“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable”.
George Orwell

The Scottish Government’s positions on Israel/Palestine are in flux, responding to pressures from a furious public opinion as well as the realpolitik that led the SNP to embrace NATO, where Israel is a virtual member.

First, the good news; on BBC TV’s prime time Question Time on 25 March 2010, Scottish Government First Minister Alex Salmond singled out Israel for condemnation after an Israeli death squad masquerading as tourists murdered Palestinian Scottish First Minister, Alex SalmondMahmoud Al Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel room (on January 19). The assassination squad had travelled on purloined or borrowed British passports to carry out their grisly mission. The Scottish First Minister insisted at that time that, “You can’t have normal relationships if you believe another country has been involved in what Israel has been involved in”. Salmond said the response to such criminality “should be more than expelling a diplomat”, which he derided as a “diplomatic dance”, and added, “this has implications for example in trading relationships”.

The First Minister also took a firm line against Scottish Zionist efforts to portray Scotland as a country with a serious anti-semitism problem, such that Scottish Jews were leaving due to fears over their safety. Rejecting the suggestion outright, Salmond told an audience in Glasgow that "…Jews in Scotland aren't facing a wave of antisemitic behaviour that is jeopardising this community.” He went further and delivered a stinging rebuke to those who claimed to speak on behalf of Scotland's Jews: “I don't believe that the Jewish community is under siege nor do I believe that it feels itself to be under siege.” Rejecting also the Zionist assertion of a privileged relationship between the Scottish Jewish community and a foreign state, Israel, he stated that "The Jewish people in Scotland aren't judged by the actions of the State of Israel, nor do I think that you should accept that you are being judged by the policies of Israel."

So far, so good; the Scottish First Minister argues that:
1. Israel is not a normal state and should be subject to economic sanctions
2. Zionist claims of Scotland suffering from serious anti-semitism are completely unfounded and even fabricated by those who make the claim.
3. Jewish citizens in Scotland are not responsible for Israel's criminality

Unfortunately, less than a year passed before the Scottish Government gave a grant of £200,000 of Scottish taxpayers’ money to an Israeli settler company, Eden Springs. The settler company’s business plan included the promotion of the products of another Israeli settler company, Soda Stream, headquartered in the illegal Israeli settlement of Mishor Adumin in the occupied West Bank.

The £200,000 grant followed a July 2009 appeal for help to the Scottish Government by an Eden Springs director, Graeme Carruthers, to deal with a “pressing situation” caused by a “wave of recent protests that is threatening the future of Eden Springs UK” due to the company being “targeted by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign”. Carruthers' letter pleaded for help from the Scottish Government “to prevent further damage to this Scottish based company”.

with Isreli Ambassador Taub, October 2012At the end of October 2012, the Scottish First Minister welcomed the Israeli Ambassador to Bute House for what Israel's honorary consul to Scotland, Stanley Lovatt, said was a "very convivial meeting". Although the Israeli Ambassador raised his concerns with the First Minister about "elements of extreme hostility to Israel in parts of Scottish society", Alex Salmond’s office made no reference to his raising with the Israeli visitor widespread Scottish concerns about Israel’s brutal human rights record and mass killings in Gaza, contenting itself with issuing a bland statement reporting the meeting.

Humza Yousaf later welcomed the Israeli Ambassador to the Scottish Parliament, again on behalf of all Scots. Both these meetings violated informal assurances given to a delegation of three members of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign during a meeting with Minister Fiona Hyslop in the Scottish Parliament on 1st July 2010 that the Israeli Ambassador would not be welcomed by the Scottish Government. The SPSC delegation had asked the Scottish Government to follow in the footsteps of the Speaker of the Welsh Assembly who had shunned the Israeli Ambassador in protest at Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people.

On May 13th of this year, Humza Yousaf shocked many by stating that the Scottish Government opposes the call from Palestine for boycott, divestment and sanctions against the State of Israel to compel it to recognise Palestinian human rights under international law. This statement represented a move towards clear pro-Israeli positions ten weeks before a murderous Israeli assault on Gaza that saw more than 1,800 Palestinians slaughtered in Gaza and many killed across the West Bank.

The Scottish Minister for External Affairs told the same meeting that Israel was not an apartheid state, and made it a triple whammy by reassuring his mainly Zionist audience that the Scottish Government had adopted a “position on the Middle East [that] doesn’t vary much from the UK government”.

This was an unambiguous shift and, cumulatively, a shock to supporters of the Scottish Government and many others:
4. welcoming the Israeli Ambassador to Edinburgh with no public reference to Israel’s brutal human rights record
5. rejection of the Palestinian appeal for solidarity through BDS
6. resiling from Alex Salmond’s earlier position to an acceptance of Israel as a “normal state” and not a brutal apartheid system
7. moving the SNP’s foreign policy to something very similar to Cameron and Hague.

Under the pressure of mass public revulsion at Israel’s massacres of Palestinians during July and August, the Scottish Government went into reverse yet again, adopting positions that Scots widely welcomed. The Scottish Government promised significant medical aid, including opening Scottish hospitals to those maimed and injured by the Israeli attacks, which Humza Yousaf condemned in “the strongest terms” in a letter to the Edinburgh demonstration for Gaza of August 9. In sharply worded criticism, he condemned the Israeli “depth of inhumanity that we have witnessed over civilian deaths in Gaza”. The Scottish Government also called for an arms embargo on Israel and an investigation into Israeli war crimes.

So, very welcome developments:
8. promise to open Scottish hospitals to some of the wounded and maimed survivors of Israel's attack on Gaza
9. condemnation of "the depth of inhumanity" of the Israeli massacres
10. call for an arms embargo on Israel
11. call for an investigation into Israeli war crimes

It is essential to maintain public pressure on the Scottish Government to prevent yet more backsliding in the future from the positive positions they have recently adopted and to move them to broaden their notion of sanctions from the crucial field of arms to a more general commitment to support the Palestinian call for BDS - Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – until Israel conforms to international law and recognises Palestinian human rights.

Mick Napier
West Calder
12th August 2014

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