Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign Statement
29 July 2017
Scottish PSC is not inclined to take seriously the so-called 'research' of a pro-Israel blogger whose primary purpose is to smear organisations that support Palestinian rights (1), to deflect attention away from what Palestinians have to endure on a daily basis – home demolitions, expulsions, killings, torture and threats of genocide from Israeli politicians (2). This effort is only the latest in attempts to undermine and criminalise the Palestine solidarity movement. Most recently a Glasgow Sheriff reprised the decision of an Edinburgh colleague in 2010 and threw out absurd charges of racism levelled against two members of SPSC for protesting against Israel's 2014 brutal military attack on Gaza and the complicity of a company involved in the pillage of Palestinian resources (3).
We stand by our record as an anti-racist organisation that actively campaigns in support of the Palestinian call for a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel, and the institutions and corporations that are complicit in Israel's violations of Palestinian rights. We resist attempts to conflate Zionism and Judaism and reject notions that Jews have a natural loyalty and affinity with the state of Israel and the Zionist ideology.
Jewish Human Rights Watch, David Collier and the various pro-Israel organisations working in partnership with the Israeli government are primarily concerned with defending the actions of a state (4), under the guise of ensuring the safety of Jewish communities in the UK. Any attempt to implicate Jews and Jewish communities in Scotland in the crimes of the state of Israel is not only incorrect but also irresponsible and dangerous and should be challenged whenever they are made. This is why we will continue to highlight and educate the public, our members and supporters of Palestinian rights on the history of Zionism, of Palestine and of the reality of Israel's policy of apartheid and continuing colonisation of Palestinian land.
Sofiah MacLeod (Chair)
On behalf of Scottish PSC
MEDIA RELEASE, Monday 13 November 2017
A Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) investigation has heavily criticised Police Scotland for their handling of a series of complaints made by Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC). PIRC raises concerns that Police Scotland interference in SPSC activities breach group members’ rights to freedom of assembly and to peaceful protest.
The series of complaints relate to incidents in 2016 where police officers were involved in attempts to “intimidate Palestine solidarity campaigners in Aberdeen”, according to Fiona Napier, Chair of the Aberdeen branch of SPSC. While Police Scotland had failed to uphold any of the complaints submitted, PIRC’s investigation came to a different conclusion. Information made public in PIRC’s findings confirm activists’ concerns over Police Scotland’s response to lawful political protest in Aberdeen.
One of the complaints arose following a late night visit by police officers to an individual’s home address to warn him not to attend a protest at a specified location organised by SPSC for the following day. PIRC found Police Scotland response to aspects of this complaint to be "at odds" with the material evidence available. The Commissioner also made clear that "the police cannot impose conditions on the location of a peaceful protest that effectively negate the purpose of the protest".
PIRC also found Police Scotland’s grounds for not allowing members of the public entry to a court hearing on 9 September 2016 to be “inadequately reasoned” and instructed Police Scotland to provide a further response “to explain precisely why, if there were no concerns about the protesters outside the court, a different view was taken about allowing them inside the court building”.
In another incident, on 7 April 2016, a uniformed police officer entered and asked to participate in an SPSC campaign workshop. Campaigners asked the officer to leave the meeting but PIRC investigations reveal that information gathered by the officer, including an individual’s personal details, was recorded on police systems. Through a Freedom of Information request SPSC obtained correspondence between Crown Office personnel and a pro-Israel lobby group where details of the SPSC workshop and of an ongoing legal case in Glasgow were discussed. The unnamed individual reported to the Crown Office contact that “our colleagues in Aberdeen have reported this [meeting] to the local police, who are taking the matter very seriously”.
PIRC have instructed Police Scotland to consider whether their actions were lawful and proportionate and adhere to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). In particular, Police Scotland are asked to consider breach of individual rights in relation to Article 8 (Right to respect for private and family life) and Article 11 (Freedom of assembly and association).
Sofiah MacLeod, National Chair of SPSC says that the PIRC investigation and Freedom of Information documents reveal a pattern that should be a cause of concern for all human rights campaigners:
“We already know that the Israeli government is trying its best to influence governments to turn a blind eye to Israel’s brutal apartheid policies and occupation of Palestine and to criminalise Palestine solidarity actions. The Priti Patel scandal and the Al Jazeera exposure of the Israel lobby in the UK have revealed much of what is going on. SPSC investigations confirm that the pro-Israel lobby is working with some success in Scotland to influence the Crown Office, Police Scotland, Scottish Government and other institutions. We welcome the PIRC conclusions and await a further response from Police Scotland - in the meantime, we call on all those who value free speech and the right to protest to take steps to ensure that institutions and public bodies are not used to protect the actions of a rogue state and its violations of human rights and international law.”
While concluding that three other SPSC complaints were handled to a “reasonable standard”, PIRC found that some of Police Scotland’s responses to the investigation were “ambiguous” and contained “shortcomings”. PIRC does point out, however, that Police Scotland “appears to have recognised” that “there were other methods the police could have used to gather the necessary information in order to facilitate any future protest”.
Notes to Editors
1. Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign
180 West Regent Street, Glasgow, G2 4RW
101 Rose Street South Lane, Edinburgh, EH2 3JG
2. Report of a Complaint Handling Review in relation to Police Scotland, PIRC/00642/16, October 2017: https://pirc.scot/media/4383/642-16-chr.pdf
3. European Convention on Human Rights: http://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Convention_ENG.pdf
4. Al Jazeera, The Lobby: http://www.aljazeera.com/investigations/thelobby/
5. Crown Office FOI response C54: https://my.pcloud.com/publink/show?code=XZta507ZzanvbJAvyHfhIPchyeWMR04CEqoy
Media Release: Sunday 9th August 2015, No Embargo
Pro-Palestine campaigners say recent revelations of Hilary Clinton’s attempt to overturn the Edinburgh International Film Festival’s (EIFF) rejection of Israeli Government funding is evidence that "boycott works".
The Scotsman wrote on Saturday’s front page that the effects of the May 2009 boycott "went right to the upper echelons of the American political system".
Recently-revealed emails show the former US Secretary of State attempted to pressure the UK and Scottish Governments after the EIFF returned funding from the Embassy of Israel just a few months after Israel’s attacks on Gaza that had killed 1400 Palestinians.
After acclaimed filmmaker Ken Loach joined forces with the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC), the EIFF agreed to sever its links with the Israeli state. Rather than accept sponsorship from the Israeli Embassy to fund an Israeli filmmaker’s travel to the opening of her film, the EIFF agreed to pay for her trip.
Writing to the Israeli film-maker at the time, Loach said, "To be crystal clear: as a film maker you will receive a warm welcome in Edinburgh. You are not censored or rejected. The opposition was to the Festival’s taking money from the Israeli state."
Campaigners say that "a key aspect of the boycott is to make the Israeli state aware that there is a price to pay for its crimes against the Palestinians and to bring an end to the complicity of states such as the UK in those crimes."
SPSC Chair, Sofiah MacLeod, continued, "Clinton’s emails demonstrate that the boycott, divestment and sancations campaign (BDS) is working. Not only did Israel suffer a PR humiliation back in 2009 when its sponsorship money was publicly returned, but it now learns that, in spite of the efforts of the second-most powerful official in the US, neither the UK nor the Scottish governments were willing or able to intervene on Israel’s behalf.
"Last summer over 2000 Palestinian men, women and children were killed and thousands maimed and made homeless as a result of another Israeli atrocity, and every day Israel continues its abuses of Palestinian rights. While Clinton's failure to stop BDS is undoubtedly a morale boost for the Palestinians and all those who act in solidarity with their struggle for justice, we ask more Scots to join us as we redouble our efforts. Israel should expect BDS actions around the world to escalate until Israel meets its obligation to recognise the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law."
MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE
Scots campaigning for Palestinian rights have responded to “hypocritical”comments by Fergus Linehan, the new director of the Edinburgh International Festival, and his predecessor Jonathan Mills. Last week Linehan and Mills spoke out against Palestine solidarity actions over recent years that have disrupted and closed down Israel-state endorsed events during Edinburgh’s Festival, when they were participating in the panel discussion at the Walking the Tightrope production at Underbelly.
Albie O'Neill, secretary of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign who will be taking part in the ‘Walking the Tightrope’ panel discussion on Tuesday with the Israeli Embassy cultural attaché Dan Golan, said "If we were all to follow the pompous and self-righteous advice of Linehan and Mills, I am sure that apartheid in South Africa would still be standing and women in Scotland would still be denied the vote.
"If Linehan and Mills are not interested in the well documented war crimes, torture and human rights abuses carried out by Israel, I doubt they have much time to consider how Israel denies freedom of expression to Palestinians. Fortunately, millions of decent people around the world care enough to hold Israel to account.”
O’Neill continues: “Countless performers have been arrested without charge, performances prohibited, and theatres attacked with tanks.
"The Palestine Literary Festival in 2009 was closed down and participants, including Michael Palin, were driven out. The 19th Annual Palestinian Children's Festival in East Jerusalem was prohibited due to the fact that it received funding from the Palestinian Authority.
"In 2012 members of the Ramallah Orchestra were denied entry permits to perform in East Jerusalem.
"In June of this year Israeli cultural workers signed a petition condemning the government for moves, described as ‘anti-freedom of expression’, that will deny funding to artists and theatre companies if they do not support the government line.
"Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev threatened to cut funding to the Jaffa based Elmina Theater group because their manager refused to perform in an illegal settlement in the West Bank.
"This is in stark contrast to Israeli government support for artists and performers who are funded to attend events like the Edinburgh festivals, on condition they sign contracts which make clear they must act as ambassadors and not criticise Israel. Crucially, they must not reveal the conditions of their contract.
"Arye Mekel of the the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in 2009, 'We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theatre companies, exhibits. This way you show Israel's prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.'
"The cultural boycott of Israel has been called for by Palestinian cultural workers as part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, which was launched in 2005. The Israeli government is aware that the demand from across the world for them to end their brutal occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people is growing, and like the pressure on the South African apartheid regime it will ultimately prove irresistible."
"The former ambassador to the UK has been recalled to head up a new anti-BDS department which has been allocated a multi-million pound budget."
"No amount of whitewashing by Dan Golan, or by Linehan and Mills for that matter, will fool the people of Edinburgh. They call for the right of freedom of expression but their actions serve to defend a brutal apartheid regime that denies that same freedom and the right to life to the Palestinian people."
Albie O'Neill 0772 547 0071
Secretary, Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign
2. Details of event
Albie O'Neill will be taking part in the panel discussion at Walking the Tightrope, The Tension Between Art and Politics on Tuesday 25 August at 3.35pm at Topside. (Potterrow is the location of Topside, a stunning studio theatre presenting the very best in fringe theatre, comedy and cabaret, located behind the studio theatre on Potterrow.
Studio at the Festival Theatre, Potterrow, Edinburgh EH8 9BL)
3. Information sources
The struggle between Israel and the Palestinians is not unique -- whatever the news media may suggest. Lorenzo Veracini argues that the conflict is best understood in terms of colonialism. Like many other societies, Israel is a settler society. Looking in detail at the evolution of other colonial regimes -- apartheid South Africa, French Algeria and Australia -- Veracini presents a thoughtful interpretation of the dynamics of colonialism, offering a clear framework within which to understand the middle east crisis.