Lawyers representing five Palestine supporters arrested last year for disrupting a concert by an Israeli group will argue at Edinburgh Sheriff Court tomorrow and Friday this week that to boycott Israel is not racist.
The campaigners, all members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC), stood up during the Aug 29th 2008 Edinburgh Festival performance of the Jerusalem Quartet and made statements including “End the Siege of Gaza—Boycott Israel!”
The five were originally charged with Breach of the Peace, and had been due to be tried in the wake of Israel’s attacks on Gaza in which 1400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. However, one week before the trial, that case was dropped in favour of new charges that their Israeli boycott protest was “racially motivated”.
Describing the “racist” charge as “absurd”, local writer and journalist, Marion Woolfson, said: “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.”
In recent months, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has joined its Scottish, Irish, and South African counterparts in supporting a boycott of Israel. According to Mick Shaw, president of the Fire Brigades Union, whose boycott motion was overwhelmingly supported by TUC conference delegates, the boycott aims to put “the most pressure… on the Israeli government to persuade them to change their policies."
Last month, Israel’s supporters were embarrassed when BNP leader, Nick Griffin, boasted on the BBC’s Question Time programme that his party fully supported Israel’s attacks on Gaza. Ruth Smeed, of the Board of Deputies of British Jews said: “The BNP website is now one of the most Zionist on the web - it goes further than any of the mainstream parties in its support of Israel”
Mick Napier, SPSC chair, and one of the five accused said: “While the racist BNP is given a platform to proclaim its support for Israeli massacres in Gaza which the UN Human Rights Council considers ‘war crimes’ and ‘crimes against humanity’, those who oppose racism and apartheid are accused of racism!
“The Scottish Courts may have lost their common sense, but they have found a sense of irony.”
Notes for editors:
1. The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign started in autumn 2000 in response to the Palestinian second uprising against Israeli occupation (Intifada). The SPSC has branches and groups of supporters in several Scottish cities and universities, as well as individual members across Scotland.
For further information, contact:
Mick Napier: 0131 620 0052; 07958002591
Email: info@scottishpsc. org.uk
Website: www.scottishpsc. org.uk
2. The case will be heard at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Thursday 5th and Friday 6th Nov 2009 at 10am.
The court will hear from prosecution witnesses before the Sheriff considers a legal petition that the charge infringes on “freedom of speech” by criminalising legitimate criticism of Israel. (Specifically, Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights)
Scottish Trade Unions Call for Boycott of Israel, April 24th
“The STUC is deeply concerned at the daily violations of human rights experienced by Palestinian people. The decision taken by our Congress is not a knee jerk reaction, but arrived at after careful consideration over a two year period. During this time the STUC engaged in discussions with interested groups in Scotland and the UK, and undertook a fact finding delegation to Israel and Palestine”.
5. Marion Woolfson is the author of many books and articles including:
Prophets in Babylon: Jews in the Arab World, London, 1980, Faber and Faber;
6. The Jerusalem Quartet performs around the world as cultural ambassadors of Israel. Their August 29th 2008 performance took place at the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, as part of the Edinburgh International Festival. They also hold the status of Distinguished IDF (Israeli Defence Force). More details at note 9.
7. Ruth Smeed quoted from:
Guardian; Thursday 10 April 2008:
8. For details of the 9 July 2005 call by Palestinian Civil Society for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights, see the Global BDS Movement website: www.bdsmovement.net/?q=node/52
9. The Aug 29th protest was endorsed by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI):http://www.pacbi.org
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) fully endorses the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign's call on the Edinburgh Festival to withdraw its invitation to the Jerusalem Quartet. Members of this Israeli Quartet began their career with active service in the Israeli army, where they served as "Distinguished Musicians," enjoying the sponsorship of mainstream Israeli cultural institutions such as the Jerusalem Foundation, which regards them as "prestigious cultural ambassadors, representing Israel and Jerusalem."
From the beginning, the Quartet's international tours have been actively promoted by the Israeli government. As such, and since the Quartet has not taken any clear position on the various forms of oppression of the Palestinian people, PACBI supports the Scottish PSC's call to boycott the Jerusalem Quartet as an institution that is complicit in maintaining Israel's occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people.