Scottish activists lead the way on BDS

Asa Winstanley
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 failedkhaldi).

We could all learn from the Scottish Palestine solidarity movement.

MEM article then links to Edinburgh protest video organised by Edinburgh University Palestine student activists and supported by SPSC.

Original article in Middle East Monitor 28 August 2015

"Israel's man in [Scotland] is Ishmael Khaldi, a Palestinian Bedouin who visited Scotland while he was serving as an advisor to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Yes, the same Lieberman who has called for the mass murder of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails and said recently that Palestinian citizens of Israel who oppose the state should be "beheaded"; he is said to be furious by Scottish attitudes towards his country."

Israel launches tartan charm offensive in 'enemy territory'
Yvonne Ridley
31st March 2015

...The Romans failed to conquer "Caledonia" despite building the Antonine Wall, more of an earthwork really, between the Firth of Forth and River Clyde. It was abandoned after just 20 years. Many stretches of Hadrian's Wall still stand, serving as a stark reminder of the weakness or fallibility of those who seek to occupy and oppress other people. gets its first

Had they arrived in these islands as visitors – like their Italian descendants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries - and not aggressors I reckon that the amiable Scots would have extended the hand of friendship. The Scottish-Italian community is thought to be around 100,000 strong today and living proof that Scotland is a great place to set up home for those fleeing persecution and hard times elsewhere.

Since then the little country which makes up the northern part of the United Kingdom has had a tumultuous history for standing up to aggressive outsiders and injustice but never lost its reputation for hospitality. No one knows that better than Scotland's long-standing Jewish community, which arrived largely during the 17th century, although it is thought that the first Jews may have come centuries earlier to escape persecution in neighbouring England.

Those who found a safe haven north of the border went on to build Garnethill Synagogue in Glasgow, regarded as the "cathedral synagogue" of Scotland, in 1879-81, two decades before the ideology of political Zionism was conceived. This is very important to note as those who try to conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism ignore such important, historical time lines.

Judaism is a great God-given faith more than 3,000 years old and Zionism is a man-made invention from the late 19th century. The former has always been practised freely in Scotland, which is the only country in Europe where there is no record of state persecution of the Jews; that's a record of which we are all proud. I say "we" because I have also settled in Scotland and I am now proud to call myself a Scot.

Scotland has little time for Zionism, though; while the powerful Friends of Israel lobby has infected all of the mainstream parties in Westminster with its pernicious influence, no Zionist groups have been able to influence the Scottish government or members of the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh.

The Church of Scotland gave a strong and unambiguous reaffirmation recently of its brave 2007 statement of opposition to the pro-Israel religious claims of Christian Zionism; it advised its members to reject them. The national church, which is by far the largest church or religious group in Scotland, is on record for criticising Christian Zionism within a wider repudiation of European colonialism in general. The church rejects any use of the Hebrew Bible to dispossess the Palestinian people.

The Church of Scotland also restated its support for Palestinian human rights, including the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland or be compensated should they, and they alone, decide otherwise. This is in line with Scottish and international public opinion as well as UN resolutions and international law.

Attempts by Zionists to unsettle the established Jewish community in Scotland and urge Jews to flee in the event of Scotland ever gaining independence have also failed. If anything, open support for the Zionist state of Israel is scarce. This point must have hit home in Tel Aviv, for the Israeli government appears to be gearing up for a battle it simply cannot win; using all of its powers of political persuasion (which in Britain are virtually non-existent beyond the Westminster lobby) it has decided to base a diplomat in Scotland.

Israel's man in question is Ishmael Khaldi, a Palestinian Bedouin who visited Scotland while he was serving as an advisor to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Yes, the same Lieberman who has called for the mass murder of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails and said recently that Palestinian citizens of Israel who oppose the state should be "beheaded"; he is said to be furious by Scottish attitudes towards his country.

Lieberman hopes that Khaldi will persuade some that Israel is not a state built upon the notion of Jewish superiority, ethnic cleansing and genocide in Gaza, despite all of the evidence to the contrary. South Africa's ousted apartheid regime used the same tactic by persuading some Black Africans to be co-opted in the fight against the anti-Apartheid movement; it failed to convince anyone who had an ounce of concern about human rights and justice.

At one time Lieberman could have counted on his friends in Westminster to rally round and slap down the belligerent Scots but the political landscape is changing fast, and there's a General Election looming. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's First Minister and the Scottish National Party's dynamic new leader has pledged that the SNP will reform the "discredited Westminster system" for ordinary people, wherever they live in Britain.

She told a gathering of party faithful in Glasgow at the weekend that a shake-up was needed to bring positive change. The latest polls suggest that the SNP is on course to win most Jewish tartanof Scotland's 59 Westminster seats and that Labour and the Conservatives – many of whose candidates are already signed up to their respective Friends of Israel lobby groups - will fail to win an overall majority in the House of Commons in May.

The Scottish nationalists could, therefore, be power brokers in the event of a hung Westminster parliament. The rise of the SNP is certainly a concern to the people in power in Israel, especially those who could once rely on old friends like Tony Blair and Gordon Brown for support. However, with Blair's already doubtful credibility hanging in the balance and Brown stepping down as a Member of Parliament neither can exert the sort of influence needed by the pro-Israel lobby. Both remain patrons of the Jewish National Fund, though, which buys land in occupied Palestine for use solely by Jews; even outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron sought to distance himself from the JNF by quitting as a patron in 2011.

The arrival of a full time Israeli diplomat in Scotland has been greeted with scorn by several pro-justice groups, including the vocal Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The SPSC's founder and former chair Mick Napier commented: "Pro Israel activists in Scotland have tried bullying and intimidation to roll back the rising commitment to Palestinian freedom. It didn't work with the Church of Scotland which remains committed to supporting the Palestinian right of return and opposing Christian Zionism and it didn't work with the Scottish Trade Union Congress, which supports a full boycott of Israel."

According to Napier, Ishmael Khaldi will claim to represent proof that Israel is not an apartheid state. "However, a country whose biggest city [Glasgow] has Mandela Place in the city centre knows very well that the South African apartheid regime was able to co-opt black figures into co-operating with the regime and had some fighting against the liberation struggle."

Khaldi, continued the veteran campaigner, is a "highly paid stooge", whose posting to Scotland follows an Israeli diplomat's lament that any official representative of Israel in Scotland will be there because the country is regarded as "enemy territory".

"Our Jewish fellow citizens," added Mick Napier, "are an integral part of Scottish society, as are Scottish-Italians. Zionists and Mafiosi are, however, a very different matter, both being supporters of theft, murder and full-spectrum criminality." Ishmael Khaldi, it is obvious, will have a very difficult job to convince the majority of Scots otherwise.

Full article by Yvonne Ridley in Middle East Monitor 31 March 2015

The spokespersons for the Israeli Embassy in London, the Israeli Information Office in Giffnock and Scottish Friends of Israel may sometimes appear deranged but they have a sense of where some of the campaign in Scotland for Palestine is coming from:

According to the website of the Israeli Embassy in London,

Since "There is a need to counter the growing truculence of anti-Israel groups and the volume of media antipathy and inaccurate reporting...comment and letters in Scottish newspapers in the principal cities are monitored as are the activities of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign." Israeli Embassy in London

"Every appearance by an official Israeli representative in Scotland is like a visit to enemy territory"  Israeli Diplomat

Motion by two Tory MSPs against SPSC and BDSA motion lodged in the Scottish Parliament on 30th April 2014 by two Tory MSPs Jackson Carlaw and John Lamont. A badge of honour to be the object of vague abuse by these two.  They ignore the somewhat obvious fact that two contributing artists to the exhibition refused to be associated with the polecat Embassy of Israel and informed the Stills Gallery to that effect.  The BDS success was the result of a harmonious cooperation between contributing artists, the BNC and, crucially, pro-BDS activists on the ground who are willing and able to organise an angry public opinion in a sustained, peaceful and vigorous protest against Israeli apartheid, ethnic cleansing and general criminality.

Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign [is] one of the main sources of anti-Israeli action...disturbing…activities of a vociferous anti-Israel body [that] lie behind an “upsurge in anti-Israel content in the media” in Scotland.  Ezra Golombok, Israeli Information Office, Scotland

“…Scotland has witnessed a noticeable public anti-Israel sentiment, prominently driven by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign…” Scottish Friends of Israel website

Similar boycott efforts also occur in England [but] there is a consensus that "it's worse in Scotland."  Israeli daily, Haaretz

"This was designed to put Mordechai Vanunu back in the public eye. We believe the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign was behind this."  Stanley Grossman of Scottish Friends of Israel after Glasgow City Council adopted a position of support for Israeli prisoner, Mordechai Vanunu, after a debate that raised the issue of Israel's nuclear weapons of mass destruction and harsh treatment of the Palestinians. (2008)

“,,,a highly active anti-Israeli lobby in Scotland"...the Palestine Solidarity Campaign "seems well-funded and its few activist leaders are knowledgeable, expert in exploiting any situation for sniping at Israel..." Golombok, Israeli Information Office, Scotland (2010)

Ken McIntosh - he lied and he knows he liedAccording to a Scottish Procurator Fiscal (Prosecutor) five members of Scottish PSC are guilty of "racially aggravated conduct" for supporting the Palestinian appeal for boycott of the Israeli state.  (All charges were thrown out.)

According to lying Labour MSP, Scottish PSC "target Jewish people living here in Scotland". Ken McIntosh MSP claimed he had seen an "anti-Semitic leaflet calling for a boycott of kosher food".  Challenged by constituents to show evidence of such a criminal offence, he was unable to find the supposed criminal material he claimed to have seen.  Local police stated that no crime had been committed. 

With so many ethnic cleansing successes, why are Zionists so worried?
Mick Napier
4th April 2014

As Israel accelerates its current wave of ethnic cleansing – driving Palestinians JNF tractor demolishing Al Araqib, 2013from their homes to make way for Jewish-only settlements across the whole of Historic Palestine – some may succumb to despair. Israel should have a bulldozer on its flag for a land constantly humming to their sound, demolishing Palestinian homes, farms and wells, while building exclusive Jewish colonies. We see an orgy of illegal destruction and construction side by side. But despair is the luxury we can't afford at the moment - perhaps in better times.

So why are political Zionists so worried? Their internal discourse worldwide shows an awareness of rising hostility to the crimes of the State of Israel, crimes and a state they support and finance.

A rare JNF event in Scotland confirmed that Scotland is part of this long term trend in public opinion, with a leading pro-Israel apologist, Paul Morron MBE, despairing that "I don't think that the Scottish Parliament can get much more anti-Israeli than it currently is...There is already a major anti-Israeli movement in Scottish political and other spheres of life." And since Israel is already a pariah state in public opinion worldwide, he laments that Israel is being deserted by those who previously supported it. "Where are the political party voices in Scotland countering the propaganda?" (Jewish Telegraph, 4th April 2014) The answer is...none.

Edinburgh Palestine demonstration
Vivian Wineman, UK President of the Zionist-dominated Board of Deputies of British Jews, noted the spreading hostility to Israel's ethnic cleansing and apartheid, and expressed his concern "about the level of anti-Israel sentiment in the government, local authorities and the Church of Scotland." Paying a back-handed compliment to pro-Palestine advocates, the Jewish Telegraph reports that Mr Wineman also said that the UK Zionist leadership was aware that the "worst manifestations of the Palestine Solidarity campaign" have been in Scotland.

As an example of Mr. Wineman's "worst manifestations" of solidarity with the Palestinian people, one JNF supporter, Gila Hackenbroch, recalled "attending a JNF KKL Scotland event in Glasgow with all the demonstrators outside and the noise. It was scary and I'd never experienced anything like it before."

Protest works; this voice should encourage us to intensify our solidarity mobilising, since it was determined demonstrations against JNF fundraisers at the Glasgow Hilton that brought these annual provocations to an end. A determination to deny the racist JNF the possibility of business-as-usual has led to the cancellation of virtually all the JNF's successor fund-raising events in Scotland. We must ensure, however, that the JNF KKL and other agents of the apartheid State of Israel continue to be challenged vigorously every time they appear in public.

The Palestinian 'Nakba'The next racist provocation by the JNF will be in London on the evening of Thursday 15th May when Israeli war criminal Tsipi Livni is due to speak at a Central London JNF event. May 15th - Nakba Day - is the day each year when Palestinians and human rights supporters commemorate the successful and bloody biggest single wave of Zionist ethic cleansing in Palestine, in 1948.

The JNF KKL Scotland is the local unit of JNF International, whose Israeli section oversees the State programme to make as much as possible of Palestine completely free of Palestinians. The racist activity of the JNF, if carried out here in the UK, would constitute a clear crime.

In the Zionist lexicon 'democracy' equals 'apartheid', 'defence' means 'aggression' and 'Israeli security' stands for 'terrorising the neighbourhood'. Wineman's view that the 'worst' examples of Palestine solidarity are in Scotland is a back-handed compliment.

Let us be crystal clear; our target is every Scottish institutional support for Israeli ethnic cleansing, whether Gentile or Jewish, Gordon Brown or SCoJeC, ideological or economic. Our foe is political Zionism and its commitment to completing the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. We promote opposition to Israeli crimes and oppose the barbaric notion of collective guilt; Scotland's Jews are in no way responsible as a community for Israeli ethnic cleansing. We recognise only individual liability for actions and look forward one day to meeting Stanley Lovatt and his ilk in a Scottish court of law where he will answer for his financing of Israeli crimes.

We hope the Jewish community in Scotland reverses its historic decline – attributable to obvious demographic trends – and retains a presence in a country that never passed an anti-Jewish law in a violent and sometimes savage history.

Many Jewish citizens are leaving Israel, for a variety of reasons. My son and daughter recently moved to Berlin, and found there tens of thousands of Israelis, many already anti-Zionist. We invite Scottish Jews to persuade their Israeli relatives to move to Scotland as one way to increase the size of the Jewish community here.

On the downside, given the pervasive racism and the Israeli mainstreaming of extreme right wing politics, we would be importing some pretty nasty settler-colonial traditions but, on the plus side, the tolerant air of Scotland will progressively attenuate that pathology and allow the immigrants to develop normal relations with their non-Jewish fellow citizens, something quite impossible in an apartheid state based on Jewish privilege.

In addition, we'd be removing settlers from the privileged Jewish community in apartheid Israel and hastening the liberation of Palestine. It's a win-win situation.

While holding this olive branch to Jewish fellow-Scots and their Israeli relatives, we need to intensify our campaign in the face of accelerating Israeli ethnic cleansing. You can/should help out by

Mick Napier
Wanlockhead 4th April 2014

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