have the time or energy to continue, though people can send me individual articles (&; graphics) to put up which I will.  From time to time I hope to post the odd article on my specialism Nazi relations with Zionism during the war rather than covering all stories which others do much better.

I hope you understand.

Lotta Continua
Tony Greenstein

12 May 2013

Is there any attack on the working class that the TUC leaders wouldn't oppose??

Frances O'Grady - the first woman head of the TUC - learnt her  traditions of backstabbing from Brendan Barber well

Or would it take an attack on Dave Prentis’s expense  account to bring howls and threats of direct action?

What the banner should say is 'Prentis hands off our pensions'

On Thursday this week the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act was given Royal Assent.  Let us take a step back.

In 1971, at the height of the ‘wild-cat’ unofficial strike movement, the Ted Heath government conceded the right not to be unfairly dismissed.  Through the influence of Europe a raft of anti-discrimination law, TUPE and the Working Time Regulations.  The Human Rights Act 1998 also has had an effect on interpretation.

One wonders how many of the  dunderheads who voted UKIP realise that they are further to the right than the Tories.

Apart from extending the qualifying period for unfair dismissal from 1 to 2 years, making all claimants see ACAS first, it pulls a neat stroke.  Unfair dismissal compensation will be a maximum of one year’s salary, around £78,000 per year.  However you will only be able to obtain a maximum of one years salary.

They are not going to abolish most rights, they are going to make it impossible to afford to go to a tribunal by paying £1,200 to have a case set down.  This is equally applicable to Whistleblowing.  So in the wake of Stafford NHS scandal, Savile et. al the  government is going to make it harder to blow the whistle.  If you are a victim of racism you will have to pay £1,200 if you want to seek redress against the racist.  If you are a woman, then an ‘ordinary’ case of sexual harassment won’t get off the starting blocks.  Only rich women, gay people and Black people will be able to afford to to to Employment Tribunal.

Prentis of UNISON in a fighting mode - as he always is till conference has ended

Employment law will increasingly become the prerogative of bankers and the highest-paid workers.  Laws against racial harassment will be meaningless if they cannot be enforced.  And the TUC's 'think thank' will continue churning out pamphlets that no-one reads.

And what has the now ‘feminised’ TUC under Frances O’Grady done to campaign against this?  Absolutely bugger all.  At a stroke a historic gain, won by workers who stood for no nonsense from bullying employers, has been wiped out, with the support of Ed ‘millionaire’ Miliband and his ‘blue dog’ Labourites.
John Hendy QC - legal mouthpiece for the IER

On 12th November I wrote to the IER and Director, Carolyn Jones.  After initially receiving no reply I wrote again.  The IER is effectively a front organisation for the Communist Party of Britain (Morning Star).
Carolyn Jones - Director of the stalinist IER

Jones’s response was that ‘As a charity IER is not as such a campaigning organisation.’  This is a lie.  The IER has campaigned for a Trade Union Freedom Bill which is hardly likely to be passed by the present government when it is busy stripping away workers’ rights, led by that good ‘liberal’ Vince Cable. Defence of existing rights are likely to be more successful in such a situation. 

Even the Employment Law Association has done more to campaign against the fees and their implications than the TUC and the trade union leadership. It seems that the TUC and its offshoots have become so addicted to defeat that they are unable to imagine a situation where they might, in part, be successful.

It seems that the TUC and its offshoots have become so addicted to defeat that they are unable to imagine a situation where they might, in part, be successful

Public Concern at Work, is also non-political, but unlike the IER is an effective campaigning charity.  It has nonetheless secured major amendments to the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, including a statutory reversal of Fecitt v NHS Manchester [2012] ICR 372 which determined that vicarious liability did not attach to an employer for their employees’ actions.  Likewise they secured the abolition of the good faith test as a condition of a disclosure being protected.
The Tories said the unions were holding the country 'to ransom'.  The bankers are however a major 'industry'.  It's this that Ted Heath and the TUC sought to put an end to

It would have been relatively easy if, in the wake of the Savile, Stafford NHS and other scandals, IER and the TUC had campaigned against fees on the grounds that someone exposing wrongdoing, in addition to all the other risks, would now have to pay for the privilege.  Instead they said nothing and sat on their hands.

Employment rights legislation was not handed on a plate to workers.  It was a culmination of the inability of union leaders to control their own members.  Hundreds of thousands of workers each year use the tribunal system, including trade unionists.  The effect of these proposals will undoubtedly mean that unions become even more selective in funding cases involving their own members, turning down otherwise meritorious cases.
A traditional 'wild-cat' strike that obtained workers' rights

Oh and just in case you thought you might get a fee waiver if you've been sacked. Sorry.  That's also been tightened up.  If you have a house worth more than £100,000 then that will count towards your fees.

Tony Greenstein

Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013

The final text of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 has been published, coming in at a mere 292 pages.  Sections 7-24, and Schedule 2, are the ones which are relevant to employment practitioners.
Notes for editors
1. The Bill was introduced to the House of Commons on 23 May 2012, and completed its passage on 24 April 2013.
2. The provisions which come into force on Royal Assent include:
  • A power to include review and sunset provisions in secondary legislation, which streamlines implementation of the government policy on such provisions first published in March 2011.
  • A prohibition on Acas disclosing specified information except in certain defined circumstances such as criminal investigation.
  • All the order-making powers (that is power to make provisions by means of secondary legislation) come into force, which means that they are available to be exercised.
  • 3. Further provisions will come into force on 25 June namely:
  • Certain provisions on employment (Part 2) as follows:
  • Ensuring that the 2 year qualification period for employment will not apply where the main reason for dismissal is the employee’s political opinions or affiliation.
  • Simplifying the procedures and costs of deciding tribunal cases
  • New provisions on whistleblowing
  • Certain other repeals:
  • Abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board for England and Wales, (although the current Agricultural Wage Order will remain in place until 1st October 2013, and similarly applications to Agricultural Dwelling House Advisory Committees will be permitted until that date)
4. Most other provisions are planned to come into effect in October 2013 or April 2014. A detailed implementation timetable will be published on the BIS website shortly.

Tony Greenstein

6 May 2013

UK Far-Right Surges to 23%

 As the British National Party Lose their Final Seats  - UKIP - a party of 'fruit-cakes' and 'closet racists' [Cameron] rises

Nigel Farage, the 'hail fellow well met' bloke at home with South Coast prejudices about how they should scrap benefits
Historically Britain hasn’t had an equivalent of far-right European parties such as the Front Nationale or Italy’s Northern Leagues.  One of the things that made it easier for the Left to operate and to defend the gains made after the  2nd world war, was the strength of the working class coupled with a post-war consensus that full-employment and the NHS were articles of faith, not to be touched.  Pensions and welfare benefits were part of the civilising of capitalism.

No more.  Thursday’s local election results produced a situation where, if it had been a General Election, Labour would have gained 29% under Millionaire Milliband, the Tories 25%, UKIP  23% and the Lib-Dems, who have acted as the government’s faithful nodding poodle, a mere 14%.  The figures, compiled for the BBC by Professor John Curtice, suggest that on the basis of Thursday's voting, Labour might have won 29 per cent in a general election, the Conservatives 25 per cent, Ukip 23 per cent, the Liberal Democrats 14 per cent, and "others" 9 per cent

Contrary to some of the cheaper jibes coming from Cameron and Clarke, UKIP isn’t a fundamentally racist as opposed to a chauvinist party.  It hates’ ‘Johny Foreigner’ no matter who s/e might be.  Although there will no doubt be found plenty of ckoset fascists and ex-fascists in the party, it isn’t like the  BNP  or National Front, derived from the bowels of British fascism but the country villages of  the home countries.
Ed Milliband - not an ounce of socialist politics or personality.  Political programme identical to that of the Tories.  His main claim to fame is that 'blue Labour' is just another establishment party
Laughing all the way to the voting bank - does anyone remember the rise of Robert Kilroy Silk, ex-Labour MP, BBC broadcaster and ex-UKIP MEP?
Although many people believe that UKIP is just an anti-Europe party, beneath its rhetoric lies a belief that has never gone away.  In the words of US Secretary under Truman, Dean Acheson, 'Britain has lost an empire but not yet found a role.'  It was an attempt to solve that quandary that led to the  so-called 'special relationship'.  In other words UKIP envisage an independent Britain carving out its own foreign policy.  They should take a good look at Sir Anthony Eden and Suez and where that led.

The  primary blame for the  ascendancy is the socialist left, who have continued to insist that they are the main enemy rather than those who run capitalism.  They fea ture on the bankers as if Chief Executives and Directors, with their massive 20%+ annual salary increases aren’t also a symptom of capitalism.

I was listening to one woman in the South-Shields by-election, where the Tories were knowced intto 3rd place by UKIP.  ‘I’m voting UKIP’ she said.  ‘I’m fed up with  cuts and closures’.

The problem is that Farage, both himself and his party, are to the right of the Conservative Party.  If that woman seriously believes a coutnry toff, whose trade-mark is a pin-striped suit, is going to come and reverse the iniquities of capitalism when she and others need to seriously think again.

But who can blame such people, the atomised working class of the North, when the manifestos of all 3 main parties, the Green Party being  pretty irrelevant, is almost identical.  All 3 agree the welfare state should be shrunk.  All believe in the privatisation of public services (mainly the Post Office is left) and NHS – indeed New Labour under its previous war-criminal Prime Ministers  Blair and Brown, pioneered such ‘reform’.  All believe in cutting benefits to the unemployed and disabled.  All believe in the holy grail of housing left to the market without any meaningful addition to the public housing stock.  New Labour had 13 years to take Rail back into public ownership.  Instead it squandered the money on Bush’s war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Below is an article I wrote late last year for Weekly Worker, in which I laid out the rod that the Left had made for its own back.  That was before the SWP had imploded in a rape controversy concerning the ‘rights and privileges’ of members of the SWP Central Committee.

There’s No Success Like Failure

The Never Ending Retreat of the Far Left

Alex Callinicos SWP Chief defended party hacks against accusations  of rape
It is somewhat ironic that the different socialist groups, having predicted the capitalist crisis for years, are now too weak to take advantage of  it.  We have the greatest financial crisis for over a century, if not ever.  Banks that would be bankrupt in an instant but for government bailouts of financial lame ducks, real unemployment at over 3.5 million, a wholesale reversal of the post-war settlement as embodied in the welfare state, to say nothing of an environmental catastrophe around the corner.  All this coupled with three major political parties between whom you would be hardpressed to slip a piece of paper.  It is difficult to imagine a more favourable climate for Marxist and socialist groups, yet the truth is that at no time in the post-war era has the left been so weak.

Nearly a decade ago the SWP successfully destroyed  the Socialist Alliance when their attention span, never great at the best of times, became distracted by the allure of Respect and George Galloway.  Today the electoral embodiment of the far-Left is the misnamed Trade Union & Socialist Coalition, which manages to achieves fewer votes each time it stands for election.  But despite their abject failure to sink roots, Marxist groups and self-declared parties run a mile rather than confront their own failures.  There is no debate about the reasons for the Left’s failure in Britain or how such a failure can be reversed.  The only option left to members is to leave, disenchanted or burnt-out or both.  Both the principal groups on the left – the SWP and Socialist Party – take it as a personal affront when it is suggested that perhaps their strategy needs revising.  Suggest to them that perhaps a balance sheet could be drawn on the successes and failures of the far left and they will look at you blankly as if you were an economist from outer space.

Whereas the secret state and MI5 have long ago transferred their attentions to anarchist and environmental groups, the sects and groups of Britain’s far-left see failure as success and survival as an achievement of its own.  Recruiting in ones or twos is more important than effecting an overall change in the balance of class forces.  The most important battles of all are with each other.  The SWP in particular is an unstable, stalinoid group whose modus operandi is that of a revolving door.  The secret is to ensure that recruits-in are more than recruits-out and any statistical sleight of land is employed to ensure that the first is greater than the second.  What none of the larger groups on the Left will do however, and this includes the Communist Party of Britain, is to draw up any kind of honest assessment of where they have gone wrong as well as what they’ve got right. 

Perhaps I can declare my own interest.  I joined the International Socialists (later SWP) when I was still at school aged 16, having just led a school strike.  Within 3 years I was expelled for breaking the rules of ‘democratic (i.e. bureaucratic) centralism’ when I voted publicly against IS’s attempt to wind up the Anti-Internment League.  I considered the interests of the anti-imperialist struggle and the fight of the nationalist minority in the North of Ireland as more important than the sectarian interests of the IS leadership.  After the branch had twice hesitated to do the deed, Roger Rosewall – IS’s Industrial Organiser at the time – was brought up to Liverpool to effect my expulsion, which he did.  Amongst those abstaining was John Bloxham, pillar of Socialist Organiser/Alliance for Workers Liberty.  Rosewell himself later became Shirley Porter’s bag carrier, an employee of Aims of Industry, leader writer for the Daily Mail and a member of the Industrial Committee of the Social Democratic Party!  Clearly he had been a state asset but to this day I never received an apology from the SWP for the role that Rosewell played and the membership received no explanation either.  After all he too has long disappeared down an Orwelllian memory hole.

Although he later recanted and changed his views in Days of the Locust, at the time it was National Secretary Jim Higgins who effected my expulsion.  I mention this not because my case was in any way exceptional but because it is precisely such behaviour that has alienated thousands of potential revolutionaries over the years.  Although IS(SWP) has a formal system of appeal against expulsions, I doubt if any of the hundreds of expelled SWP members has ever successfully appealed.  By way of comparison, the bourgeois courts are a model of democracy!  Indeed most employers have disciplinary appeal structures in which people are successful.  Yet socialist, Marxist even, groups treat democratic rights and debate as a luxury .

That there are objective reasons for the weakness of the socialist left cannot be doubted.  Prime amongst them is the restructuring of the working class itself as symbolised in the defeat of the Miners’ strike in 1984-5.  Long gone are the big trade union battalions – the miners, dockers, shipyard workers and car workers, to name but a few.  Of course the working class hasn’t disappeared as such, people still need to sell their labour, but it has been fragmented, atomised and depoliticised.  There has been a catastrophic decline in union membership, the abolition of the closed shop and a massive decrease in union militancy.  One of the few blue-collar unions remaining, the RMT, despite moving to the left, is weak and fragmented as a result of rail privatisation.

What is the point of an organised Left that goes through the motions whilst accepting defeat?  If we are really the creatures of forces beyond our control then the only conclusion is that we may as well go home or confine ourselves to the letters page of the Guardian or academic discussion groups.
Internationally capitalism is not only undergoing a massive economic crisis, the worst of which is probably to come, but it has also become more savage and war-like.  Where once the US only tiptoed around the Middle East, preferring to rely on its surrogates, today the region bristles with warships, drones,  missiles and marines.  We are in a state of permanent war yet the Left, apart from the million + march in 2003, has had virtually no impact.  Whereas the international left played a major part in the withdrawal from Vietnam, it has had little impact on the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.  That has been the prerogative of the armed resistance in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One question that left groups have never faced up to is whether it is indeed possible to replace capitalism given the weakness of our own side.  The emphasis by Marx and socialist theoreticians on the organised working class as an agent for change in society was predicated upon the fact that industrial capitalism had thrown together, in factories, large numbers of workers, whose consciousness would, as a result of the battles they were forced to undergo, generalise from the economic to political.  It wasn’t that the working class was any more oppressed or exploited, in the commonly understood sense of the word, than the peasantry and villeins of the feudal era, but that unlike their predecessors they had the possibility and ability to do something about it and further, that capitalism laid the basis for a society where humanity was free of want.

In Britain, as Lenin recognised, the working class’s conservatism was a direct product of the fact that it dined off the crumbs of British imperialism.  In fact they did better than that.  The Attlee government in 1945 came into office with a crisis whose dimensions were not dissimilar to those of today, although the nature of the crisis was very different, since although Europe had virtually been bankrupted by war, the USA was barely affected economically and further had surplus capital aplenty.  The UK was bankrupt and only a £3 billion loan from the United States kept it afloat.  Yet the Labour government not only nationalised the mines and rail and utilities but it created the NHS and introduced a National Assistance Act that guaranteed everyone a minimum standard of living.  How was it able to do so?  Because the Labour government super-exploited its African and Asian colonies (whilst being forced to concede independence to India, Sri Lanka and Burma).  The rubber plantations of Malaya and the cocoa crops of Ghana, in addition to the forced loans that constituted the sterling area, financed Labour’s reforms.  Today the City of London continues that tradition in a different guise.

The Queen is alleged to have asked a group of economists why they didn’t predict the economic crisis.  Perhaps the same question should be asked of the socialist gurus who preside over the different groups and their pet economists?  Marxism is supposed to be scientific socialism, yet it operates in code with an understanding of dialectics being reserved for the high priests of the order.  The fact is that socialist groups have no greater understanding of the crisis of world capitalism than any bourgeois economist.  I make no claims to an understanding of the dismal science that is economics but it seems to me that we have witnessed the transferrance of production to the third world and Asia whilst Western societies have lived off credit as consumers, having defined the rules of the game via the Dollar and Euro.  If this is true then it raises questions about whether revolutionary change is even possible in the West any longer, even as a theoretical possibility.

The Left Groups

 I stood at the last local elections in Brighton for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition alongside a supporters of the Socialist Party and Socialist Resistance.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered, mid-campaign, that the SP had produced an extra leaflet, which I had been unaware of, naming only their candidate.  In essence two campaigns were being fought – the electoral campaign and a recruitment campaign for the SP.  As long as TUSC continues as a Heath-Robinson contraption, a coalition of convenience between sections of the RMT bureaucracy and Bob Crowe and the SP, with the SWP, although formally a part, in practice having little to do with it except as a flag of convenience, it has no future.  How can you have a credible electoral group unless it is a party with individual membership? 

The argument that the SP puts forward is that one person one vote was responsible for the Labour Party moving to the right.  In fact it was a symptom of the Left’s lack of a base, even at the height of the Benn campaign for Deputy Leadership.  But to imagine you can create a viable group which refuses to have members, which won’t allow a vote at its national conference in order not to offend trade union leaders who wish to exercise control whilst their own membership remains uninvolved, is an absurdity. 

It is of course welcome that the RMT is involved in supporting TUSC.  However to try and exercise control, not via a block vote even but through a complete absence of democracy, where all decisions are taken by a small handpicked group, is self-defeating.  Political currents will of course exist within such a party but loyalty has to be to the party not the current.  Why?  Because the priority is building for socialism and no political sect or current is capable of doing this.

We have the situation whereby the different sects believe that the only route to socialism lies in their retaining control of what are effectively front groups.  The SP believes a party can only be created by the trade unions, i.e. by the left trade union bureaucracies.  Since that is not going to happen without extreme pressure to break from the Labour Party from below, it effectively means that there will be no other party other than themselves.  A mass party based primarily on individual membership would of course exert its own attractions on the membership of trade unions, but that isn’t a road that even the furthest left of union executives is prepared to contemplate.  The SP’s position is a reflection of their own economism, which is based on an adaptation to the existing economic and trade union consciousness.  For example one of the unions that they put forward as an example to follow is the Prison Officers Association – barely a trade union and one whose membership has never shown the slightest degree of sympathy or support for political prisoners.  The SP’s economism helps explain why it is not involved in international solidarity work or indeed virtually any other campaign outside those with direct economic demands.

I must confess that the SWP’s trajectory is even more difficult to fathom.  It is a long time since they had a ‘turn to industry’ and their politics are eclectic.  Although they are more likely to be involved in international, environmental and anti-war campaigns, at the end of the day they are in complete agreement with the SP that the main purpose of political activity is to recruit to their own sect.
It never ceases to amaze me that groups led, as in the SWP’s case, by distinguished professors aren’t able to see that building one’s own group at the expense of the class is a recipe for never achieving socialism.  Is it any wonder that the British left is by far and away the weakest in western Europe?
Long gone are the days when IS organised a 6 week strike in a Manchester engineering company because of the victimisation of a shop steward (John Deason).  The decline of engineering has seen to that.  But the lack of any base in the working class (the SWP in particular) has meant that their politics have lacked any firm grounding or principle.  The anti-war struggle developed into a love-in with Islamic mullahs and small businessmen.  Respect was founded, not on any class basis, but out of the most opportunistic electoralist reasons.  And likewise, when they woke up to the fact that SWP members were unlikely to benefit from an Islamic vote (unless they were Muslims) they broke for the most opportunistic reasons from Respect.

The Socialist Party has been more immune to this and it does have a base within some unions, in particular PCS.  However it is noticeable that this is at the expense of raising any political demands.  The savage attacks on DWP members are a direct consequence of New Labour’s abolition of the divide between the Employment and Benefits service.  Yet the two are quite different and many people receive benefits whilst at work (less common now that universal benefits are being scrapped) and many looking for work won’t receive income-based benefits at all.  This was symbolised by the creation of Job Centre Plus offices yet PCS  failed to oppose what was a naked ideological attack by New Labour on the very concept of benefits (which is why the successor to Family Credit was termed a Tax Credit – literally the same people swapped department from the DWP to  HMRC).

The failure of the SP to even raise political demands to do with the structure of employment which affected their own members reflected a wider problem.  They didn’t question the political right of management to manage and the government to dictate how the department was organised.  And if they failed to oppose Job Centre Plus they also failed to oppose the use of sanctions against benefit claimants or the use of privatised companies to provide ‘training’ and now the Work Programme.  Yet the logical culmination of the use of Atos, Maximus, A4E and all the other crooked companies that the Tories and New Labour have employed, has been savage cuts to jobs with the prospect that the entire DWP labour force will be contracted out.

In short a failure of politics has led to a failure in the economic battle too.  Yet the major political groups on the Left have their own peculiar definition of sectarianism which goes something like:  ‘if you criticise us then you are being sectarian’.  In other words people are expected to work alongside them, put up with party building at the expense of joint work but if you raise your doubts as to what they are doing then you are the sectarian!

The strength of the Communist Party of Britain lies in its control of the Morning Star, despite its failure to learn any lessons of the collapse of the Soviet Union.   I understand they sent a delegation to ‘socialist’ China recently.  I can only assume they weren’t put up in the same hotel as the IMF!  The CPB operates at the fringes of the TUC and trade union bureaucracy and because it is vastly weakened compared with the halycon days of Harry Pollitt, it or some of its members have been forced into co-operation with their hated rivals in the ‘Trotskyist’ groups.  I refer to Andrew Murray in particular, but also Robert Griffiths.

The Alliance for Workers Liberty is barely worth mentioning.  Led by its own guru, Sean Matgamna, it distinguished itself during the Iraq War by refusing to oppose the occupation and it has adopted much the same attitude to Afghanistan.  Only US troops can guarantee the ability to organise of the Iraqi working class!  What began as support for federalism in Ireland and then support for Zionism in the guise of 2 States for 2 Peoples has become naked support for US imperialism.

What is left of the old International Marxist Group are two groups and a couple of splinters.  Socialist Action operates in a semi-submerged state, its politics combining neo-stalinism and a third worldist approach to national liberation movements.  Alone among the groups it has no paper, albeit issuing a political bulletin fairly regularly by e-mail.  It is active in various solidarity groups, notably Palestine and Venezuela Solidarity Campaigns.  Having tied its fortunes to Ken Livingstone via his Chief of Staff, the late Redmond O’Neill, it has seen its fortunes decline alongside him.

The other group is Socialist Resistance.  On an individual basis I have a high regard for many of its members  but as a group it leaves a lot to be desired.  Marginalised in TUSC it is led by Alan Thornett, who first earned his spurs in the WRP.  Although more principled than most groups it has barely a hundred members.

The reality of the far left today is that the various groups and sects are little more than propaganda groups.  Their intervention in either class or related social struggles is next to zero.  One of the more remarkable features today is that it is the anarchists and direct action activists and groups who are more vibrant.  UK Uncut, Occupy – these are the targets of police repression.  In Brighton we have a vibrant anarchist social centre, the Cowley Club.  When the EDL came to town it wasn’t the SP or the SWP (UAF) who took the lead but the anarchists together with old unattached far-left socialists.  The result was a mass campaign which led to Sussex Police being unable to force a path through Brighton for the fascists.  After just 1/3 of the way along their route they were diverted down the backstreets.  It was as magnificent a victory as anything we saw in the 1970s and 1980’s when the SWP was committed to direct action against the fascists and physical opposition to their marches and activities.  The anarchists had learnt the lessons of the Trotskyists and Red Action of 30 years ago.  In the lead up to the march I was one of those who spoke to a packed meeting of students at Sussex University.  During the demonstration against the EDL one young woman at the meeting came up to me and asked pointedly whether their achievements matched those I had talked about a few days previously.  These are young people for whom the current grouplets of the far left hold no attraction

One group I haven’t mentioned is the Communist Party of Great Britain!   The CPGB is committed to building a Marxist Party.  However this is a purely theoretical position since it abandoned pretty quickly the Campaign for a Marxist Party!  It was part of the Socialist Alliance and even joined, half-heartedly, Respect.  Despite this it proudly proclaims that there are no half-way houses.  Either a Marxist Party nor nothing at all.  The problem is that a Marxist party consisting of all the sects would resemble nothing so much as rats in a bag.  It wouldn’t be the capitalists I had to fear but my own comrades!  The one thing the CPGB has going for it is the most open paper on the Left.  The SP’s ‘The Socialist’ is as dull as ditchwater.  Socialist Worker has never recovered since Paul Foot and is as predictable as ever.  Neither publication boasts an open letters page because debate is frowned upon.  It is ironic that one of the  smallest groups on the left boasts a paper with perhaps the largest readership.  It is an asset that they would be foolish to dispense with.

The one silver cloud in an otherwise bleak sky was the Scottish Socialist Party.  Of course circumstances were more favourable, with PR elections to the Assembly and the recent experience of a successful fight against the Poll Tax.  But nonetheless it pointed the way and that was why the RMT, which was expelled by Labour for supporting it has ended up supporting TUSC ironically. The SP which opposed the direction that Scottish Militant Labour took was nonetheless forced to follow in their footsteps.

That the SSP ultimately collapsed in the wake of Tommy Sheridan’s disastrous libel and perjury trials should not blind us to its successes.  Whether you call it a Labour Party Mark 2 or a half-way house, the fact is that half way is better than not even setting out on the journey.  To broaden the base of socialist ideas and support can never be a bad idea.

What of the Labour Party to which the CPGB is increasingly drawn?  Having been active at the time of the Benn deputy leadership campaign I have no doubt whatever that the position of the SP is essentially correct.  Whether you call it a bourgeois workers party or an openly pro-capitalist party along the lines of the Democrats, the fact is that socialists no longer have any purchase on it.
There was a time when the Labour Party proclaimed its belief in the reform of capitalism.  As Alan Bullock wrote in his biography of Labour’s post-war Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, the ghost of  the 1930’s stalked the Labour cabinet.  And by that he meant mass unemployment.  Does anyone seriously believe that of today’s party?  When Aneurin Bevan, John Freeman and  Harold Wilson resigned from the Labour Cabinet in 1951, over the introduction of prescription charges, to form the Keep Left (later Tribune) group, their support lay in the constituencies.  Their opponents were in the trade unions – people like Arthur Deakin of the TGWU and Lord Carron of the AUEW.  When New Labour gained office and Gordon Brown refused to reestablish the link between pensions and earnings, it was the union block vote that passed the successful motion.  The CLPs voted by nearly 2-1 against.  When the individual membership of a party swings in such a dramatic fashion from left to right – a swing that is as much in evidence today as it was 15 years ago – then it is time to draw conclusions, one of which is that the Labour Party can only be the graveyard of socialism.

Tony Greenstein

5 May 2013

BBC admits downplaying the scale of Israel’s occupation

What the BBC doesn’t admit to is a consistent and overwhelming pro-Israeli bias

BBC2's Gavin Esler - a tame pro-Israeli broadcaster

It’s always a good result to get anything out of the BBC, whose hostility to the Palestinians is palpable.  At the time when the last Director-General, Greg Sykes, was sacked by virtue of the trumped up report from Lord Hutton, for not having done the government’s bidding more easily, a new era began.  Ariel Sharon, Israel’s still comatose Prime Minister, threatened the BBC that it would lost its privileged access to Israeli news and the army, unless it changed its stance.
Brighton picket of the local BBC during the Gaza attack
And Thompson, who was played by the last government like a puppet on a string, was willing to obey.  He had seen the consequences of not so doing.  So PSC’s determination to get the BBC to admit they are wrong is admirable.
BBC Broadcasting House
Tony Greenstein

Submitted by Amena Saleem on Wed, 05/01/2013 - 18:11

The BBC has admitted that a report it broadcast in January implying that only part of the West Bank is under occupation was inaccurate.

The claim that there is a difference between “West Bank towns and villages and areas occupied by Israel” was made on the BBC’s heavyweight current affairs program, Newsnight.

Introducing an item about the Negev (Naqab) desert, presenter Gavin Esler, said: “Israeli soldiers shot dead a 17-year-old Palestinian youth today near the barrier which separates West Bank towns and villages from areas occupied by Israel.”

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) wrote to the BBC to point out that the whole of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is under Israeli occupation and that a false distinction cannot be made between “West Bank towns and villages” and “areas occupied by Israel.

The BBC initially wrote back defending Esler’s phrasing. In an email to the PSC, Stuart Webb of BBC Complaints wrote: “With this reference Gavin sought to broadly differentiate between parts of the West Bank administered directly by the Palestinian Authority and sections directly occupied by Israeli forces.”

At no point in his introduction to the Negev report had Esler mentioned the Palestinian Authority. Moreover, as the PSC pointed out in its reply, “West Bank towns and villages,” which Esler was implying are not under Israeli occupation, and “areas occupied by Israel” are one and the same — it is all Palestinian land which has been occupied by Israel since 1967. Put simply, the BBC was wrong to attempt to make any kind of differentiation.

“Belligerent occupation”

The facts make this abundantly clear. That the whole of the West Bank is under occupation is recognized by the UN, the UK and other governments, and by international organizations. The Israeli high court has ruled that Israel holds the West Bank under “belligerent occupation.” In July 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that Israel illegally occupies the whole of the West Bank, with no distinction made between Area A and Area C — the zones under Palestinian Authority and Israeli administration respectively — in violation of international law. And, of course, UN Resolution 242 calls for the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied by Israel in 1967, including the whole of the West Bank.

It is curious then, with all of this information readily available, that the BBC made such a serious mistake in a scripted item, a mistake which downplayed the true scale of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

Following further correspondence with the PSC, the BBC today acknowledged its mistake and apologized.
Passers-by stop to give the picketters encouragement
The Newsnight team wrote in an email: “We agree that it was inaccurate to describe the barrier in this way with the implication that not all of the West Bank is occupied. The reference to the shooting in Budrus was intended to put a newsworthy top line in the introduction to a feature about the Negev desert and we apologize for the error.”

Newsnight added: “We regret any mistake we made,” but rejected claims of bias towards an Israeli narrative.

Catching them out

It was important to the PSC to pursue this case and secure an admission of error, because the narrative that it is only Area C that is under occupation is one that the BBC seems to be taking up across its reporting, and this needed to be challenged.

Most recently, on 17 April, in a documentary entitled Israel: Facing the Future, BBC presenter John Ware, filmed driving through Ramallah, said: “Although Israel occupies most of the West Bank, Palestinians are governed day-to-day by the Palestinian Authority, based here.”

Like Esler, Ware is not a rookie reporter. He knows, and his team of researchers would know, as Newsnight’s researchers should know, that Israel does not occupy most of the West Bank, it occupies all of it.

The reasons for the BBC trying to obscure this fact and mislead its audiences can only be guessed at. However, it is to be hoped that, now it has been challenged and caught out, its misreporting on this particular subject will cease across the whole of its considerable output.

G4S – a Licence to Murder

G4S  - Decides to Quit Key Contracts in Israel because of ‘adverse publicity’
Jimmy Mubenga
G4S – the organisation which  murdered Jimmy Mubenga, an asylum seeker in Britain last year, has now been caught with its greedly little fingers in Israeli ‘security pie’ enforming the ‘security’ of Israel’ settlements.

But the organisation, the largest such in the world, having only just recovered from the Olympics debacle, has no wish to take on the BDS lobby and has decided that discretion in the better part of valour.

Tony Greenstein

Financial Times April 21, 2013 5:42 pm

G4S to quit key contracts in Israel

By Gill Plimmer
palestinian-Arafat Jaradat tortured-to-death-in-g4s-israel prison
G4S, the world’s biggest security company by revenues, has confirmed it is planning to quit key contracts in Israel amid protests against its involvement in settlements within occupied Palestinian territories.

The company employs 6,000 people in Israel, where it provides and maintains screening equipment for several West Bank military checkpoints. It also manages security systems at the controversial Ofer Prison in the Occupied West Bank.

But with sporadic international protests continuing both outside the FTSE 100’s headquarters in London and internationally, the company said it would exit the contracts covering Ofer, the checkpoints and the West Bank police headquarters when they terminate in 2015.

“Having conducted a review in 2011, we concluded that, to ensure that G4S Israel business practices remain in line with our own business ethics policy, we would aim to exit the contracts which involve the servicing of security equipment at a small number of barrier checkpoints, a prison and a police station in the West Bank area,” G4S told the Financial Times.
The University of Oslo has decided to end its contract with G4S
The move will nevertheless disappoint protesters, who have called on G4S to end all dealings with the Israeli prison authorities. The security company will continue to service security systems in commercial and government sites inside Israel, including jails housing Palestinian inmates, after 2015.

Analysts have raised the prospect that G4S could be tempted to divest the Israeli business altogether. The company has raised “reputational risk” higher up the list of priorities in the wake of its humiliating failure to provide 10,400 guards contracted for the London Olympics, with the armed forces called in to make up the shortfall.

Kean Marden, analyst at Jefferies, the US investment bank, said in a note: “G4S Israel may be next to be divested? The Israel/Palestine conflict has created reputational issues. In our view the potential disposal of G4S Israel could be announced as soon as the 25 June capital markets day.”

G4S has established a risk committee and is conducting more formal reviews of the operational and reputational dangers of contracts worth more than £20m. It has also stated its ambition to offload underperforming parts of the business.

The group earned £100m in sales at its Israeli operations last year. But the division accounts for just 1 per cent of global revenues, and 1 per cent of profits at the global group, which employs 625,000 people in 125 countries.

Last week 19 non-government organisations from Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine called on Arab nations and the European Union to stop dealing with G4S. The Scottish Trades Union Congress also voted on Tuesday to support Palestinian calls for a boycott of the multinational. It has agreed to put pressure on Holyrood to cancel G4S’s new £13m contract to carry out the electronic tagging of offenders in Scotland over the next five years.

G4S has said that it has no people working at the prison sites or managing control rooms in jails in Israel or the occupied territories; staff simply fix security equipment such as CCTV and leave.
Earlier this week, Trevor Dighton, finance director, sold 30 per cent of his share holding, or about 400,000 shares, at £2.958 and raised £1.3m. According to the latest report and accounts Mr Dighton held 1.46m shares (including deferred shares) on December 31 2012. His successor, Ashley Almanza, starts on 1 May.

The Academic Union's Defeat of the Zionist - Last Update UCU


'A Legal and Public Disaster' - They don't come stronger than that
CONTENTS P1. Ronnie Fraser’s valiant charge.
P3. Fraser V University & College Union: A Legal Analysis of the Employment Tribunal's Judgment
P6. Debating BDS: Fraser v UCU
P8. It's about the Palestinians, stupid
P9. Three moves to defeat: a Zionist game plan that has unravelled in the trade union movement
P13. The PACBI Column Israel’s Lawfare against BDS in Tatters
P15. Notices
Ronnie Fraser’s valiant charge

Ronnie Fraser’s charge at illusionary windmills has come to an ignominious end. Horse and rider (sometimes it is difficult to tell which is which) are in the ditch. How did it come to this?

Jeremy Newmark - Liar leads the Jewish Leadership Council - including crook Gerald Ronson

Fraser and the Academic Friends of Israel

The story is not clear in all its details, as some of it has taken place between consenting adults in private. In this note I will say what is known, and indulge only in reasonable inference about what may have gone on behind the scenes.

Ronnie Fraser is a lecturer at Barnet College, and is or has been a part-time doctoral student at Royal Holloway College, London. He is also a member of the Board of Deputies for British Jews (BoD). As a lecturer he was a member of the trade union NATFHE, which with AUT merged into the University and College Union in 2006. Four years before that, in response to the beginnings of organized UK academic concern about links with Israeli universities, he established a pressure group Academic Friends of Israel (AFI). Under cross examination in the Employment Tribunal case which has recently given its findings, he conceded that AFI is basically himself, his wife, a computer and an address list. It has pumped out as many as 26 bulletins in a single year to those on that list. AFI has had a presence of varying strengths at UCU annual Congresses since the first one in 2007. (In that year it hosted a lunchtime fringe meeting with really high quality finger food in lavish quantities which I really appreciated, as did a number of my colleagues. However, excluding BRICUPers the number of punters failed to reach double figures.) In some years he was a Barnet College delegate to Congress – he explained at the Tribunal that this had happened (despite UCU’s ‘anti-Semitism’) because no one else had wanted to go.

As a result of Fraser’s testimony at the Tribunal we now know that "the Friends of the various Israeli University groups" gave £70,000, via the Fair Play Campaign (set up jointly by the BoD and the Jewish Leadership Council to fight the academic boycott movement. Interestingly the Chief Executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, Jeremy Newmark, was found to have given evidence to the Tribunal "that we have rejected as untrue".

The largest chunk (£50,000) went to Engage, the organization set up to fight BRICUP. This enabled Engage to appoint staff, and run quite a slick website. (For the record BRICUP has always been run on a shoe-string, and its bank account has never reached £2000.) It seems that some part of this pro- Israel funding did find its way to AFI – though as we will see this is not the end of its sources of funding.
Newmark - a good advert for Britain's leading Jewish capitalists
The background to Ronnie Fraser’s legal assault on his union consists of a number of pro-Palestinian resolutions passed by UCU congresses from 2007 onwards. The detail of these can be found at http://bricup.org.uk/documents/FraserCasePR.pdf. Several of them asked members to give thought to boycotting Israel’s universities. Others enjoined the union’s executive to organise meetings or circulate information about the boycott. One motion in 2011 proposed that the union should henceforth make no use internally of a contentious definition (‘the EUMC definition’) of antisemitism. All these motions were passed, and with steadily increasing majorities from year to year.

It is time to introduce another key player in this drama, Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman of noted solicitors Mishcon de Reya. Julius is best known to the general public as divorce lawyer for Princess Diana, as well as Heather Mills; but he is also Chairman of the Board of the weekly Jewish Chronicle, and a founder member of Engage. His books include a history of antisemitism in England. In 2005, Julius acted for 6 AUT members in claiming that a boycott motion briefly passed by that union (but quickly reversed at a recall conference) was ultra vires (outside the union’s powers as defined by its articles of association). He wrote again in 2007, this time to UCU, and on behalf of 4 unnamed members, to make much the same points to the newly formed union. Julius will turn up again in this story, often hand in hand with Fraser. There was yet another legal broadside in 2008 when 2 QCs, funded by the Jewish Leadership Council, said that the world would end (I paraphrase slightly) if UCU went any further down the boycott route. There is no doubt that the UCU leadership, including the Trustees who stood to be bankrupted, were comprehensively spooked by these legal threats. They were extremely cautious in implementing Congress decisions (eg allowing branches to discuss boycott, but under no circumstances to hold a vote on it), and in 2009 the UCU President ruled a motion that Congress had passed by a large majority to be null and void as potentially constituting a legal infringement.

Ronnie Fraser to the fore
In 2007 Ronnie Fraser, on behalf of his branch, proposed a motion to Congress to incorporate the 'EUMC working definition of Antisemitism' into the union’s working practices. In the Employment Tribunal proceedings it was revealed that this was intended to make implementing an academic boycott through UCU impossible. He withdrew the motion on the advice of the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council, who disagreed with his strategy. They thought a discussion on this topic might reduce their chances of getting another motion, which they thought more important, carried on the following day. However in 2010 Fraser accused a UCU member, also a member of BRICUP, of antisemitism. This charge was based on some emails that the member had posted on UCU’s internal email Activists List. Fraser’s entire case, all ten items of it, was based on specific alleged violations of the EUMC’s definition of antisemitism. The complaint was investigated, the member appeared before an internal tribunal, and all the charges were rejected.

One might have thought that antisemitism was fairly simple to define – along the lines of "prejudice, hatred of, or discrimination against Jews for reasons connected to their Jewish heritage", which is how wikipedia has it. But the EUMC definition was explicitly constructed to include any criticism of Israel and its policies as potentially antisemitic. The following year Congress passed by a large majority a motion that the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism should not be used within UCU. The argument was not that antisemitism was to be ignored (indeed as a form of racism any instances should be severely dealt with by the union) but that the EUMC definition conflates anti-semitism with criticism of Israel. According to Fraser (at the Tribunal) it was this decision that provoked him into his legal action. In 2011 Julius wrote to UCU on Fraser’s behalf alleging antisemitic harassment by UCU of his client. At last in 2012 Fraser finally, and disastrously, decided to take his case to the Employment Tribunal. The rest is (legal) history. A question remains – 20 days of Tribunal hearings, being represented by one of the highest profile lawyers in the country. Even the UCU with its 120 thousand members has found it a heavy financial burden. How did Fraser afford it? Only a limited number of answers are possible. He is independently wealthy? Julius is acting pro bono? In fact the answer seems to be more obvious. Here is Amir Sagie, Director of the Civil Society Affairs Department, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, speaking in Johannesburg in February to a Zionist audience: "For us to challenge BDS initiatives we need to understand the legal environment. Over the last six months Israel has taken on two (court) cases in partnership with UK Jewry. We are trying wherever possible to challenge BDS morally and legally." 

So there we have it. A story of communal organisations and a foreign state conspiring to manipulate and control an autonomous UK academic trade union. Not plucky little Ronnie Fraser up against the UCU goliath. In this case it is, rather, UCU in the role of David, and for once taking unerring aim with its sling-shot.

The reckoning
The fallout has been dramatic and is still continuing. Part of it is being fought out on the Engage website where David Hirsh has written an interminable piece in effect saying that of course UCU was indeed guilty of antisemitism, and that the only explanation for the Tribunal decision is that its members live in Britain’s pervasive antisemitic culture and are tarred with the same brush. (For a condensed version, see

Almost no reflective stock-taking has occurred among Engageniks. The general tendency is to re-fight the battle that has just been fought and lost in the courts, and to accuse the referee of committing a foul (or at least of looking the other way while one was being committed). The exception is a hardcore who in effect say "I told you so – Britain is rotten to the core with antisemitism. Pogroms are round the corner, so best emigrate to Israel now".

To the amazement of almost everyone the Jewish Chronicle published a piece by Simon Rocker which was balanced and un-spun. See  He reported Jonathan Goldberg QC active in Jewish affairs as saying

"This enormous but legally flawed lawsuit was an act of epic folly by all concerned which will negatively impact our community for a long time to come. You only bring such showcase litigation if you are certain to win." Notable also was Rocker’s inability to raise a comment from Fraser’s advocate Anthony Julius –chair of the Board of the very same JC.

The reverberations throughout the Jewish communal leadership seem set to continue. Perhaps Julius should consider his position, or maybe one should say, consider some of his many positions. So too should those, apparently wealthy individuals in the Jewish community as well as the state of Israel, who funded this misbegotten adventure. There is some evidence that they may try and regroup round the idea of establishing and promoting a viable definition of antisemitism that could give them some legal plausibility. But these are early days. Mike Cushman in a companion piece in this Newsletter makes the telling point that the these tireless, blinkered warriors keep thinking that the boycott of Israeli institutions is about the Jews, whereas for BRICUP and the many thousands round the world who practice boycott it is about the Palestinians. This leaves Engage, Fraser, Julius and too many of the Jewish community’s leadership tilting at frightening but phantasmagorical windmills of their own imagining.

Jonathan Rosenhead


Fraser v University & the College Union: A legal analysis of the employment tribunal's judgment
Fraser v. UCU, decided by an Employment Tribunal on 22 March 2013 (judgment at), was an "enormous piece of litigation in which [Mr. Fraser] charge[d] [UCU] with ‘institutional anti-Semitism’ which, he [said], constitute[d] harassment of him as a Jew" (para. 3). Anyone familiar with the facts and with EU and UK anti-discrimination law had cause to wonder, before the hearing, why Mr. Fraser's lawyers thought his case had a chance of success. In the end, the Employment Tribunal dismissed all ten of Mr. Fraser's complaints.

(1) Protected characteristics
A claim under the Equality Act 2010 must generally be based on one or more of the nine "protected characteristics" listed in s. 4: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. But being a member of a minority defined by a "protected characteristic" is not enough. The claimant must also show "direct discrimination" under s. 13 (he was treated less favourably than others "because of a protected characteristic"), "indirect discrimination" under s. 19 (a neutral practice applied to all puts "persons with whom [he] shares [a] protected characteristic at a particular disadvantage compared with [others]" and cannot be justified), or "harassment" under s. 26 ("unwanted conduct related to a ... protected characteristic" which violates his dignity or creates a hostile environment for him).

Mr. Fraser relied on the protected charactistics of race (Jewish) and religion (Jewish) (para. 11). His lawyer argued that these characteristics should be interpreted as including "an attachment to Israel" as "an aspect of the protected characteristic[s]" (para. 18). The Tribunal found no authority for the proposition that legal protection also attaches to "a particular affinity or sentiment not inherent in a protected characteristic but said to be commonly held by members of a protected group" (para. 18). Therefore, "a belief in the Zionist project or an attachment to Israel ... cannot amount to a protected characteristic" (para. 150). This conclusion is clearly correct. An individual's political opinions are completely independent of, and not determined by, their race or religion. Not all Jewish people hold Zionist beliefs, and many people who hold Zionist beliefs are Christian or of other faiths. "Political opinion" is a protected characteristic in Northern Ireland, but not yet in Great Britain. (This might change, at least for employees, or at least in relation to dismissal, depending on how the UK Government complies with Redfearn v. UK, European Court of Human Rights, 6 Nov. 2012, in which an employee was dismissed for being a BNP city councillor.) Mr. Fraser's lawyer could have argued that Zionism is a "belief", which s. 10(2) defines as "any religious or philosophical belief". In Grainger plc v. Nicholson (3 Nov. 2009), the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that "a belief in man-made climate change" qualifies as a "philosophical belief", and suggested that a belief in pacifism, vegetarianism, Socialism, Marxism, Communism or free-market Capitalism might also qualify. However, having Zionism recognised as a "belief" would have made no difference, because Mr. Fraser could not demonstrate that he had suffered direct or indirect discrimination, or harassment, because of his Zionist beliefs, any more than because he is ethnically and religiously Jewish.

(2) Direct or indirect discrimination
Mr. Fraser did not claim direct discrimination, because he could not show that UCU had treated him less favourably than other UCU members because he is Jewish. All members attending Congress were exposed to the same debates about the same motions on Israel-Palestine. Nor did Mr. Fraser claim indirect discrimination (para. 18). Even if the Tribunal had found that UCU's allowing debates on motions critical of the Israeli government put Jewish members "at a particular disadvantage" when compared with non-Jewish members (because Jewish members were disproportionately likely to find them upsetting), UCU could easily have justified its allowing the debates as "a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim", ie, promoting freedom of expression and democracy within UCU.

(3) Harassment
Instead, Mr. Fraser made ten complaints of racial and religious harassment under ss. 26 and 57(3). He asked the Tribunal to find that UCU had engaged in "unwanted conduct" that was "related to" his being Jewish, and which had the effect of violating his dignity or creating a hostile environment for him. The Tribunal rejected nine of the complaints as "wholly unfounded". Complaint (5) was arguable but "clearly unsustainable" on closer scrutiny, as well as "hopelessly out of time" (para. 177). The Tribunal identified six criteria which each complaint of harassment had to satisfy. Most complaints did not satisfy the first criterion, let alone all six, and the Tribunal did not discuss all six criteria in detail for each complaint.

(a) Unwanted conduct
The Tribunal interpreted "unwanted conduct" as meaning that the claimant was not "a willing participant", and that the conduct was "of a sort to which a reasonable objection can be raised" (para. 37), ie, "the claimant ... must have a sustainable ground for feeling aggrieved about the conduct" (para. 152). The Tribunal might have used its reasoning with regard to the effect of Congress resolutions on Mr. Fraser (para. 156) to find that he was indeed a "willing participant":

"[Mr. 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. When a rugby player takes the field he must accept his fair share of minor injuries .... Similarly, a political activist accepts the risk of being offended or hurt on occasions by things said or done by his opponents (who themselves take on a corresponding risk). These activities are not for everyone. Given his election to engage in, and persist with, a political debate which by its nature is bound to excite strong emotions, it would, we think, require special circumstances to justify a finding that such involvement had resulted in harassment." Instead of finding that Mr. Fraser was a "willing participant", the Tribunal dismissed most of his complaints as not relating to conduct "to which a reasonable objection can be raised". With regard to Congress resolutions in relation to Israel, UCU's behaviour ("act[ing] constitutionally in managing the debates and implementing resolutions") "was unobjectionable". Mr. Fraser "cannot base a legal claim" on his preference that UCU "behave unconstitutionally by subverting the authority of Congress and the union's democratic processes" (para. 152). Also "unobjectionable" were UCU's response to the report of the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism (para. 157), management of the Activists List (para. 160), response to Professor Weisskirchen (para. 161), reaction to the resignations of some Jewish members (para. 163), and management of debates (para. 165).

(b) UCU is not liable for harassment of a member by other non-employee members
The Tribunal rejected as "not ... known to our law" the concept of "institutional responsibility", proposed by Mr. Fraser's lawyer (para. 22), for harassment of one union member by other members (none of whom are employees of the union). Section 40 of the Equality Act 2010 makes employers liable to their employees for third-party (non-employee) harassment in defined circumstances (the UK Government plans to repeal it), but it does not apply as between a trade union and its non-employee members. UCU is vicariously liable only for harassment of its non-employee members resulting from acts of its employees and agents, not "from the conduct of fellow-members ... or from motions passed by Congress" (paras. 151, 152, 165, 166).

(c) Unwanted conduct "related to" race or religion

The Tribunal gave this criterion a very generous interpretation, rejecting an argument of UCU's lawyers by finding that "a practice of repeatedly criticising the actions and policies of the United States could certainly be seen as 'related to' race", and that "repeated criticism of any religious institution [such as the Roman Catholic Church] could be seen as 'related to' the [institution's] religion" (paras. 34-35). Despite this generous interpretation, the Tribunal ruled that UCU's "constitutional behaviour [in relation to Congress resolutions] was not connected in any way whatsoever with [Mr. Fraser's] Jewishness" (para. 153). The same was true of UCU's handling of the vote to reject the EUMC Working Definition (para. 166).

(d) Unwanted conduct with effect of violating dignity or creating a hostile environment
The Tribunal stressed that it "must not cheapen the significance of [the] words [dignity, intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive]. They are an important control to prevent trivial acts causing minor upsets being caught by the concept of harassment" (para. 38). "No doubt [Mr. Fraser] found some of the [Congress] motions and some things said in the course of debates upsetting, but to say that they violated his dignity or created for him an adverse environment ... is to overstate his case hugely" (para. 155). As for UCU's response to the Committee's report, "[t]he idea that [it] violated his dignity is absurd" (para. 158).

(e) Sufficient connection between unwanted conduct and Mr. Fraser

The Tribunal agreed with UCU's lawyers that "[t]here must be a sufficient nexus ... between the conduct and the individual who claims to have been harassed. ... While the conduct need not be aimed at a claimant, the further he stands from it, the less likely the Tribunal is to find [a harassing effect]" (para. 42). Two matters related to the Activists List were "much too remote from [Mr. Fraser]" (para. 160).

(f) Protection from harassment vs. freedom of expression

When interpreting s. 26 of the Equality Act 2010 on harassment, the Tribunal had to have "particular regard to the importance of the ... right to freedom of expression [under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights]", under ss. 3 and 12 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (paras. 43 and 44). The Tribunal cited the opinions of Lord Lester QC that "[UCU] and its members are fully entitled to exercise their right to freedom of expression ... by considering the pros and cons of the proposed boycott and ... to pass and publish resolutions criticising the policies of the Israeli government" (para. 6), and of Michael Beloff QC and Pushpinder Saini QC that "given 'the importance of political freedom of expression', a complaint of harassment based merely on the union permitting the [boycott] motion to be debated would not succeed" (para. 10).

The Tribunal also quoted the decision dismissing charges against members of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign: "[I]f persons on a public march designed to protest against ... alleged crimes committed by a State and its army are afraid to name that State for fear of being charged with racially aggravated behaviour, it would render worthless their Article 10(1) rights. ... [T]heir placards would have to read, ... 'Boycott an unspecified State in the Middle East' ..." (para. 47). And the Tribunal noted that "pluralism requires members of society to tolerate ... views which they believe to be false and wrong. This can be difficult for people to understand, especially if the subject is an important one and they are so convinced of the rightness of their views that they believe that any different view can only be the result of prejudice" (para 48).

Applying these principles to the Congress resolutions, the Tribunal concluded that Mr. Fraser's position was analogous to that of a rugby player (see above), and that "freedom of expression must be understood to extend to ... ideas generally, including those which offend, shock or disturb society at large or specific sections of it. ... [T]he narrow interests of [Mr. Fraser] must give way to the wider public interest in ensuring that freedom of expression is safeguarded" (para. 156). The Tribunal also noted the stark implication of complaint (2): UCU "could not lawfully defend themselves by answering the critical comments of the Parliamentary Committee for fear of harassing [Mr. Fraser]" (para. 159). Underlying his case was "a worrying disregard for pluralism, tolerance and freedom of expression" (para. 179).

(4) The one arguable complaint
Mr. Fraser's only legitimate grievance concerned UCU's failure to revoke (the day before a 5 Dec. 2009 conference) an invitation to a South African speaker who had been found by the South African Human Rights Commission to have engaged in anti- Jewish hate speech (para. 162). Although this was objectionable and therefore "unwanted conduct", it was not "on grounds of" race or religion (the formulation under pre-2010 legislation). "[A] guest of [UCU] accused in like circumstances at the eleventh hour of hate speech allegedly directed at some other racial or religious group ... would have been treated exactly as [the South African speaker] was" (para. 170). In any case, complaint (5) was submitted almost 18 months late.

(5) Was this case an abuse of the Equality Act 2010 and the Employment Tribunal?
The Tribunal left no doubt: "Lessons should be learned from this sorry saga. We greatly regret that the case was ever brought. At heart, it represents an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means. It would be very unfortunate if an exercise of this sort were ever repeated" (para. 178). "The Employment Tribunals are a hard-pressed public service and it is not right that their limited resources should be squandered as they have been in this case. Nor ... should [UCU] have been put to the trouble and expense of defending proceedings of this order or anything like it." Let us hope that these lessons will be learned.

Robert Wintemute,
Professor of Human Rights Law,
King's College London

  * * * *

Debating BDS: Fraser v UCU

On March 22nd, 2013 the Employment Tribunal rendered judgment in the case of Fraser v University College Union. Ruling in favour of UCU, the Tribunal’s judgment brought immense relief to UCU members, BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) activists, and others who were anxious about the potential repercussions that a negative outcome might have for freedom of political expression, particularly in the context of union activism, antiracism and human rights.

The ruling is an interesting read in its effort to come to grips with the spirit and letter of the 2010 Equalities Act legislation. The case is also significant as one among many different attempts to contest BDS through the courts in a variety of jurisdictions including France and the UK. The causes of actions have been different, although they have all been focused on BDS supporters and activists. The as-of yet unsuccessful prosecutions of BDS activists in France have variously attempted to criminalise activists who were calling for the boycott of Israeli goods on the basis that they were guilty of "inciting discrimination and racial hatred." Fraser v UCU had the overarching objective of attempting to shut down debate of BDS. Despite their differences, the underlying rationale is a shared one: political criticism of the State of Israel and political action that sup7 ports BDS are viewed as anti-Semitic – either inherently so or in particular instances.

This is why the ruling, a wholesale dismissal of Mr. Fraser’s claims against theUCU, is incredibly important for those who have heeded the call from Palestinian civil society to engage in BDS.

To begin with, the discussion of the Equalities Act 2010 provisions is illuminating, particularly for those who are not aware of how the Act has altered legal conceptualisations of harassment. Mr. Fraser alleged that UCU was liable for harassment on the basis of his protected characteristics of race (Jewish) and religion or belief (Jewish). (The variegated discursive casting of Jews as a ‘race’, a ‘nation’ and a ‘peoples’ throughout 19th and 20th century legal judgments is in itself far from straightforward.

See Didi Herman’s An Unfortunate Coincidence: Jews, Jewishness and English Law for a novel and rich analysis of this phenomenon.)

Significantly, the Employment Tribunal finds that Zionist political beliefs do not constitute a protected characteristic. While the claimant did not make any such claim, the Judge notes that Mr. Julius, counsel for the claimant, argued:

"[Mr. Fraser] has a strong attachment to Israel. This attachment is a non-contingent and rationally intelligible aspect of his Jewish identity. It is an aspect, that is, of his race and/or religion or belief… The fact that not all Jewish people have the same views does not prevent it from being an aspect of the protected characteristic. A significant proportion of Jewish people have an attachment to Israel which is an aspect of their self-understanding as Jews, or Jewish identity." (para 18)

Counsel argued that the claimant’s identity as Jewish is inseparable from his attachment to Israel. The Judge notes however, that no authority was provided for or against the proposition that "statutory protection attaches not only to any protected characteristic per se but also to a particular affinity or sentiment not inherent in a protected characteristic but said to be commonly held by members of a protected group" (para 18). We get a glimmer here of the elision that is consistently made by supporters of Israeli policies who brandish accusations of antisemitism against critics of Israel: because Mr. Fraser’s identity as a Jew is imbricated with a strong attachment to Israel, to criticise Israel is to criticise his Jewishness. This ruling is to be praised for dispassionately detaching Zionist political beliefs from Jewishness as a protected characteristic under human rights legislation. This is not to say, of course, that criticism of political Zionism or Israel never amounts to anti-Semitism. But in this particular case, each of the 10 discrete complaints that were made to prove the charge of harassment were dismissed.

A further point, not elaborated here but significant in my view, is the Tribunal’s rejection of Mr. Julius’ attempt to extend vicarious liability for harassment to unions, something which does not legally apply to unincorporated associations but to employers. This argument strikes me as deeply anti-union. While unions often seem, unfortunately, mired in their own baroque administrative mechanisms, arguing that unions whose practices are embedded in a history of collective action ought to be treated as a legal analogue to employers is in many ways, quite simply repugnant.


The Equalities Act 2010 imparts a very different approach to harassment than previous legislation (para 32).1 There is a shift from ground to atmosphere. (On a different but related note, see here for interesting new work on atmospherics and law). Whereas the pre-2010 Act "required that the treatment complained of should be ‘on grounds of’ the relevant protected characteristic" the 2010 Equalities Act instead posits a "related to" test; what is required is not a "causative nexus between the protected characteristic and the conduct" alleged to have constituted harassment, but instead, an "associative connection" (para 32). This associative connection is somewhat looser, and to establish harassment the court or tribunal will examine a range of acts that often fall outside traditional understandings of how discrimination and harassment occur. As the Tribunal notes, legislation that protects from harassment is meant to "create an important jurisdiction" (para 38). The experiences and knowledge of the claimant matter in this jurisdiction: the subjective element of s. 40(2)(a) of the Equalities Act enables the claimant to speak (dicta) his perception and relay her experiences to the law (juris), as it were, and this must be taken into account by the Tribunal. This jurisdiction is also constituted by environment, which evokes something rather different than the tangible metaphor of grounds, the causal link that used to be required to get from A (actions of the respondent) to B (the harm suffered by the claimant). This seems an apt approach , for identifying and remedying the slippery, common sense, amorphous, yet systemic and brutalising nature of sexism, racism and anti-Semitism (in other jurisdictions, it involves adopting a contextualised approach to judgment, an approach developed by and advoc8 ated for by many feminist legal scholars over the past several decades).

This environment that the Tribunal attempts forensically to take into account is one in which utterances, attitudes, and acts that are often cast outside of the law’s jurisdiction make an appearance. The Tribunal takes note of the "emotional energy" which the conflict has generated (para 50); can find no evidence of an "atmosphere of intimidation" alleged by the claimant (para 132); acknowledges the whispers and half-heard comments that a microphone will not pick up at a meeting (para 133); and notes with disdain the witnesses who "played to the gallery" rather than keeping their comments and gaze focused on the concrete questions they were being asked by counsel (para 148). Perhaps in an unconscious adaptation of the Good Jew/Bad Jew issue raised by the Claimant, which, while not mentioned, echoes the dichotomy between Good Muslim/Bad Muslim (although with much less success or analytical clarity it would seem), the Tribunal distinguishes between Good Witness/Bad Witness, the latter category of persons (most of the witnesses for the Claimants, rather than the Respondent) "ventilating their opinions;" and taking up precious air/time and resources. (para 149) This ruling is welcome at a time when proponents and supporters of BDS seem to come under fairly regular attack. Within Israel itself the Boycott Law has made support of BDS a potentially actionable civil wrong. Lawyers from Adalah challenged the Boycott Law that was passed by the Knesset in July 2011 in proceedings at the Israeli Supreme Court, this past December. The Boycott Law penalises individuals, companies and institutions who support the Palestinian call for BDS. The Law Preventing Harm to the State of Israel by Means of Boycott (the "Boycott Law") defines a boycott against the State of Israel as "deliberately avoiding economic, cultural or academic ties with another person or body solely because of their affinity with the State of Israel, one of its institutions or an area under its control, in such a way that may cause economic, cultural or academic damage."

The law essentially makes the support of boycotts against the state of Israel a civil wrong, actionable in tort law. The use of law to criminalise BDS activities, or to hold individuals civilly liable for supporting BDS, or indeed, to claim that debate or discussion of BDS is a legal wrong, is not only a matter of freedom of expression, but constitutes, in the words of the Tribunal, an "impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means." While achieving political ends through the law is a strategy employed by many, these attempts to use law as a tactic of suppression (of political activism and debate) must be resisted in the strongest of terms.

Political expression and freedom

The Tribunal upholds the values of tolerance and pluralism in defining the contours of freedom of expression. This means that for freedom of expression to be meaningful, the right of people to voice views that will conflict with others must be protected. For critical legal scholars and others, the words "pluralism" and "tolerance" immediately bring to mind a rich field of critique that points to the ways in which these very values work to produce cultural and racial homogeneity (and thus exclusion) in nation-state forms, among others obstacles to full and robust democratic practices. In the specific context of union activities, however, perhaps these ‘basic minimums’ are to be welcomed; they are certainly absent when it comes to the protection of freedom of expression in the public contexts of political demonstrations. One need only think about the 78 protestors (a vast majority of them British Asian Muslims) who were prosecuted for violent disorder while exercising their freedom of political expression against the Israeli bombardment of Gaza in 2008/2009. Many received prison sentences. The criminalisation of those who take to the streets to express their political views diminishes the value of the right to freedom of expression, narrows the range of forms that expression may take, and arguably impoverishes the scope of political debate. At least in the context of union activism and debate, the Employment Tribunal has preserved the right of advocates and opponents of BDS to engage in full and robust debate over an increasingly powerful and widespread strategy to support Palestinian civil society in their struggle to end the Israeli occupation. Brenna Bhandar

Note: This entry was posted on Critical Legal Thinking, 2 April 2013

It's about the Palestinians, stupid.

To no one’s surprise a Zionist claque has swiftly assembled to denounce the findings of the Fraser vs UCU Employment Tribunal. It would appear that according to these voices the only business at the next meeting of UCU’s national executive will not be fighting the massive cuts in UK higher and further education but debating when and in what format to reissue The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Hysterical rubbish, of course but we have to explore why the reaction is so unbalanced. Fraser and his legal advisors chose the legal terrain and the scope of their action, not UCU. They chose their schedule of witnesses who declaimed and dissembled but failed to address the matters that Fraser wished the tribunal to consider.

Anthony White, counsel for UCU, demolished their testimony but was only able to do so with such effectiveness because they were such poor witnesses. Ever since the tribunal, Fraser’s self-proclaimed friends have been picking over 50 pages of closely argued legal findings trying to claim they are simultaneously technically narrow and the most wide-ranging antisemitic text of recent years. Hirsh and Susskind et al fail to grasp at least two very basic points. They solipsistically believe it is all about the Jews; they cannot understand or believe that it is about the Palestinians.

For the vast majority of those active in support of Palestinian rights it was the oppression of Palestinians that led them to activity. They only started to consider Zionism as an ideology when they started to enquire why Israel was behaving so badly and so criminally. At that point they encountered the Zionist justification for occupation and oppression and took a stance of either deploring the degradation of a potentially positive movement or took a more radical stance of identifying Zionist ideology, in itself, at the heart of the problem. The absence of the Palestinians even as objects, let alone actors, in the Zionist exclusionary Jewish narrative tells us all we need to know about why being anti-Zionist is radically different from being an anti-Semite. Anti-Zionism is a stance against a pernicious anti-Palestinian racism. Zionism is an ideology that allows Israel to behave as it does while simultaneously believing that Israel conforms to the norms of liberal, law-based democracy.

Secondly, they continually ask, ‘why only boycott Israel?’ The Palestinian call for BDS is the only extant call for boycott by a significant national liberation movement. Other movements and peoples call for different forms of support each of which must be considered on its merits.

Israel’s crimes are not measured on a Richter scale of oppression against those of China or Burma or Zimbabwe and only be the subject of campaigns when they reach the hotly contested pinnacle at the top of the Premiership of abuse. That the crimes are profound and continuing is a sufficient justification.

Other regimes are the subject of regular denunciation and sanction by western governments, Israel is singled out not by our opposition but by the condoning of its actions by the USA; its massive military and civil aid; and its systematic cover at the Security Council. Similarly the EU treats Israel, in defiance of geography, as a surrogate, if displaced, part of Europe and grants the privileges of association without requiring the fulfilment of Council of Europe human rights standards.

None of this is to deny the possibility, and occasional reality, of support for Palestinian rights being motivated by malice towards Jews. We have a duty to criticise and condemn such behaviour when we see it and the Palestinian rights movement is, in general, self-aware and self-critical on this. Fraser and his team were unable to discover any such motivation behind the actions of UCU officers and activists and are now reduced to asserting that its absence can only be the result of a wider collaboration to conceal it. Such concealment is beyond the limited ability of UCU, PSC, BRICUP, the Employment Tribunal Service or other presumed conspirators. Its absence is just that, an absence.

Mike Cushman

Secretary LSE UCU Branch

Note: The author is a member of BRICUP and a UCU branch secretary. He is a regular speaker in favour of Palestinian rights at successive UCU congresses. His interventions were regularly referred to by Fraser and his witnesses.
Three moves to defeat: a Zionist game plan that has unravelled in the trade union movement.
The judgement in the Fraser case at the recent Employment Tribunal is a devastating defeat for those committed to defending Israel and the Zionist project against the worldwide move to isolate the Israeli state for its treatment of the Palestinians. It will not simply have consequences in England and Wales, and in the UK more widely, but will resonate internationally. For those at the heart of the BDS movement, pushing for an isolation of Israel in trade unions, and for a boycott of Israeli products, of performers and artists who represent the state, and of Israeli academic institutions, or events funded in collaboration with Israeli institutions, it is both an encouragement and an aid.

The struggle in trade unions (and indeed in local authorities, in cooperative societies, in shareholder meetings, in boards of school governors, etc.) is always primarily about the struggle of the Palestinians and led by the Palestinians, and how best to mount effective solidarity with that struggle. It is not primarily about Israelis and their motivations, or about the feelings of anger or hurt or victimisation felt by sympathisers with, or apologists for, Israel. Nevertheless, it remains the case that the accusation of anti-semitism is sometimes an obstacle still to the adoption of anti-Israel policy, and was even more of an obstacle in the recent past, and still today in parts of the Americas and of Europe.(1) The deployment of the ‘antisemitism’ card is an obstacle for three reasons: it is potentially intimidatory, at a personal level, of those involved in proposing the isolation of Israel; it all but guarantees that trade unions, or other organisations, that adopt a BDS position will be subjected to virulent opprobrium in the mass media; and it opens, theoretically at least, the possibility of legal action for discrimination in some countries.

First, it is deeply offensive to those arguing for BDS to be so labelled. In most cases, those active in this movement come to it not because of a primary 1 In Europe, German and French history in relation to antisemitism, and the enduring cultural memory of the consequences of events, in the c.19th and c.20th before the Nazi regime as well as under it in Germany, and in the c.19th and c.20th before the German occupation of France as well as during it, have made a boycott of Israel a highly charged issue, however manifestly horrendous are Israel’s war crimes and its discrimination against the Palestinians. This because, in both cases, atonement for past wrongs has been a practice collapsed into reparations payments and diplomatic support, and diplomatic support and cultural identification, respectively. Underpinning such a false association is, of course, the confusion and conflation of the cultural identity of Jewishness and the political project of Zionism. In the case of the United States, and some of its allies in that hemisphere, the obstacle has rather been the persistence of the ideological perception of Israel that was created during the high point of Israel’s role for the US as its imperial policeman in the Middle East. interest in the Middle East but through anti-racism, and the recognition that the treatment of the Palestinians is amongst the worst of examples of systematic prejudice and discrimination today. That fact, together with the strategic importance of the region, is what makes this issue the key moral and political issue of the c.21st. Some amongst those activists have come to their political understanding of the world through opposition to contemporary fascism and racism in their own countries, and through an historical study of Nazism and the Judeocide of the Nazi state in Germany and throughout occupied Europe. Hence to be labelled as an antisemite for defending the Palestinians against persecution is deeply offensive. This is well known by the defenders of Israel, and has been persistently deployed as one of their key tactics.

The second reason is institutional. The effectiveness of this individually focussed attempt at moral blackmail by Israel’s apologists has been a declining asset for the last two decades. The logical fallacy of conflating Zionism and Jewishness has long been identified and elaborated by political analysts; and its historical inaccuracy has, more recently, become more widely appreciated as political and cultural historians have revealed the political complexity of European Jewish communities (particularly those in Eastern Europe) in c.19th and early c.20th, and the divisions of ambition and orientation between assimilationists, the Bund, socialist movements, and the very small support for Jewish nationalism (the Zionist movement) before Nazism.

This waning of the effectiveness of ‘antisemitism’ as a weapon in the Zionist armoury turned defenders of Israel towards institutional intimidation. This took a variety of forms. First was the attempt to tie up institutions in protracted negotiations with the Board of Deputies, with the Israeli Embassy, with parliamentary inquiries, and with protracted and proliferating meetings, should any institution threaten to condemn Israel for its crimes, or to contemplate supporting BDS. Then there was the attempt to intimidate through an orchestrated condemnation of critical institutions and organisations in the national and international media using prominent figures from journalism or the culture industries or the academy who were sympathetic to Israel, and from Israel-supporting politicians or national governments.(2) Finally, the 2 In the UK, this orchestration was conducted by a variety of organisations funded for the purpose from a variety of institutional approach turned to those trade unions and civil society organisations that themselves remained sympathetic to Israel in order to create the impression that BDS was an unpopular and minority position inside the labour movement and movements for social justice.(3)

In the case of the UK, all of these tactics have been used extensively against the University and Colleges Union (UCU). It is to their credit that the officials of the union, and the elected leadership, met and politely responded to all such interventions but resolutely defended the union’s independence, and the right of its Congress to debate all matters that delegates thought appropriate, and to determine the union’s policy on all matters, within the law. It was in response to the failure, in the end, of the institutional strategy that led to the recent desperate appeal to the law by Israel’s supporters. The law had constituted a potential third obstacle for the BDS movement in some countries. In the UK, for example, legal advice that the imposition of a boycott (i.e. the implementation of a boycott) might be deemed unlawful under one or other aspects of civil or criminal law caused the Chair of the UCU Congress meeting which finally adopted a pro-BDS position, on the advice of the union’s Strategy and Finance Committee, to read a prepared statement to the effect that the policy could not be enforced on members.(4) In effect, this disclaimer was of no sources, and a specific coordinating centre was established.

3 In this, the appeal of Israel’s supporters to trade unions in the US and in Germany was, and remains, central. The aim is to bring pressure to bear on pro-BDS trade unions, and to seek to isolate them in international organisations and their conferences, and to block any proposals for international support for BDS.

4 The UCU had over a number of years reflected at its Congresses on the issue of an academic boycott of Israeli educational institutions. Its protracted deliberations, which involved the provision of information for branch discussions, considerations of a variety of possible policies, etc., were designed to ensure that all members were fully aware of the issues, and of the implications of the adoption of a pro-boycott position, before any final decision would be determined. It was a strategy designed to debate the issue in branches prior to a debate at Congress, rather than the alternative of adopting policy at Congress and subsequently persuading members and branches of its value. Finally, at its 2009 Congress, the UCU declared itself to be in support not just of an academic boycott of Israeli educational institutions but of a generalised BDS position in relation to all contact and trade with Israel, including academic exchanges and significance.

The UCU, as the union for lecturers in the UK’s Further Education and Higher Education sectors, was never in a position to instruct its members to boycott Israeli institutions any more than it could have imposed a boycott of Top Shop (because of its sourcing policy) or Starbucks or McDonald’s or Amazon (because of their labour relations, wage structure, or any tax avoidance measures in which they might be engaged). The exercise was rather to achieve the important issue of clear policy in favour of BDS (which was supported in that final vote by perhaps 80% or more of Congress delegates after some four years of debate and discussion in branches and regional committees, as well as at Congress), and thus a de facto encouragement to all members to reflect carefully in any association with Israeli institutions on whether it was politically or morally appropriate for them to continue that association. That had been achieved, and the attempted legal intervention to block the democratic process had, if anything, a counter-productive effect. The UCU was formally, and firmly, in favour of a generalised policy of BDS, including the academic boycott of Israeli educational institutions.

It was in the face of this unhappy outcome for Israel’s friends, compounded by the decision of Congress not to use the EUMC-recommended definition of anti-semitism, that caused one member, with the support of some pro-Zionist organisations and individuals (though against the better judgment of others, especially some lawyers) to charge the union with institutional racism, and to seek redress through an Industrial Tribunal.(5) The decision to refer the matter to and Industrial Tribunal rather than another legal arena already indicated some anxiety and insecurity but what must now have become an insupportable frustration clearly got the better of strategic thinking, and the case was hung on the offence to the feelings of the member as a result of the hostile atmosphere created by repeated criticism of Israel at UCU Congresses. collaborations if these involved Israeli institutions (as opposed to collaboration with individual Israeli scholars).

5 The delegates at the UCU Congress rejected this definition because it conflated both criticism of Israel and criticism of Zionism with antisemitism, and thus was a covert mechanism for closing down legitimate political debate through such conflation.

As will have already been documented in other parts of this Newsletter, that claim depended for its legal strength on the claim that identification with Israel was a ‘protected characteristic’ of Jewishness under the relevant section of the relevant law, and that, therefore, criticism of Israel constituted an attack on that characteristic, and thus was a version of institutional racism.(6)

In dismissing the case on all counts, the Tribunal specifically complemented the UCU for its sensitive handling of the debates, criticised the plaintiff and his legal advisors for attempting to achieve a political outcome via an inappropriate (and expensive) use of the courts, and rejected the core of the case (that identification with Israel was a protected characteristic of Jewishness under the Act) as being without substance. In other words, the Tribunal found that the conflation of criticism of Israel or of Zionism with antisemitism was without legal merit.

This outcome could not have been more damaging for Israel’s apologists. The judgment makes no claims for the merits of the substantive issues (pro or anti Israeli policy, or pro or anti the Zionist project) but removes the legitimacy of any possibility of a legal challenge to BDS on the grounds that it is, eo ipso, antisemitic. It is hard now to see down what legal route Israel’s supporters could go. It is to be hoped that they will mount an appeal against this decision, so that the appeal court judges can inscribe this judgment in case law, but given the bruising outcome of the Tribunal and the exhaustiveness of the judgment it is likely that zealots will be held in check by more conservative legal counsel. They may seek a political intervention that defines Jewishness. This could not, however, be achieved through mobilisation of friends and supporters in the Government to pass an Order in Council (thus 6) This was not just an issue for the UCU, or an issue that was exclusive to the Israel-Palestine debate. Had the Tribunal found in favour of the plaintiff, the consequences would have been felt by all trade unions in the UK. Other organisations or institutions would equally have had to consider their policies in relation to that judgment. It would have affected any other policy issue in which a member could claim that his or her feelings of hurt had been stimulated by a criticism or disparagement of what could be claimed to be a ‘protected characteristic’. The range of such issues could be immense, and all contentious policy would have been potentially open to such a challenge from any member who wished to reinvent herself as a damaged litigant, whose claimed feelings of hurt might have been honestly reported (as in this case), however inappropriately pursued, or conveniently and unscrupulously confected. avoiding Parliament, and avoiding a public debate that would be deeply damaging for their cause) but would require an Act of Parliament in order to overturn a legal judgment. This would be such a highly fraught, excessive, particularist, and thus risky route that it would be unlikely to be embarked upon, much less its destination achieved. Where then does it leave trade unions, and, in particular, trade unionists who think it now appropriate to pursue the BDS route to helping the Palestinians find a solution to the problems of discrimination, dispossession, exclusion, and the extirpation of their culture?

There are three opportunities created by this judgment.

First is the opportunity to raise, or to raise again, the issue of BDS in every union that has not yet adopted the policy, and to do it now in circumstances in which the Tribunal’s judgment can be used in response to any rhetorical accusation of antisemitism.

Equally, it is now possible to raise again, with the benefit of this judgment’s reflection, the issue of the appropriateness of commercial transactions with Israeli firms (i.e. whether it is at all appropriate to conduct normal commercial transactions with Israeli companies that are, by their very nature (as Israeli companies), complicit in the illegal occupation of the West Bank, the illegal denial to the Palestinians of their right in international law to return to their homes, and the discriminatory treatment of Palestinian citizens of Israel under Israeli law). This is something that trade unions can do with the employers of their members whether the operation is a local Town Hall or municipal service, a school or college or university, a retail or manufacturing company, or a transport or other service.

Second, it provides an opportunity, in those unions that have adopted pro-Palestinian positions on human rights and international law but have restricted these to the occupied territories, to raise the issue of whether such a limitation is appropriate. To limit the boycott to those goods or activities produced illegally in the Israeli illegal settlements in the West Bank is not to address the other key issues at the heart of the BDS movement – the right of those in the Palestinian diaspora to return to the homes out of which they were driven in 1948 or 1967 or thereafter, and the right of Palestinians inside Israel’s 1948 borders not to suffer ethnic discrimination in health, education, access to jobs and freedom of movement. The achievement of a policy in favour of a boycott of illegal products or services from the West Bank alone is a positive step but it runs the risk of not addressing the core problem of the area - the problem of Israel, the exclusiveness of its citizenship criteria, and the consequent insecurity that drives it to continual expansion geographically. This is the problem that is at the heart of the illegal occupation and its persistence. This is the problem that is not addressed by a narrow boycott of illegal products from the West Bank alone.

Third, it is an opportunity for those in trade unions, or other organisations, that have formally adopted policy in favour of BDS to find new and innovative ways to implement those policies, to find ways in which the argument can be renewed in every part of an organisation, and for colleagues and fellow workers to be persuaded to carry the policy through in the practices of their working lives.

Not least important in all of this, and in explaining clearly the implications of this judgment to colleagues and to fellow trade unionists and others, is the avoidance of any triumphalism. It is the case that this judgment has confirmed what anti-racist and anti-imperialist activists in the trade unions and elsewhere have always known. It is also the case that the individual who took his trade union to court, at immense expense to the union, and with disruptive effect, was ill-judged in so doing, and was certainly ill-advised by his counsel. He was mistaken to resort to the courts in frustration at not being able to win a political argument in his union. He is not to be pilloried for this mistake, however. He had a legal right to do this, however mistaken his decision, and that right needs to be respected just as his union, the UCU, respected his right in successive Congresses and in his branch to argue against BDS and against policies critical of Israel.

Though there are many of us who believe with good reason that the Zionist project to construct and maintain a confessional state exclusively for Jews is inherently racist and exclusory, and bound to be expansionist, that does not mean that in Britain or anywhere else that Zionism is precisely like other forms of racism for which a ‘no platform’ policy should apply. In the cases of Zionism, of Israel, and of Israel’s supporters, there are still debates to be conducted, and it is in the interests of the struggle for Palestine that they are conducted with openness as much as with vigour. The objective in the UCU is certainly to persuade our adversaries, not to belittle or to disparage them.

Tom Hickey

UCU National Executive member,

Writing in a personal capacity
The PACBI Column

Israel’s Lawfare against BDS in Tatters

  PACBI and the entire BDS movement around the world celebrated what commentators described as a "crushing defeat"[1] of legal efforts by Israel and its powerful lobby groups to delegitimize BDS and anti-Zionist activism in general. This month, a British employment tribunal dismissed a lawsuit against Britain’s largest academic union, the University and College Union (UCU), that sought to silence the union’s deliberations on BDS at its annual conferences.[2] The lawsuit was brought about by a Zionist member of UCU who accused his union of "institutional anti-Semitism" for debating the academic boycott against Israel’s complicit institutions.

The court ruling stated:

"Lessons should be learned from this sorry saga. We greatly regret that the case was ever brought. At heart, it represents an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means. It would be very unfortunate if an exercise of this sort were ever repeated" (paragraph 178).

The claimant, supported by a prominent lawyer [3] and key Israel lobby groups in the UK, also attacked UCU’s solid rejection of a newly created definition of anti-Semitism that includes anti-Zionism and criticism of Israel. In response to this, the court emphatically distinguished between Judaism and Zionism, stating that "a belief in the Zionist project or an attachment to Israel … cannot amount to a protected characteristic" under the Equality Act of 2010. Commenting on this, British Committee for Universities in Palestine (BRICUP), which leads academic boycott efforts against Israel, stated:

"’Fraser vs. UCU’ was viewed by activists as a test case for all UK unions’ right to advocate boycott of Israeli universities and products, and firms that operate in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It also has important implications for free speech on Palestine and Israel on university campuses." [4] What is less known about this and other anti-BDS litigation cases is that the Israeli government stands behind them. Amir Sagie, director of the civil society affairs department in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, admitted [5] in an Israel advocacy conference in Johannesburg in February that Israel is deeply worried about the growth of BDS and is trying to combat it on several fronts, including the legal one. Several Israeli government ministries, Sagie disclosed, have been "investing heavily" in legal warfare, or lawfare, against BDS in key EU countries. He said:

"Over the last six months Israel has taken on two (court) cases in partnership with UK Jewry. We are trying wherever possible to challenge BDS morally and legally. But some legal systems are not geared to this. France’s legal system (provides ways to challenge boycotts) while the UK (legal) system is not (similarly geared)."

Israel’s attempt to popularize its new definition of anti-Semitism, that includes anti-Israel and anti- Zionist speech and activism, is at the core of this legal warfare on BDS. But Israel and its pressure groups are also engaged in many other forms of what a leading Israeli think-tank called "sabotage"[6] and spying on European and other human rights activists. In March 2011, Israeli media sources revealed that Israel’s military intelligence had created a special department to "collect information" on activists involved in BDS, and similar activities, in those activists’ own countries.
Independent's Howard Jacobson was a witness whose role was to discredit Palestinians - once again he failed
Israel’s worries about BDS are not getting any reprieve lately [8]. In 2012, and the first three months of 2013 alone, there has been a sharp rise in BDS victories. European governments are for the first time seriously considering punitive measures against Israel’s illegal settlements; the UN Human Rights Council welcomed a UN Fact-Finding mission report that calls for sanctions against Israel over its settlement construction; major churches and student unions across North America have adopted targeted BDS measures; the South African ruling party, the ANC, has endorsed BDS; the cultural boycott has continued to grow with more prominent artists and cultural figures refusing to visit Israel or cancelling scheduled events there; leading international figures have endorsed the Palestinian civil society initiated call for a military embargo of Israel; and an effective boycott of Israeli agricultural companies is spreading across Europe and beyond. Even US president Barrack Obama, Israel’s most loyal -- and generous-- friend, has reportedly admitted that Israel was heading towards "near-total isolation" and that the world may soon start treating it as an "apartheid state."[9]

Israel’s lawfare defeat in the UK is precedent setting in its impact. It may herald a new, longawaited era of accountability for Israel and institutions that are complicit in its crimes. For now, BDS activists and all supporters of free speech will welcome this verdict. BDS activists have the right to mobilize global support for isolating Israel, just as was done in South Africa under apartheid, in order to bring about freedom, justice and equality.


[1] http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/asawinstanley/ crushing-defeat-israel-lobby-antiboycott- litigation-fails-uk

[2] http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/media/judgments/2013/ fraser-uni-college-union

[3] http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/tribun al-slams-academic-for-bringing-anti-semitismcase/ 2002841.article

[4] http://bricup.org.uk/documents/FraserCasePR.pdf

[5] http://myshtetl.co.za/community/israel/israelnews/isr ael%E2%80%99s-top-anti-bds-man

[6] http://electronicintifada.net/content/israels-newstrategy- sabotage-and-attack-global-justicemovement/ 8683

[7] http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/idfofficers- confirm-special-department-created-tomonitor- foreign-left-wing-organizations-1.350713

[8] See: www.BDSmovement.net and www.pacbi.org

[9] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01- 14/what-obama-thinks-israelis-don-t-understand- .html

BRICUP is the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine.

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