In a victory for free speech and democracy, December 14th saw a significant defeat for forces attempting to silence criticism of Israel , as a motion raised by Councillors Greig and Boulton of Aberdeen City Council was debated at a meeting of the full Council.

Aberdeen City Councillors eloquently rebutted a Lib-Dem/Tory effort to denounce BDS activities in Scotland's third cityAt first viewing, the motion had much to commend it, roundly condemning racism and xenophobia and calling for tolerance and diversity in the city. However, on a more thorough reading, aspects of the text raised concerns with a number of individuals and organisations, who recognised the potential for the motion - if passed unamended - to actively lead to suppression of freedom of speech and political protest. The concerning points stated that (author’s emphasis):

That this Council..
3. Believes that the best way to promote peace and harmony in the world is to build cultural, academic and economic bridges.
4. Rejects any attempt to drive individuals, families and legitimate businesses away from Aberdeen on grounds of race, religion or country of origin and condemns any organisation that pursues such a policy.

Demonstrators march through Cape Town for BDS against Israeli ApartheidAny person of conscience who was involved in the international campaign of boycott against apartheid South Africa, or the current campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, will recognise the danger inherent in those innocuous-looking paragraphs - indeed, if passed in the 1980’s, the motion would have put the Council not only in a position opposing the international boycott campaign against the South African apartheid regime, but also actively condemning any organisation who did!

These concerns were proved well-founded when the joint proposers of the motion were quoted in the press, directly linking the motion to current BDS activity in Aberdeen, specifically the ongoing campaign by SPSC Aberdeen Branch against Jericho Dead Sea Cosmetics stall in Union Square.

The councillors voiced vague unsubstantiated accusations of ‘anti-Semitism masked as anti-Israel sentiment’, a charge robustly challenged by Unite regional officer Tommy Campbell, who responded:

We hope the city councillors will continue with the city council’s proud historical record of opposing racism and apartheid in South Africa and by also opposing the racist apartheid policy of the current Israeli government. Criticism of the crimes committed by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people is not being anti-Semitic..

SPSC members contacted councillors ahead of the debate to voice their concerns over the motives behind the motion, i.e. the bid to stifle criticism of Israel and prevent legitimate protest.

The campaign to criminalise BDS activity and support for Palestinian rights is not new, but is relentlessly gathering pace, with Theresa May’s new definition of anti-Semitism the most recent threat to legitimate criticism of Israel, openly conflating anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism.

Fiona Napier from Aberdeen branch of SPSC said:

The national boycott campaign against Jericho (targeted due to its exploitation of the Dead Sea, highly symbolic of the apartheid nature of the Israeli occupation) has been the subject of increasingly sinister attack from the pro-Israel lobby and their supporters. A malicious campaign of unfounded claims has seen SPSC activists in court on ‘racially aggravated’ charges, and the campaign here in Aberdeen has been subject to unwarranted constant police attention, due to a constant stream of ‘anonymous’ calls reporting alleged ‘hate crimes’. Despite this opposition, we have refused to be silenced, and it is clear from Cllrs Greig and Boulton’s remarks that this motion is being used as yet another attempt to shut us down.

Aberdeen Trades Union Council (ATUC) responded to the motion via a robust statement sent to all councillors before the debate, pointing out

The councillors putting forward the motion have been clever with their words, but if passed, we are concerned that this motion will put the City Council and its councillors in direct opposition to legitimate human rights campaign groups that are supported by many local individuals and organisations – and we presume many councillors too. Given the recent press comments from Cllr Greig, the motion is clearly directed at opposing such human rights groups and the ATUC as well.”

On the day of the Council meeting, an amendment to remove the two controversial paragraphs was tabled and following a vigorous debate, was passed overwhelming by 32 votes to 9. During the debate, numerous speakers paid tribute to Aberdeen’s proud record of opposing apartheid and oppressive states, and urged colleagues not to allow that record to be compromised. Councillors recalled Aberdeen’s contribution towards fighting fascism in the Spanish civil war and the city’s active opposition to apartheid South Africa, and there were repeated calls to resist any attempt to stifle the right of individuals to speak out against injustice and oppression.

The amended motion which finally passed is certainly one that Aberdeen City Council can be proud of - one that celebrates diversity and tolerance and condemns racism and intolerance, but in no way attempts to curtail the right to lawful, legitimate protest. SPSC congratulates the Council on this principled position, and encourages others to take courage from this resounding defeat of the pro-Israel lobby in its attempt to subvert local democracy.

SPSC Aberdeen Branch
15 December 2016
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

7 minute video of highlights from Aberdeen City Council debate Wed 14 Dec 2016

Saee also: BBC's statistics programme demolished Zionist antisemitism claims


+1 #11 Mohamad Issa 2017-01-02 22:41
Dear Ms Brannan
May I wish you a Happy New Year.
Your comments are very interesting and I thought to make some quick remarks..

-1 Regarding the hounding of individuals, there are many civil laws in Britain that protect all individuals (regardless of his/her identity or nationality) from any personnel attacks or offences. We are lucky to have a democracy that protects the free speech. It would be a dark day for the people of Britain if they were to be deprived of this prevailing. I assume you share with me the same feeling.

2- I assume you wanted to stop people criticising Israelis because they are not the only baddies in town when you refer to Chinese and Saudis. I also noticed that you hinted that criticising Israelis is a form of anti-Semitism. Did you not fall in the same trap(!!) when you referred to the Chinese and Saudis? They are people who have feelings you know. I know you didn't mean to offend, and so do all the activists who criticise Israel.

3- We are lucky to have a fresh input from the UN Security council Resolution on the 23rd
December 2016 declaring that all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian land are illegal. That means all products and goods that are sold from the Palestinian territories against their will, are stolen goods and those involved in such activities are committing an offence regardless of who the perpetrators or the victims are. You see Ms Brannan its not personnel.

4- Now put yourself in a Palestinian shoe, and imagine that Aberdeen City council decided
to reserve some services for a select group that excludes you. Be honest and tell me how do you feel?
Did any body tell you that there are 2 million non Jewish Israelis who are subjected to Fifty laws that exclude them from rights that their Jewish compatriot enjoy.
Furthermore, there are another 4 million Palestinians who are deprived the very basic rights under Israeli Military rule. FREEDOM They cry. Have you ever thought how does it Moreover. Have you ever thought of those (5 Million) who are deprived of their homeland since the inception of the state of Israel. If my happiness is built on creating misery to others I surely would reconsider. Won't you?

5- Why Don't you join me in advocating Peace and Justice for people of Palestine/Israel that they deserve. FREEDOM and EQUALITY.
Looking forward to hearing from you on the pages of this website.

Mohamad Issa
Quote | Report to administrator
+2 #10 Karen Bett 2016-12-31 13:50
A business may close because of the effect of a BDS campaign only if the public choose not to purchase and the business becomes non viable. Business based on the human rights abuses of Israel are as doomed as tobacconists, Furriers and video shops. They are becoming obsolete as the public no longer needs or wants to purchase from them. That is how BDS works in situations like this. No one is run out of town!!
Quote | Report to administrator
+2 #9 Karen Bett 2016-12-31 13:43
What Ms Brandon fails to grasp, and it's a point missed by most ant BDS people, is that the public boycotting is a choice. The purpose of the protests is to publicise and educate. The public can then choose whether to buy from a company or not.

Once people understand about Land theft, the misappropriation of Palestinian resources, and the limitations of Palestinians even accessing the Dead Sea they CHOOSE not to buy the products. Once the learn of child prisoners, apartheid laws and the effects of the occupation and siege they may never purchase from Israel again.

This is how it works. Israel has no problem with boycott if they don't get their own way (New Zealand an example) but hate the fact that BDS becoming efffective means the groundswell of public opinion is moving. I think in the UK in 2017 We may see our own human rights under attack. Perhaps that will add to the public understanding of how important they are everywhere- including Palestine
Quote | Report to administrator
+2 #8 Alana Terego 2016-12-31 12:03
1: Can Ms Brannan specify which 'nationality' BDS campaigners 'hounded' at protests against Dead Sea cosmetics operations across Scotland and around the world?
Point 2: Israel is a violently racist state engaged in the systematic dispossession of a whole people. We're too late to stop the settler colonial genocides of the past, or even the ethnic cleansing of the Gaels from much of Scotland, but we can try to stop this ongoing process, and we can come to the aid of its victims who are asking for solidarity through BDS
Point 3: You'll fail if you rely on 'Trumpette' Theresa May to reprise Thatcher's last ditch defence of apartheid South Africa. The somewhat desperate effort to smear anti-racist opponents of an apartheid state as 'racist' is doomed to fail.
PS: 'Hate the sin but not the sinner'
Quote | Report to administrator
+2 #7 Sofiah MacLeod 2016-12-31 10:21
Certain organisations - including Scottish Council of Jewish Communities - and their representatives are playing a very dangerous game. They would like us to believe Netanyahu when he says that he is leader of the Jewish people and that the state of Israel represents Jewish values; they insist that we accept Zionism is an integral part of Judaism rather than see Israel as a genocidal settler colonial state that has been stripping Palestinians of their land, their rights, their homes. The danger is that some people will go along with the logic of the pro-Israel gang in SCoJeC and place blame for the actions of Israel on the Jewish communities in Scotland!
It is just as well, as the debate in Aberdeen reveals, that most people base themselves on principles of equality, justice and freedom FOR ALL and reject such uninformed and racist notions. Israel has not succeeded in stripping Palestinians of their dignity and steadfastness to resist apartheid, colonialism and occupation.
Quote | Report to administrator
+2 #6 K Lennon 2016-12-30 23:21
Astounding attempts from the 'Liberals' and their Tory pals. Well done to SNP & Labour for defending Free Speech & our right to boycott the apartheid state of Israel.

Of course, many of the Tories were supporters of South African apartheid and wanted to kill Nelson Mandela. It appears nothing has changed, they still want to silence those of us who oppose apartheid.

Another defeat for the Zionists in their attempts to criminalise solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine, Scotland is the main hot-spot for BDS and we're still growing, we're winning.

The majority of people do not support Israel's actions of ethnic cleansing and the systematic abuse of human rights in order to expand & maintain an exclusively Jewish state.

The Zionists know that public opinion is against them, the only option they have is to try and shut down discussion, criminalising solidarity & anti-apartheid activists is how low they are willing to stoop.
Quote | Report to administrator
+3 #5 David Bruce 2016-12-30 17:54
Michelin Brannon just where does it say that it is acceptable to "hound private individuals out of Aberdeen purely on the basis of their nationality"?
The BDS movement does not target individuals on the basis of their nationality but instead targets Israel for its blatant human rights abuses.
I am interested that you compare Israeli actions with the Chinese invasion of Tibet and the Saudi bombings of Yemen. And yes I do try to avoid purchasing Chinese goods as far as possible (what do the Saudis export apart from oil and Wahabiism? )
However neither of those countries is seeking to drive out the indigenous population and replace them with foreign colonists/settlers.
Quote | Report to administrator
+4 #4 Avigail Abarbanel 2016-12-30 15:42
Aberdeen Council acted correctly and in the spirit of preserving democracy. In a democratic society it is unacceptable to limit the criticism of any country or organisation. Israel is a settler-colonial state that came into being through ethnic cleansing. The settler-colonial project is now in full swing and the policy of elimination used against the indigenous population of Palestine is escalating. Settler-Colonialism is a crime against humanity and should be fiercely opposed and stopped regardless of who the perpetrators or the victims are. Failing in its attempts to obscure its crimes, and silence the opposition that keeps the issue alive & on the agenda, Israel is making a last effort to silence opposition by putting pressure on Western democracies to rebrand criticism of Israel as a hate crime (antisemitism). Israel wishes to bring its settler colonial atrocity to its conclusion without interruption & our criticism is getting in the way.This must be opposed everywhere. Well done!
Quote | Report to administrator
-5 #3 Micheline Brannan 2016-12-19 16:42
It appears that Aberdeen City Council celebrates diversity but this is an illusion. The deletions from the motion signal that it is acceptable to hound private individuals out of Aberdeen purely on the basis of their nationality. Such hounding out of individuals falls squarely within the legal definition of racism which includes nationality. The targetting of a private business seeking to bring prosperity and create employment in a city in recession does not in any way equate to legitimate criticism of a particular government of a particulat state. Are Chinese to be targeted next because of Tibet or Saudis because of Yemen? I don't think so. The specif targeting of Israel in this manner falls within the definition of antisemism now adopted by the UK Government.
Quote | Report to administrator
+1 #2 Iqbal Pathan 2016-12-18 15:05
This is a big step by the council in support of democracy n human rights. This pro israeli have spreaded in the society like weeds and their thirst of killing people, destroying lives merely for political power, economic gains, have been going on n on not realising that one day they Vil die and falsehood Vil perish, it's a matter of time.
Quote | Report to administrator

If you find our articles, research and contributions useful...
Please consider becoming a member or making a donation to Scottish PSC. We are a wholly volunteer organisation and we need your help to continue our work - focused on BDS and delivering effective solidarity with Palestinians.

Receive news and updates - Join our mailing list!