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
Send a letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Communities Minister Angela Constance to ask that the Scottish Government repudiate the IHRA definition as publicly as they adopted it.
Palestine campaigners welcome hate crime recommendation and call on Scottish Government to reject the IHRA ‘definition on antisemitism’
31st May 2018 – for immediate release
Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) welcomes Lord Bracadale’s rejection of the IHRA’s ‘working definition of antisemitism’ and his opposition to the creation of “a statutory aggravation to cover hostility towards a political entity”.
In the light of Lord Bracadale’s analysis, commissioned by the Scottish Government, SPSC calls on the Scottish Government to reject the IHRA ‘working definition on antisemitism’ as publicly as it adopted it.
Lord Bracadale was appointed by the Scottish Ministers in January 2017 to undertake a review of hate crime legislation in Scotland; his final report and recommendations were published today.
One of the questions for his consideration was whether an aggravation should apply “where an offence is motivated by malice and ill-will towards a political entity which the victim is perceived to be associated with by virtue of their racial or religious group?”.
He concluded that:
“I accept the arguments advanced by those respondents who contended that hate crime legislation should not extend to political entities as protected characteristics. I consider that such an approach would extend the concept of hate crime too far and dilute its impact. The freedom of speech to engage in political protest is vitally important. For these reasons I do not recommend extending the range of protected characteristics to include political entities.”
To illustrate his reasoning, Lord Bracadale refers to a case involving five SPSC members:
“In one case, members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign shouted slogans during a concert at which the Jerusalem string quartet was performing. These included “they are Israeli army musicians”; “genocide in Gaza”; “end genocide in Gaza”; “boycott Israel”. The accused were members of a political organisation which campaigns against Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories and advocates boycott. The content of their remarks was political in nature, including a call for a boycott. The evidence did not permit the inference that their comments were made because they presumed the musicians to be Israeli or Jewish.”
As well as SPSC, the Faculty of Advocates, the Glasgow Bar Association, Law Society of Scotland, Fife Centre for Equalities, Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights, and the Senators of the College of Justice also opposed an extension of hate crime legislation to include hostility to a state body.
Bracadale reported concerns that:
“A new aggravation in this area would be difficult to legislate for and potentially contentious, and would therefore introduce complexity and uncertainty into the law. In addition, a new aggravation would be open to interpretation and abuse for political ends, and open to change over time, depending on the political climate.”
“A further argument was based on freedom of speech. Freedom to hold differing political views, and to debate those views, was fundamental to a democratic society and should be protected. This included freedom to subject political entities and foreign states to legitimate criticism. A new aggravation of this type could, therefore, have unintended consequences regarding the curtailment of freedom of expression and freedom of political debate.”
He goes on to discuss:
“The right to engage in legitimate political protest is fundamental in a democratic society. There is a tension between, on the one hand, freedom of expression, which protects legitimate political protest, and, on the other hand, conduct which is racially aggravated. In the abstract, it can be difficult to distinguish political protest or criticism from racially/religiously aggravated conduct. In chapter 5 I examine the significance, in the context of stirring up of hatred offences, of article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). What emerges is that context and content of the conduct in any particular case is critical. Freedom of expression carries with it duties and responsibilities.”
“There is an obligation to avoid, as far as possible, expressions of opinion or belief that are gratuitously offensive to others and thus an infringement of their rights (for example freedom of religion), and which therefore do not contribute to any form of public debate capable of furthering progress in human affairs.”
Campaigners noted that the introduction to Question 7 in the consultation document referred almost exclusively to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) ‘working definition on antisemitism’ which was adopted by the Scottish Government in 2017.
Mick Napier of Scottish PSC said:
“Solidarity with the Palestinian people against the settler colonial project of Zionism is not going to be criminalised in Scotland anytime soon, despite the Scottish Government’s adoption of the definition that Bracadale has rejected. Bracadale has recognised the assault on free speech that adoption of the IHRA bogus definition of antisemitism would entail and has decisively rejected the claims of those who seek to criminalise Palestine solidarity, above all BDS campaigning. We must remain ever vigilant against those in and out of the Labour Party who seek to silence supporters of Palestinian freedom, who work to smear those who oppose an ethno-religious state in Israel/Palestine.”
“The Scottish Government should urgently review its 2017 adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism in the light of Lord Bracadale’s findings.”
Send a letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Communities Minister Angela Constance to ask that the Scottish Government repudiate the IHRA definition as publicly as they adopted it.
Notes to Editor
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
For immediate release
Is Scotland encouraging Israel’s extremism?
7 December 2017
Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has been condemned by campaigners for Palestinian rights in Scotland. They claim that the move fits with Trump’s general alignment with the far right and White supremacists in America.
Mick Napier of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign said:
“The Israeli government claims Jerusalem as ‘Israel’s eternal and undivided capital’ and will not allow any part of it to be included in any possible future version of Palestine. The British gave Palestine to European Zionists 100 years ago, and Trump is now giving Netanyahu what is not his to give. While Israel is based on residential segregation for Jews and Palestinians, separate roads and legal systems, it is inconceivable that peace talks based on principles of equality and justice could get off the ground. Talk of two-states has long been difficult to take seriously but Trump’s latest move to placate his electoral base in the USA encourages Netanyahu to demolish more Palestinian homes, grab more land and maintain his violent repression of the Palestinian people.”
Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign raise serious concerns about the role that Scottish politicians and institutions are playing in furthering the agenda of the Israeli state.
In August, all three leaders of the main political parties endorsed the Israeli Peace (‘Shalom’) festival in Edinburgh, an event organised by a Christian Zionist group, the Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland and sponsored by the European Coalition for Israel, a Christian Zionist organisation that rejects recognition of a Palestinian state because “it violates the legitimate legal claims of the State of Israel with respect to Jerusalem and the West Bank”. Another supporter and participant was Christians United for Israel, headed by the US Christian right wing Pastor John Hagee. Hagee, who has donated millions toward the establishment of illegal settlements, has written that Adolf Hitler was a “half-breed Jew” who was sent by God to persecute Europe’s Jews and drive them towards Israel.
Supporters of Palestinian human rights are calling for Scottish politicians, parties and institutions to distance themselves from so-called Friends of Israel groups.
Napier says that:
“Israel develops military and surveillance technology to defeat Palestinian hopes for human rights, as an alternative to negotiating a peace agreement with the Palestinian people. Technological cooperation, as with the Israeli military-grade hyper-surveillance system being piloted in Glasgow, helps Israel to continue with this rejectionist stance and ultimately endangers us all.”
There is unease that the Chief Executive of BEMIS, an umbrella body supporting the development of the ethnic minorities voluntary sector in Scotland, is due to address a conference called by Glasgow Friends of Israel, a body that campaigners say defends Israel’s every war crime and crime against humanity, as well as Trump’s award to Israel of Jerusalem as “Israel’s eternal and undivided capital”.
“It is a disgrace that an organisation whose purpose is to further ethnic minority issues should send a representative to speak at an event organised by what is effectively a cover for the apartheid and racist state of Israel”.
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
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