Ronnie Fraser is a sincere and passionate, though not uncritical, supporter of Israel. Now in his mid-sixties, he has spent the past decade or so teaching mathematics in schools and colleges. In 1998, Fraser joined a trade union representing teachers in higher education. Following the merger of his union with another in 2006, he became a member of the University and College Union.
The UCU is far from being a supporter of the Jewish state. Fraser's view is that his union did nothing to stop institutionally anti-Semitic acts over several years. At its policy-making conferences in 2007 and in 2009, members supported academic boycotts of Israel. On legal advice, neither motion was implemented by the union's executive.
I can well understand how upset Fraser was by decisions such as these. In 2007, the National Union of Journalists voted at its annual meeting for a boycott of Israeli goods, a policy I could not possibly have respected. I resigned, after more than 30 years' loyal membership.
During the same year, 47 Jewish members left the UCU because of its policy towards Israel, plus another 12 for unspecified reasons — although 53 Jews joined. Fraser stayed put, investing his energies in the Academic Friends of Israel — an impressive-looking body that turns out to be little more than himself, his wife and his computer.
His disarming admission to this effect was made to an employment tribunal in proceedings Fraser brought last year against the UCU. At first sight, this seems to have been a category error. Fraser was not employed by the UCU. He did not lose his teaching job. What was the basis of his claim?