You can read about the background to the legal action taken by Moty Cristal here. To sum up, he had been booked as a speaker by Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust, but was disinvited after protests from Unison and is now suing for damages.
It is now being claimed that the case is not so clear cut as it first seemed to be – that Cristal was not boycotted simply because he is Israeli but because of his ties to the Israeli government:
Now Judge David Mitchell seems unsure whether the case should even be heard.
Judge Mitchell told Dinah Rose QC, acting for Prof Cristal, that he was “not against” her, but that he was “concerned” by the number of legal issues the sides were debating and feared the case would “simply mushroom into a huge series of issues”.
This seems a slightly defeatist attitude – I would have thought the function of legal experts was to adjudicate on complex issues – if it was easy anyone could do it. Here is just one apparent crux:
The case partly focuses on the interpretation of the phrase “Israeli negotiator”. Prof Cristal claims that the Trust’s use of the term was an indication that the event had been cancelled because of his nationality. But Unison’s lawyer Christopher Jeans QC told the court it was “extraordinary” to interpret the phrase that way.
The union would defend the claim on the basis that its members’ objection to Prof Cristal was because he had in the past been a negotiator on behalf of the Israeli government.
It doesn’t seem remotely ‘extraordinary’ to interpret the phrase ‘Israeli negotiator’ as ‘a negotiator who happens to be Israeli’. That is not to say that it might not be used to describe/imply a negotiator working on behalf of the Israeli government – only that that is not the only, or even the most obvious, interpretation, particularly given Cristal’s recent involvement in a whole range of negotiating contexts.
Although the phrase ‘Israeli negotiator’ can be found in initial accounts of the disinvitation, Cristal’s relationship with the Israeli government didn’t appear to be highlighted so much in these earlier reports.
And as I assume the invitation came from the Health Trust, not Unison itself, I am unsure what bearing the union’s policies on Israel have on the Trust’s own arrangements or undertakings with regard to Cristal.
Here is a quote attributed to a Unison spokesperson in a report by Harriet Sherwood:
But, she added, “we are supportive of people in Palestine. The trade union movement has a long history of international solidarity. Our members would find it difficult to be lectured in conflict resolution by someone from Israel.”