A Jewish academic who lost a legal battle with the University and College Union over claims that he was the victim of anti-Semitism has finally settled the long-running case after lawyers agreed an out-of-court settlement over costs.
Ronnie Fraser, a further education lecturer and founding director of the Academic Friends of Israel, had argued that the UCU was institutionally anti-Semitic after it passed motions in favour of an academic boycott of Israel. But in March 2013 the case was rejected by a tribunal court judge, who branded it an “impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means”.
In light of the verdict, the UCU sought to reclaim from Mr Fraser its legal costs, reportedly about £600,000 – an unusual step in employment tribunal matters possible only when a claim is deemed misconceived, vexatious or unreasonable.
After more than a year, the UCU has settled its cost application against Mr Fraser’s law firm, Mishcon de Reya, whose deputy chairman Anthony Julius represented Mr Fraser in the 20-day hearing. Details of the deal are unlikely to ever be known as the costs order was “settled on confidential terms to the satisfaction of both parties”, Mishcon de Reya said.
Critics of Mr Fraser called on him and his legal counsel to disclose how he was able to use one of London’s top lawyers, given his apparently modest income as a maths lecturer at Barnet College for many years.
“He was supported by lawyers who should have known better, and by funders whose identity can only be guessed at,” said Jonathan Rosenhead, chair of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, which believes that the case was an attempt to shut down discussion of Israeli human rights abuses.
The case has split opinion in academia and the Jewish community.
The verdict was branded a “travesty” by Jeremy Newmark, formerly the chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, who praised Mr Fraser as a “modern-day hero in the fight against anti-Semitism”. However, in a letter to The Jewish Chronicle, Jonathan Goldberg QC called the case a “legal and public relations disaster”.