UCU continues its campaign to punish Ronnie Fraser for challenging its antisemitism – David Hirsh

UPDATE – DECISON – see below

UCU is in court again today looking to make Ronnie Fraser pay hundreds of thousands of pounds for daring to challenge its antisemitism.

The original tribunal, led by Judge Snelson, found that claims of institutional antisemitism in the UCU were all baseless and that Fraser was raising the issue of antisemitism in bad faith in order to get an underhand advantage in the Israel/Palestine debate.

The Snelson tribunal later recused itself from hearing UCU’s action against Fraser for costs on the basis that its own judgment had already over-reached itself because it made claims which were arguably prejudicial to the costs hearing.

UCU insisted that a new tribunal should be convened to hear its action for costs.  Fraser and his lawyers argued that a costs hearing could only be fair if it went over the issues of the case again and in detail to show that Fraser’s claim was not only lost – but to show to a quite different standard that it was also vexatious or entirely inappropriate – that Fraser should have known that he would lose.

Fraser’s lawyers argued that the law was clear – that a costs hearing could only be held if it could be a summary hearing and if the issues were straightforward.  In this case, a long hearing would be necessary to go over much of the evidence again (for the new tribunal), to look at the relationships between Fraser and his lawyers and to look at whether each issue raised was so inappropriate as to be a waste of the court’s time.

The new tribunal ruled that this could be done in a day with one day’s reading preparation.

Today Fraser’s lawyers are appealing this ruling.  They are arguing that a fair hearing for costs would need to go over all the counts and issues of the original case again because they would be being heard by a new tribunal and against new criteria.  Witnesses would have to be re-heard and new witnesses called.  If there cannot be a summary hearing then the law says, they argue, that there cannot be a costs hearing at all.


NB this was a hearing to gain leave to appeal this previous decision to allow a summary hearing of costs, it was not the appeal itself.

The Appeal Judge did not give leave to appeal.   He refused to overrule the lower Judge’s determination that a fair hearing for costs can be carried out in two days.

In a verbal judgment, he seemed explicitly to close ranks with the lower Employment Tribunal Judges.  He gratuitously praiseed the Snelson Judgment, saying that it was “very well written”.  He quoted, apparently approvingly, the most trenchant and absurd paragraphs of the Snelson judgment, the ones which led to the recusal.  He praised the chair of the new tribunal Judge Wade’s decision that a fair hearing for costs can be carried out in one day of reading and one day of argument, with no new evidence, no witnesses, relying mainly on the Snelson judgment which itself went far beyond its remit in the determination of facts and offered opinion about the bad faith, underhand intentions and wastefulness of the whole action.

The hearing for costs will take place next Wednesday, the first day of Channukah.  Nobody is expecting a miracle.

David Hirsh  

20 Responses to “UCU continues its campaign to punish Ronnie Fraser for challenging its antisemitism – David Hirsh”

  1. Edward Beck Says:

    This is a horrible nightmare. Is there a legal defense fund for Ronnie?

  2. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    It is also, arguably, a case of justice manifestly not being seen to be done.

  3. Yehuda Erdman Says:

    I fail to understand where this is going. Mr Fraser faces financial ruin, was it all worth it?

  4. s4r4hbrown Says:

    I don’t see how one could possibly get on top of the case in a day. It’s interesting the Appeal Judge describes the Snelson Judgment as ‘very well written’. This seems a rather odd way of characterising a legal judgement. It was certainly a rather rhetorical document. Here are a couple of extracts from my own response to the judgement – I particularly focused on the *way* it was written as I was surprised by the tone. With regard to the passage I described as ‘staccato’ – there is something artificial about those two first very short, stark statements, and my own impression was of a writer enjoying crafting those clipped, dismissive, de haut en bas sentences.


    “Despite being deeply interested in the result of Ronnie’s Fraser’s case, I expected the ruling itself to be rather dry, with the result hinging on precedents set by case law. While fully sharing the concerns which motivated the many other witnesses, and Ronnie himself, to pursue this case, I realized that the tribunal would have to judge it according to various quite technical criteria.

    … My response to the (hugely disappointing) result would have been rather different if the ruling had limited itself to such matters.

    However the later parts of the ruling went beyond these technical issues, and were less dry – and less dispassionate ….

    Whereas those standing with Ronnie Fraser come in for various acidulated digs in the ruling, the discussion of Masuku (although there is some acknowledgement of a problem here) has a ‘move along, nothing to see here’ tone. This is its staccato summary of the Leeds UCU meeting:

    “117 The conference proceeded. Mr Masuku spoke. The event was unremarkable and it was not suggested that anything improper was said or done.”

    ‘The event was unremarkable’ – except for the minor detail that no one seemed to have been bothered that a man deemed guilty of hate speech was speaking on the sensitive topic of BDS and no one much seemed to regret it either:

  5. zaccaerdydd Says:

    ‘I don’t see how one could possibly get on top of the case in a day.’

    I agree, which is one reason I felt many issues here would have been best examined in an academic setting, thence liaising with an academic department of law (perhaps they were, I am less familiar with the evidence submitted than you are).

    A hugely complex matter has been made simplistic in an employment tribunal, opening Ronnie up to the UCU, who want blood. As you say, the evidence needs a far more thorough examination.

  6. zaccaerdydd Says:

    Re Snelson, Howard Jacobson’s verdict, again:

    ‘These tidings would seem to be confirmed by Judge Anthony Snelson who, investigating a complaint that the Union was institutionally anti-Semitic, encountered not a trace of any such beast, no suggestion it had lurked or was lurking, not the faintest rustle of its cerements, not so much as a frozen shadow on a wall. Indeed, so squeaky-clean was the union in all its anti-Israel motions and redefinitions of anti-Semitism to suit itself, that Judge Snelson berated the Jewish complainants, a) for wasting his time with evidence, b) for irresponsibly raiding the public purse, and c) for trying to silence debate, which is, of course, the rightful province of the Boycott and Divestment movement.

    It was this same Judge Snelson, reader, who ruled in favour of a Muslim woman claiming the cocktail dress she was expected to wear, while working as a cocktail waitress in Mayfair, “violated her dignity”. Not for him the cheap shot of wondering what in that case she was doing working as a cocktail waitress in a cocktail bar in Mayfair. If she felt she was working in a “hostile environment”, then she was working in a “hostile environment”, which is not to be confused with a Jew feeling he is working in a hostile environment since with the abolition of anti-Semitism there is no such thing as an environment that’s hostile to a Jew. My point being that Judge Snelson’s credentials as a man who knows a bigot from a barmcake are impeccable.’


  7. amie Says:

    Denning’s judgments were all cast in that stacatto tone. Often Denning was right. Sometimes he was wrong. The literary style is not a sure indicator of the rightness or wrongness.

  8. Timely Says:

    This article is rather timely, considering yesterday’s decision……….


  9. Timely Says:

    I should add that apart from the Jew on Jew JFS case (and even there, the reasoning of the decision is somewhat problematic) no Jew has ever been successful in a claim for discrimination in the English courts.

  10. needlemensch Says:

    Really terrible. I wonder if anyone at Engage has heard the story of Doron Ben-Atar, a professor stateside who had a similar experience at Fordham in the US: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/10/15/opponent-israel-boycott-accused-uncivil-conduct

  11. Jonathan Lowenstein (@telaviv1) Says:

    If I were Mr Fraser, I would leave the UK. But then I already have.

  12. Timely Says:

    amie, please could you let me know a/the case where a Jew has successfully claimed for antisemitism. I ask out of genuine interest, not to prove a point.

  13. Timely Says:

    amie, I am speaking here of discrimination specifically and not other areas of law. Thanks.

  14. James Mendelsohn Says:

    Timely, if I remember rightly Didi Herman’s book “An Unfortunate Coincidence” says the same as what you are saying i.e. that no Jewish claimant has ever made a successful claim under relations law other than in the JFS case:


  15. zaccaerdydd Says:


    that no case of racial discrimination against Jews has EVER been successfully brought in the UK etc

  16. Lev Bronstein Says:

    Here is a really interesting legal analysis of the case with some implicit criticism of the decision reached by the tribunal.
    See the last paragraph with regard to the human rights argument that article 10 (freedom of expression) should be a shield and not a sword and the equality act should be engaged.

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