"The failure of the UK Government, however, does not stop Scottish institutions, local authorities and others from taking inspiration from across the sea. Dublin City Council earlier this month endorsed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign and decided to stop business with Hewlett Packard until it stops providing services and technology to the Israeli army that maintains Israel’s military occupation and siege of Gaza, and the biometric technology that enables the Israeli Government to control and enforce its system of racial segregation against Palestinians. Is this the time for Scottish local authorities to divest their pension funds from Israeli apartheid? We count on the people to help us make history the right way, and truly make apartheid history."
Monday 23rd April 2018
SINCE I had my first meetings with Western politicians, I have been told that if only Palestinians would opt for non-violent methods they would support us. Now, especially in the light of the popular Great Return Marches in Gaza, where is this promised support?
The politicians’ argument clearly bypasses the fact that since the beginning of our struggle against colonial occupation, at the time of British rule, we have used non- violent methods.
From the world’s longest general strike lasting six months in 1936, to civil disobedience, boycotts and tax strikes, to the protests during the First Intifada to the anti-Wall demonstrations and now the tens of thousands that have been joining the Great Return March.
The incredible bravery and determination of the people in Gaza – 80 per cent of them refugees – to go in front of Israeli snipers, who are trained and ordered to kill them at sight, should move people of conscience across the world, including politicians, to stand up in solidarity.
2018 is a crucial moment in the history of the Palestinian struggle for justice, freedom and equality.
Seventy years after the start of the Nakba (catastrophe in Arabic), which meant the ethnic cleansing of over half of the Palestinian people from their homes as part of Israel’s establishment, Israel is determined to liquidate the Palestinian cause.
The White House recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the announced shift of the US embassy there, in violation of all international norms and treaties, has been the first step.
At the same time, Israel has intensified the persecution of Palestinians in Jerusalem: more home demolitions, more arrests, increasing militarisation of the Old City and Al Aqsa Mosque and ubiquitous police presence and checkpoints, all accompanied by plans for between 14,000 and 300,000 new illegal settlement housing units in Jerusalem.
The criminal and wilful shooting by Israeli military of unarmed civilians taking part in the Great March of Return in the Gaza Strip, now in its fourth week, has so far cost 33 people their lives. More than 2,430 have been injured and the numbers are rising daily.
This has been preceded by the US administration’s decision to withhold funds from UNWRA, the UN agency providing humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees.
After a decade of the brutal siege of Gaza – or what Robert Piper, UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities, calls an “extraordinarily inhuman and unjust process of strangling gradually two million civilians in Gaza that really pose a threat to nobody” – the UN expects Gaza to be “unliveable” by 2020.
In the West Bank, settlement construction is equally booming while new roads and tunnels aim to finalise the infrastructure that will close off Palestinians in isolated cantons and the Gaza Strip – reduced to 13 per cent of their ancestral homeland and surrounded by apartheid walls.
To stop our continued protests along the wall and checkpoints against this mass-scale dispossession, arrests are steeply rising, with new raids and arrests of between ten and 20 people almost every night.
It is time for the world to stop standing in implicit or explicit complicity with Israeli apartheid and to join us in nonviolent action by taking up the Palestinian call for boycotts, divestment and sanction until Israel respects international law and human rights.
The only morally right thing for the UK Government to do is to at the very least stop its weapons exports to Israel and impose a military embargo, as happened after South Africa’s apartheid regime massacred protestors at Sharpeville.
Instead, Theresa May’s government is preparing the first ever state visit of a member of the royal family to Israel. This risks the UK going into the annals, for the second time in history, as being among the last and staunchest supporters of apartheid.
The failure of the UK Government, however, does not stop Scottish institutions, local authorities and others from taking inspiration from across the sea. Dublin City Council earlier this month endorsed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign and decided to stop business with Hewlett Packard until it stops providing services and technology to the Israeli army that maintains Israel’s military occupation and siege of Gaza, and the biometric technology that enables the Israeli Government to control and enforce its system of racial segregation against Palestinians.
Is this the time for Scottish local authorities to divest their pension funds from Israeli apartheid?
We count on the people to help us make history the right way, and truly make apartheid history.
23 April 2018
Jamal Juma’ was born in Jerusalem and attended Birzeit University, where he became politically active. Since the first Intifada, he has focused on grassroots activism. Since 2002 he has been the co-ordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign and since 2012 the coordinator of the Land Defence Coalition, a network of Palestinian grassroots movements. He is a secretariat member of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee.
The article by an important Palestinian voice appealing to Scottish civil society stimulated many letters to the editor and a selection were published in the Tuesday (April 24th) edition:
WELL done to The National for publishing Jamal Juma’s piece on Palestine (Why the time is right for action to help Palestine, April 23). Juma’ provides a rarely seen and heard Palestinian perspective on the Great March of Return that has been taking place in Gaza since March 30.
If anyone requires further reminder of the barbaric policies of the Israeli state towards unarmed Palestinian protesters, Medecins Sans Frontieres has revealed the extent of the devastating bullet woundings inflicted on large numbers of the thousands of injured Palestinians in Gaza, which are described as unusually severe and complex to treat, with some exit wounds as large as a fist. Many will live with permanent disability. These are besides some 40 shot and murdered by Israeli snipers in the last few weeks.
Juma’ calls for practical actions in Scotland such as a military embargo or such as those taken by Dublin City Council to endorse the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) campaign. We can start here with our own local authorities and tell their pensions committees that it’s time to divest from companies that collude in these massacres.
Helen Skulina, Edinburgh
IT’S hardly surprising that the ranks of those fighting for justice for the Palestinian people have a plentiful supply of Irish citizens and descendants whose awareness of their own historic colonisation has so much in common with the brutality and mass murder meted out to the Palestinian people. So no-one should be surprised by Dublin City Council’s endorsement of BDS, and the proposal that the Israeli ambassador be expelled for the recent bout of carnage inflicted on the Palestinian people, whose only “crime” is to demand their basic human rights.
Racism in any form, from whatever source, is repugnant. And whether it’s the London Daily Sketch’s 19th-century portrayal of Irish people as ape-like creatures, or the Israeli Government’s pretence of Palestinian non-existence, the stench from both cauldrons serves the same purpose: to make crime, however brutal, seem less in the eyes of onlookers who might otherwise come to the rescue.
Arrest without charge or trial, indefinite imprisonment, child-snatching at night followed by ill-treatment, mass killing, travel restrictions, land grabs, sniper fire, assassinations – with all victims Palestinian – will end a lot sooner if more people stand up and demand it.
Lawrence McDonald, Scottish Borders
WE were very pleased to see the call for support of the Palestinians by Jamal Juma’ – especially since, in general, there has been a lack of media coverage of both the growing levels of Israeli aggression and the Palestinians’ inspiring mass movement of peaceful resistance. Our only quibble would be with the article’s title – action to help Palestine is long overdue!
We write as Scottish Jews who believe that Zionism has been an appalling disaster for both Palestinians and Jews. We have been proud of the support for Palestinian rights shown by people in Scotland, but are concerned that this has made Scotland a special target for Israeli propagandists who seek to brand any criticism of Zionism as anti-Semitic. We want to make it absolutely clear that Israel does not represent Jews as a people and cannot speak in our name.
Palestinians have called on the world to break economic ties with Israel and with companies that support the Israeli Government. We hope that Scottish support for BDS will continue to grow, and that our elected representatives will not be cowed from backing this important action in support of human rights.
Sarah Glynn, Catherine Lyons, Liz Elkind, Alice Flebotte, Naomi Junnor, Leora Wadler, Jola Litwitz
ISRAEL is a state that relies on privilege to prop up its fundamental ideology of Zionism, which provides cover for ethnic cleansing to transform a land which was “Arab” into a Jewish state. “A Jewish state could not have arisen without a major displacement of Arab population”, as Israeli historian Benny Morris concluded. This inhuman process is a present-day reality that shames ever greater numbers of activists of all faiths and none into challenging the anti-human rights actions of those who represent us.
Support for the BDS campaign is a choice made by those of us who uphold human rights as a fundamental privilege for everyone and is an effective means of registering our offence to those who actively support the inhuman practices of the rogue state of Israel, whether Zionists or not.
Jerry Headley, North Berwick
YESTERDAY you published an article from Jamal Juma’, calling for action to help Palestine.
Marek Edelman, the great Polish Jewish war hero of the Warsaw Ghetto, in August 2002, published an open letter to the Palestinians of Gaza, written as one resistance fighter to another. He offered support and advice in their fight for freedom.
He was unequivocal and transparent on his anti-Zionist position, and matched words with deeds, refusing to “make Aliyah” and migrate to Palestine. He died in Poland in 2009.
Just a few days ago, by contrast, Carles Puigdemont, in the face of the deaths of peaceful protestors in the Gaza March of Return, tweeted explicit support for the State of Israel: “Congratulations Israel on the 70th anniversary of your independence. Your struggle against adversity and your spirit of self-sacrifice has gained our respect in Catalonia.”
His statement was met with howls of protest from members of his own party and the wider Catalan independence campaign, who clearly identify with the Palestinian freedom struggle. They realise that Puigdemont’s statement can only hurt their own movement.
Palestine and Catalan flags are commonly flown at Scottish Independence rallies. I’m not suggesting we drop solidarity with the Catalan cause because of one tweet from one man, president though he be. But it is long overdue to heed the call from Palestine for Scottish authorities at all levels for BDS of all goods and services to and from Israel.
As long ago as 2010, Alex Salmond demanded that we “end the diplomatic dance” with Israel. He said “You can’t have normal relationships if you believe another country has been involved in what Israel has been involved in.” Humza Yousaf in 2014 called for a bilateral arms embargo on Israel.
Last time I checked, we had six* local authorities with explicit BDS policies against Israeli goods or services, in protest against the crimes against humanity of the state of Israel. It is time to make that 32, plus the Scottish Government.
Palestine has asked for our support. We’ve stated our position, as a nation and as individuals. Let’s put our words into action.
Bill Mair, Dysart, Fife
*Four Scottish councils have supported the Palestinian call for BDS - West Dumbarton, Clackamannanshire, Stirling, Midlothian
There were a further three letters on Wednesday 25th April supporting the thrust of the article, together with a weak piece of pro-Israel apologetics from Banchory
CONGRATULATIONS to The National for publishing the facts on the non-violent nature of the Palestinians’ resistance to the oppression and apartheid imposed on them by the Israeli Occupation (Why the time is right for action to help Palestinians, April 23).
For far too long Unionist newspapers have simply parroted the version of events on the “conflict” put out by the Westminster Government instead of bothering to find out for themselves what is really going on. The reason being that if ordinary people get to know the truth of the horrors Palestinians experience on a daily basis, the demand for an end would become unstoppable – in the same way as the pressure by ordinary people for boycott, divestment and sanctions ended apartheid in South Africa.
Then what would happen to arms companies’ shares?
So well done to The National – make it the start of a trend.
TO stand with and fully support the Palestinian people, and ALL oppressed people, should be the duty of every government, not just the Scottish Government.
Are we to leave the Palestinians to stand alone, as they fight for their freedom and basic human rights in their own land?
We, as a country, as people of conscience, have a duty to build and implement effective and immediate solidarity with Palestine. As Desmond Tutu said: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (Dumfries)
THE Scottish Government should take a firm stance on Israel’s worryingly growing hostility towards Palestinians, recently emboldened by the US decision to move its embassy.
Although foreign policy it not a devolved matter, I’m sure our government could at least debate the issue to see what support can be given.
I’m sure the good people of Scotland are frustrated by the deafening silence of mainstream media on this issue, and we would be interested to hear our government’s view.
If all we can offer is our support, it would still bring hope to a seemingly hopeless situation.
They say that above the gates of Hell it reads: “Abandon all hope ye who enter here”.
We should not see any human beings living in a Hell on Earth.
The racist, anti-Palestinian materials came to light after Aliyah Shafiq, the sister of a P7 pupil at New Stevenston primary, asked on her Facebook alongside a copy of her sister's homework: "How is my little sister being made to answer questions like this for her homework? This is completely unacceptable and has to be complained about to North Lanarkshire Council."
Anti-Palestinian racism has gone unchecked for too long. SPSC reported some considerable time ago how an Edinburgh University academic, Esti Sheinberg, had written unchallenged in the Edinburgh Star, ‘Journal of the Edinburgh Jewish Community’, that "The Jewish passion for Jerusalem is to rebuild and live in it. The Palestinian passion is for blood." It cannot be allowed to continue.
The letter below is posted on ww.coordin8.org.uk to make it quick and easy to email each of your local councillors with a single letter concerning the material demonising Palestinians that has been used in at least one Scottish schoolroom and possibly many more. One page of the racist materials is below.
The letter reads:
I and many of my family, friends and acquaintances are disgusted by the racist materials demonising all Palestinians that are being used in at least one North Lanarkshire primary schoolroom and possibly more across Scotland.
I am writing to demand that these and similar materials be withdrawn forthwith and a full and transparent enquiry be launched into how this situation came about, the extent to which similar materials are being used elsewhere, and what safeguards can be put in place to ensure nothing like it is repeated.
The Association of Palestinian Community in Scotland today condemned inflammatory teaching materials given to young children in a North Lanarkshire school which seeks to demonise Palestinians.
Children as young as 11 at New Stevenson Primary School, were given homework which described Palestine as Israel, and labelled all Palestinians seeking to end the occupation as "separatist terrorists".
Pupils were asked if "Palestinians feel they have the RIGHT to use terrorism against the Israeli."
Dr Essam Hijjawi, chair of the Association of Palestinian Community in Scotland said:
"'The Separatists' case study given to children as homework demonstrates a fundamentally flawed reading of history and geography, flying in the face of countless UN resolutions and shows an ignorance which beggars belief.
"No one other than the State of Israel regards the Occupied Palestinian Territories as forming part of Israel, and no one regards the struggle of the Palestinian people as a separatist struggle. The United Nations consistently supports the right of the Palestinian people to self determination and governments across the world including the UK and Scottish governments call for the end to the occupation.
"In July and August of last year, more than 500 Palestinian children were killed by the Israeli Occupation Forces and schools were razed to the ground by bombing raids and missile attacks.
"Unlike the children of Israeli settlers, Palestinian children are subject to military law. This means they can be detained without the knowledge of their parents, detained and held in adult prisons without charge and appear before military courts.
"Children in North Lanarkshire should not be taught to demonise Palestinians, they should be learning how children of the same age are beaten and shot by Israeli soldiers.
"We call for the immediate withdrawal of all such materials from Scottish schools, a public apology to the Palestinian community in Scotland, and a meeting with education department officials in North Lanarkshire, with the leader of the Council and with Scotland's Minister for Education.
"We also ask that all materials used in schools relating to the teaching of the history of Palestine is discussed between Education Scotland and the Palestinian community.
"At a time when Muslims are being demonised for the actions of a tiny minority, our children need to gain a proper understanding of the occupation of Palestine and learn compassion rather than fear and hatred."
I look forward to your response.
Outside Scotland, you can send the email to:
Angela Constance Scottish Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning
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.
At 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 bridges.
4. Rejects any attempt to drive individuals, families and legitimate businesses away from Aberdeen on grounds of race, religion or and condemns any organisation that pursues such a policy.
Any 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
To date four Scottish Councils have resolved to boycott Israeli goods, resist any form of political or economic support for the state of Israel, and endorse the Palestinian civil society call for a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions.
August 2014 - Midlothian Council endorses the BDS call.
"I am pleased that the agreed motion both condemns the disproportionate Israeli military response in Gaza and also recognises the UK’s role in the arms trade in general and in the supply of offensive weapons to Israel in particular. In supporting Palestinian civil society’s call for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, we are adding our voice to the millions around the world applying pressure on Israel for a just settlement in the Middle East”.
Ian Baxter, Midlothian Councillor (Scottish Green Party)
"A ceasefire in Gaza must be followed by a just peace. Without Justice there will be no peace in the area. Israel must not be allowed to continue acting with impunity in ignoring U.N. resolutions and in flouting international law. In endorsing the call from Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment and sanctions against Israel, Midlothian Council is joining the rapidly emerging global campaign against Israeli apartheid."
Brian Pottinger, Midlothian Councillor (Labour)
March 2013 - Clackmannanshire Council passes a motion, lodged by Councillor Archie Drummond, to resist any action that gives Israel political or economic support. The motion was passed nem con by a meeting of the full Council, with only three abstentions (one Labour, one SNP, and the lone Tory).
"Clackmannanshire Council condemns the Government of Israel for its continuing illegal occupation of Palestine's East Jerusalem and the West Bank and for its continuing illegal blockade of Gaza.
Clackmannanshire Council welcomes the decision of the United Nations on 29 November 2012 to grant 'non member observer State' to Palestine.
However, for the people of Palestine, the suffering of the last 64 years continues as the Government of Israel continues to ignore and breach international law.
Just as individual sanctions against apartheid in South Africa led ultimately to its demise there, so individual and collection sanctions against the state of Israel will end apartheid and suffering in Palestine. Clackmannanshire Council therefore resolves to resist, insofar as legislative considerations permit, any action that gives political or economic support to the State of Israel."
May 2011 - West Dunbartsonshire Council agrees to unanimously to approve a motion by Councillor George Black defending the Council policy to boycott Israeli goods.
"This Council refutes the allegations of anti-semitism levelled against us in recent days and clearly states that we will not ban, burn or otherwise abjure any Jewish literature from our libraries.
We will not be compared with zealots of any description who have adopted this type of activity in the past and we call upon the leaders of the Council and the Opposition along with the Corporate Management Team to mount a robust defence of our position."
December 2010 - Stirling Council passes motion to boycott Israeli goods.
"Stirling Council condemns the Government of Israel for its continuing illegal occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza. Council notes the heroic resilience of the people in these areas in the face of Israeli Defence Force's open aggression and disregard for International Law. Stirling Council recognises that Apartheid was not acceptable in South Africa and it is not acceptable in Palestine. This Council therefore resolves to reassess its current procurement arrangements and ensure future agreements and contracts boycott all Israeli goods. Council also agrees to write to all Scottish Local Authorities, Westminster and Holyrood Governments calling on them to implement an immediate boycott of all Israeli goods."
June 2010 - Following Israel's murder of peace activists on the Mavi Marmara, West Dunbartonshire Council unanimously passed a motion to condemn Israel and to reaffirm their policy of boycott of Israeli goods.
"This Council condemns the massacre of 9 peace activists by the Government of Israel, and the continuing blockade of Gaza. Council notes these brave people were trying to deliver 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza which has been blockaded since 2007 by the IDF. This Council therefore re-affirms its current boycott of all Israeli goods. Council also agrees to write to all Scottish Local Authorities, Westminster and Holyrood Governments calling on them to implement an immediate boycott of all Israeli goods."
January 2009 - West Dunbartonshire Council becomes the first Scottish Council to boycott Israeli goods. The following motion proposed by Councillor Jim Bolan was passed unanimously:
"This Council deplores the loss of life in Palestine which now numbers well over 1,000. This Council also recognises the disproportionate force used by the IDF in Palestine and agrees to boycott all Israeli goods as a consequence.
"Officers should immediately cease the purchase of any goods we currently source, which were made or grown in Israel. Officers should also ensure we procure no new goods or produce from Israel until this boycott is formally lifted by WDC.
"That the Chief Executive be instructed to write to all other Councils in Scotland with regard to seeking their endorsement of the motion."
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