Scottish activists lead the way on BDS
Middle East Monitor
28 August 2015
The SPSC stated succinctly its reasons for this act of cultural boycott in a press release: "There can be no normality for Israel until it ends the crimes against the Palestinian people. This show must not go on."
These Scottish boycott actions have been carried out in line with the guidelines drawn up by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. It is cutting-edge and effective BDS victories like this that have meant that Scottish activists are leading the way on BDS tactics, setting an example for the rest of us. As an unnamed Israeli diplomat told Haaretz in 2012, "Every appearance by an official Israeli representative in Scotland is like a visit to enemy territory."
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Thursday that this year, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe did not host a single Israeli act for the first time in years.
"Because of the high costs and political tensions," the reporter stated, "there have never been more than one or two Israeli productions at Edinburgh over the past two decades."
A performance put on last year by Jerusalem's Incubator Theatre (which is funded by the state of Israel) ultimately had to be cancelled: "BDS caused huge outlays on security ... and the play collapsed."
Protests led by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) in 2014 meant that there were fears of disruptions of the production at the Scottish venue, and police insisted that a large number of security guards would have to be employed. Neither the organizers or the venue had the resources, so consequentially it was called off.
That production would have been going ahead at a time when Israel was relentlessly bombing and destroying Gaza in its most recent war against the Palestinian people. That aggression ultimately killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, some 70 percent of whom were civilians (including 550 children). The vast majority of those killed by Palestinian resistance factions, on the other hand, were Israeli soldiers.
The SPSC stated succinctly its reasons for this act of cultural boycott in a press release: "There can be no normality for Israel until it ends the crimes against the Palestinian people. This show must not go on."
While the accusation of this latest Haaretz article seems to be that (although never outright stated) Scotland is woefully anti-Semitic, it is only if one reads through to the final paragraph that the reader understands that boycott actions against Israeli acts at Edinburgh festivals in fact have been very precisely targeted: "all the artists who spoke to Haaretz said the BDS protests were aimed solely at works or troupes supported by the Israeli government, not at Israeli creators and actors specifically. Thus, they noted, though there are no Israeli productions at Edinburgh this year, several actors and creators are involved with British productions. And they have been warmly welcomed."
Thus these Scottish boycott actions have been carried out in line with the guidelines drawn up by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
It is cutting-edge and effective BDS victories like this that have meant that Scottish activists are leading the way on BDS tactics, setting an example for the rest of us.
As an unnamed Israeli diplomat told Haaretz in 2012, "Every appearance by an official Israeli representative in Scotland is like a visit to enemy territory." This has become a quote that Scottish activists now trot out regularly with pride.
Ismail Khaldi, an Israeli "diplomat" and propagandist for the state was famously ejected from a Scottish campus in 2011. Protests greet Israeli officials wherever they appear north of the border. In 2012, a visit to Edinburgh University by the Israeli ambassador had to be kept secret, so afraid were they of disruptions and protest.
Although the head of the politics department personally banned known Palestine solidarity activists from attending the invite-only lecture, activists managed to use connections to other student societies to obtain tickets and disrupt the event.
The Church of Scotland in 2007 made statements against Christian Zionism – a position far in advance of the Church of England, which activists have in the past had to target for encouragement to divest from companies involved in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.
The Scottish Trade Union Congress too, has been steps ahead of its British counterpart. The STUC passed a motion endorsing BDS in April 2009, with the TUC following with a motion endorsing a boycott of settlement goods in August of the same year.
The SPSC has also led the way on more advanced issues, such as the Stop the JNF campaign. The Jewish National Fund, backed by tax-exempt charities around the world (including in the UK) holds land in historic Palestine for the exclusive use of Jews only, systematically discriminating against the indigenous Palestinian people.
The energy of Scottish activists has been instrumental in the campaign to combat the JNF's racism, and has even led important victories, such as the prime minister standing down as a JNF patron. SPSC also recently published an important analysis about the importance of the BDS campaign and how to combat and defeat attempts by the anti-Semitic far right to infiltrate it.
Waves made by Scottish activists have reached all the way across the Atlantic, it was recently revealed. As I detailed in this column last week, it has come to light that Hilary Clinton had in 2009 tried to intervene against in a similar cultural boycott in Edinburgh (she failed).
We could all learn from the Scottish Palestine solidarity movement.
Had our problems with Police Scotland: arrests and jailings recently for peaceful protests; Saturday night knock on the dooor and off to the cells for the weekend; an illegal arrest and assault; a cover-up of a complaint. So it was gratifying on several levels to receive this note (which I had forgotten about due to pressure of events). Never should any of us doubt we're leaving a trace, even if we don't see the results directly.
E-MAIL FROM EX-CHIEF INSPECTOR GAVIN BUIST
From: 'Gavin Buist'
Sent: 21 July 2014 16:33
Subject: Scottish PSC - A letter to Mick Napier
You may not remember me, but you and I spent quite a bit of time together in 2003 during the lead-up to the second Gulf War. I was the Chief Inspector in Edinburgh City centre who commanded most of the policing operations around the unofficial rallies and marches organised by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and later the Anti-War Coalition.
While these events were testing for myself and my colleagues, I thought that I had recognised the importance of the right of you and your colleagues to speak out against the situation in the Middle East. I listened to the speeches given by you, Lloyd Quinan, Aamer Anwar and others and thought I understood. I didn't.
I have now retired from the police and am currently working as an Advisor to the Abu Dhabi Police. I share an office with two Palestinian women who are gradually becoming my friends. From them, I am gaining an understanding of the horrors of the current situation in a way which is deeply personal, deeply humbling and very far removed from the journalism one encounters on TV, in the newspapers and even through social media. It is an understanding which could never have been achieved thousands of miles away in Edinburgh.
It is so clear that there are scores of innocent victims killed, many more who have suffered life-altering injuries, and even more who have been brutally and traumatically bereaved - the biggest tragedy being the proportion who are children. It angers and frustrates me that this tragedy is attributable to the actions of a state which refuses to listen to world opinion and both consistently and casually disregards the rights of a people who - had history been different - might otherwise be their natural neighbours. Unlike the media, my colleagues Doha and Reem don't tell their families' stories in any sensationalist sense. Instead, there is a resignation and quiet despair in their accounts. They tell me of ordinary people who only want to live ordinary lives, who want only to see their children laugh and play in the streets and their elders enjoy the twilight of their lives in peace and happiness. They tell me of a people who - in spite of everything - want somehow to try to try to find some accommodation and future alongside their much more powerful neighbour. I hear of the humiliations, the indignities and unhappiness endured by what I believe to be fundamentally decent people and see the pain on the faces of my new colleagues. I still don't claim now to fully understand - but I think I am beginning to.
I was heartened, in a way I would not previously have thought possible, by news of the large demonstrations in Glasgow and London at the weekend. So many people taking a stand, telling those who lead us that these atrocities do not take place in their name. Heartened too that Doha and Reem knew of and welcomed these events, and that their families in Gaza drew, and will continue to draw, strength and hope from them.
Please don't stop Mick. You and your colleagues have my unequivocal support.
Sent: 21 July 2014 18:17
To: 'Gavin Buist'
Subject: RE: Scottish PSC - A letter to Mick Napier
Thanks for your note . The reference in the final para to Doha, Reem and their families in Gaza is the sort of feedback that encourages us to continue our efforts to end the crime against them. Assure Doha and Reem that our thoughts are with them and all Palestinians in their agony.
Please also let them know that while Israel is attacking hospitals openly and killing their relatives at will, and has the support of the British Government, Israel has already lost the main battle, that of world-wide public opinion. Around the entire world, and certainly in Scotland and the UK, Israel is already a pariah state. We are working to channel this feeling into pressure to force our governments to end their complicity in Israel's programme of ethnic cleansing.
See, for example, Israel's image in the world: rock 'bottom by a wide margin'
Do I have your permission to publish your letter?
Marion Woolfson, Honorary President of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, died on Saturday evening, some months after a stroke from which she never fully recovered.
Increasingly infirm over the last two years, Marion was bitterly frustrated by her increasing inability to contribute to the struggle against Zionist smears and slanders against the Palestinian people and those who supported their struggle for freedom.
When SPSC members were charged in 2008 with 'racially aggravated conduct' for activities in support of the Palestinian appeal for boycott of Israel, Marion lept to their defence: "Anyone who stands up for Palestinians is automatically accused of being 'anti-Semitic'. I am Jewish and proud to be Honorary President of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, an anti-racist group that opposes Israeli apartheid."
Marion's grandparents were penniless Jewish refugees who fled the massacres of Jews in Tsarist Russia, but Marion's father was wealthy and a pillar of Edinburgh society by the time she was born. Marion was very proud of her father, who was a member of the Board of Deputies of British Jews before it succumbed to Zionism, and a man who during the thirties insisted against others who wanted to help only Jewish refugees that a project he sponsored should help all those fleeing Nazi Germany.
Marion was a foreign correspondent for several major UK papers and the author of several works, including The Story of a Palestinian, a biography of Nablus Mayor, Bassam Shaka, and a 1980 work on Jews in the Arab countries, Prophets in Babylon. This work is again timely reading when Netanyahu is trying to exploit the emigration of Jews from Arab countries, which Zionism successfully worked to achieve, in order to deny the rights of Palestinian that Israeli militias drove from their homes and lands.
Her small pamphlet on the racism and criminality of the JNF-KKL, the Jewish National Fund, exposed the scandal of this body being granted tax-exempt charitable status in the UK to enable it to carry out its activities in the Israeli programme of ethic cleansing of the Palestinian people.
Many of her Palestinian friends were assassinated, including poet Ghassan Kanafani, and Marion's was one of relatively few Jewish voices in Britain for many years painstakingly telling stories of atrocious Israeli crimes at considerable personal and professional cost to herself.
Marion described several times over the years her personal epiphany when she was a young woman on a visit to Israel and commented casually during a guided tour on the 'beautiful patterns' on the traditional Palestinian dress of a passing woman. The racist contempt and hatred this evoked from her Israeli guide set Marion on a political and personal journey that led one Israeli daily to call her 'the most dangerous anti-Zionist in Britain'.
That journey was filled with much sadness and loss, mixed with great courage and fortitude in the face of professional shunning, a violent beating in her home by a Zionist thug, and final vindication at the end of her life as Israeli crimes have aroused the anger of millions around the world, not excluding Britain and her native Scotland.
Marion was happy to be told that there was now strong competition for her title of 'most dangerous anti-Zionist' but we are all in the debt of those, the living and the dead, who fought at great personal cost against the Zionist programme to ethnically cleanse Palestine.
We stand on the shoulders of courageous fighters.
Chair, Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign
"Hajo described from his own youth how dehumanisation of German society occurred in preparation for Auschwitz - different laws for Jews and Aryans, arrests without warrant, systematic indoctrination through propaganda - school books, comparison with insects, etc. He demonstrated how Israel was following the same course, the dehumanisation by Zionists in preparation for the repeated slaughters in Gaza."
It is with great sadness that we received the news that Hajo Meyer died in his sleep two days ago (August 23, 2014). Hajo was 90 and, among other notable achievements in the field of science and music, served in the underground Dutch resistance to Nazi occupation during WWII. Hajo was captured and spent the last 10 months of that war in Auchwitz concentration camp until it was liberated by the the Red Army in January 1945.
What distinguished Hajo and some other Holocaust survivors was their insistance that 'Never again!' applied to everyone, and that the only proper homage to the masses killed by the Nazis and their allies was to defend all those subjected to racist dehumanisation similar to that which he as a young Jew had suffered under Nazi rule. Given the virulence of the dehumanisation process he described in detail being carried out by the Israeli State and its Zionist backers, he gave special attention to active solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign hosted Hajo during his Scottish speaking tour in 2010, together with Haider Eid from Gaza and Sara Kershnar of IJAN (International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network), during which he did not hesitate to compare Israel's dehumanisation of Palestinians and the bestial massacres of Palestinians in Gaza to the activities of the Nazis which he had experienced at first hand. Hajo's speaking tour on "The Misuse of the Holocaust for Political Purposes" generated huge publicity.
Hajo Meyer explained that his own personal conclusions based on what he saw during the ten months he spent in Aushwitz was that "only those who are themselves dehumanized can attempt to dehumanize others, I personally NEVER ever want to afflict suffering to anybody because I want to remain human."
Hajo described from his own youth how dehumanisation of German society occurred in preparation for Auschwitz - different laws for Jews and Aryans, arrests without warrant, systematic indoctrination through propaganda - school books, comparison with insects, etc. He demonstrated how Israel was following the same course, the dehumanisation by Zionists in preparation for the repeated slaughters in Gaza.
Shockingly, but unsurprisingly, the British Government banned all reference on the official Holocaust Memorial Day website and calendar to Hajo Meyer's talks on the subject of "Israeli mass killings in Palestine". In a written response to a letter from SPSC, the government said it deemed the content of the event "offensive" and that it was the trust's policy to bar anything "inappropriate."
"Holocaust Memorial Day Trust's policy is to prohibit from inclusion on its website any content that is deemed to be offensive," Andrew Stunell, Lib Dem MP and Minister for Communities and Local Government, said in a letter to SPSC . Zionist CST chimed in with "It is offensive and perverse to use Holocaust Memorial Day as an excuse to attack Israel." So no chance to discuss mass killings of Palestinians in an event funded by the UK Government. A letter to Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond asking him to support Hajo's right to be included in listings of Holocaust Memorial Day events drew a non-commital response.
In the spirit of Hajo Meyer's talks, I wrote on behalf of SPSC at the time that "We can work together to see that Nazi mass killings against Jews, Gypsies, Russians, Poles, Serbs, disabled people, homosexuals are remembered and lessons drawn that we must stop all mass killings, especially when our own government arms and supports the killers. We must remember the most revolting example of European state-directed racism to rededicate ourselves to opposing all state-directed racism, including the vicious form of apartheid existing in Israel today."
Hajo was small in physical stature but a giant-hearted individual, who went through the midnight of the century, the most hellish experience at the limit of human endurance, and came out with his humanity undimmed. He was endowed with huge energy as he approached 90, and some of us will treasure to memory of his time with us. We can be proud that he felt, and repeated more than once, that the solidarity he felt in Scotland with SPSC was the best he had experienced anywhere "except for Ireland". (Well, you can't win them all!)
While here in Scotland, Hajo extended his full solidarity to the five SPSC members who were then facing charges of "racially aggravated conduct" for disrupting an Israeli state-financed musical event in Edinburgh.
I called Hajo in his Dutch home last year to chat and to invite him to come to Scotland for a return visit; he thought about it but decided to stick to his decision to do no more speaking tours as he approached 90.
Our thoughts go out to Chris, his partner, in her bereavement.
25 August 2014
The situation in Palestine remains grim. However, world opinion is moving on from impotent outrage at Israel and international support for the Palestinian call for BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) is growing. The goal is to end Israeli crimes and to achieve justice and freedom for the Palestinian people.
SPSC has been uncompromising in its support for Palestinian human and national rights and it is vital that their campaigning work can continue and be expanded. The organisation relies totally on donations and its member's own resources to fund their work. There are no paid workers and it is not always possible to cover dedicated volunteers' expenses.
"I've toured Britain several times, lecturing on my anti-Zionist books, and can say from experience that the SPSC is efficiently dedicated to the Palestinian cause. Indeed I've frequently cited it, here in the U.S., as a model re presenting anti-Zionism to the general public. I urge everyone in Britain - and everywhere else - to send some money to the SPSC."
"The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign...is perhaps the world's most energetic and fearless...[group campaigning on Palestine]."
"I support SPSC and strongly urge support for its tireless work for Palestine and against Israel's apartheid policies and oppressive actions against Palestinians and their homes and communities."
"The level of commitment, organization and enthusiasm of SPSC is unsurpassed by any other Palestinian solidarity group in the world (and I have met dozens such groups). Seeing the dedication of the SPSC activists has been a tremendous inspiration for me, and gave me energy to step up my own activism. I was also deeply moved by the patience and open-mindedness of the SPSC activists who remain true to their rejection of racism of all kinds, and who have become a role-model for activists around the world on how to oppose apartheid without falling into the temptation of making hateful remarks or making unfair generalizations."
"Donating funds to the SPSC is a positive act of solidarity in a great internationalist cause!"
"For all of us committed to solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom and liberation, the commitment and effectiveness of the Scottish PSC is an example and inspiration."
"I am happy to be one of those who support SPSC. I know who you are and what you are doing for freedom for Palestine."
"I've done a good bit of traveling in the US, UK, Canada and Ireland in the struggle to bring justice to Palestine. And of all the meritorious solidarity groups I've met and worked with, the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign stands out for its dedication, imagination and militancy. SPSC is always in the forefront of the struggle, whether in the fostering of BDS or in the rendering of direct aid to the people of Palestine. This is one group for which the name of solidarity expresses a living presence and not just a slogan. SPSC truly deserves the support of all people of good will."
"Over the years, I have been following the dedicated work of SPSC with admiration. I strongly support SPSC and hope that you will donate as much as you can afford to its fighting fund."
"To donate to the SPSC sends a message of continued support to the Palestinian people. Recent events have exposed the hypocrisy of Western Governments in their support for the revolutions during the Arab Spring whilst failing to condemn the oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli Government. The Palestinian people will find freedom and they, with continued support, will find it soon."
"SPSC has been a beacon over the last decade, setting the pace and picking up the difficult but central challenges facing the Palestine soldarity movement. It's focussed, brave, active and effective, and has sustained a radical, well-informed and necessary critique of Israel and Zionism."
"Chris and I had a great experience with your people in Scotland. Only in Ireland and now in South Africa we experienced a similar atmosphere. So it is with great joy and full conviction that I support your appeal."
"Midlothian TUC fully support the work of SPSC in promoting practical solidarity for the people of Palestine. For as long as Western governments are complicit in the injustices and crimes committed by the Israeli Government, Israel will continue to act with impunity. SPSC play an outstanding role in highlighting the complicity, condemning the shirking of responsibility and making known the injusices and crimes being committed."
"SPSC champion the cause of Palestinians with the zeal and effort that we should all emulate. If anyone wishes to help free Palestine then help SPSC by making a donation to continue with their great effort. Remember the issue of Palestine is partly political and it is groups like SPSC that will help bring about a resolution. Donate generously."
"The SPSC is by far the most active and effective campaign group I've witnessed working towards a free Palestine, not just in Scotland but in the wider world. Their high profile work has become a thorn in the side of every Zionist not because of headline-making stunts (of which there have been many) but because of its dogged persistence and commitment to working towards justice for the Palestinians from the West Bank to Gaza."
"SPSC are doing great things for the cause of Palestinian freedom, combining education with activism. I know from personal experience how they are engaging people in Scotland with an international campaign for equality and justice - support their work and help make a difference."
"The international advocacy, campaigning, and BDS work of Scottish PSC is more than solidarity, it is part of a growing internationalist and rights-based resistance against Israeli oppression. Palestine needs this kind of support, and SPSC must in turn be supported in order to continue and develop their work. SPSC are continuing to play a leading role in the internationalist resistance against Israeli oppression. Their clear vision in support of fundamental Palestinian rights must be supported, as must their work."
At the end of 2012, one third of MSPs (Members of the Scottish Parliament) signed motion S4M-04871 "support[ing] the efforts of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign to raise awareness of the rights of the Palestinian people". The full motion reads:
That the Parliament condemns the missile attacks on Gaza by Israel, which have resulted in many deaths, including children; supports the call from the Secretary-General of the United Nations for an immediate de-escalation of tensions and for both sides to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law; believes that a repeat of the conflict four years ago in which an estimated 1,400 Palestinians died can be avoided; supports the efforts of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign to raise awareness of the rights of the Palestinian people, and calls on the UK Government to stop arms sales to Israel.