White activist qualifies as 'black'

May 13, 2005

A white Jewish lecturer has revealed how he had to declare himself "black" to join an equal opportunities committee of lecturers' union Natfhe.

Barnet College lecturer Ronnie Fraser got himself elected to the "black members" section of the union's London Region equality committee to raise concerns about the representation of Jewish interests by the union.

He said the group was technically open only to "women, gay, lesbian, disabled or black" members of the union, but he established that the definition of "black" members was wide enough to include Jews - as an ethnic minority that suffers racism.

"I believe head office had to ask its lawyers if I could be accepted as a black member, and they said the union had to accept me," Mr Fraser told The Times Higher . "So I'm black."

Mr Fraser has been lobbying Natfhe over its representation of Orthodox Jewish members since 2002 when the union called for a review of links with Israeli universities, leading to their possible severance, in protest at Israel's policy on Palestinians.

He has successfully fought against holding regional activists' meetings on the Jewish Sabbath and has helped to get measures to counter anti-Semitism in the union's rulebook.

Mr Fraser has secured national executive backing for a landmark motion condemning anti-Semitism. It will be debated at Natfhe's annual conference in Eastbourne this month.

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