Monday 12th September 2011
Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign: Media Release
ORTHODOX JEWISH GROUP OPPOSE "RIDICULOUS" ISRAEL FLAG RACISM CONVICTION
-- Sentencing tomorrow at Cupar Sheriff Court
An orthodox Jewish group has described the conviction for racially aggravated conduct of a St Andrew's student who defaced an Israeli flag as "ridiculous".
Neturei Karta, which was formed in Palestine in 1938 but has roots tracing back to 1912, is renowned both inside and outside Israel for its determined opposition to Zionism and its support for Palestinian human rights. Although its protests over many years often include burning an Israeli flag, to date, no group member has been charged with racism.
Rabbi Aaron Cohen said, "Zionism and Judaism are two opposite and incompatible concepts. Zionism with its aim of a state for the benefit of a specific group in someone else's land is by definition a sectarian and racist philosophy. For the Sheriff to mistakenly conflate Jewishness with being a 'member of Israel' is simply wrong, and this conviction is clearly ridiculous."
Paul Donnachie, who was convicted earlier this month, is due to be sentenced at Cupar Sheriff Court tomorrow. Donnachie intends to appeal the conviction.
The sheriff has also faced criticism from a Scot's Jewish group whose members he refused to hear during the case. A statement from 'Scottish Jews for a Just Peace' said, "We are concerned that the Sheriff did not allow Jewish witnesses for the defence to be called to give evidence regarding the crucial distinction between Zionism – a political position of support for a Jewish state in Israel/Palestine – and Jewishness – a person's religion or ethnicity."
The statement continues, "It would appear that Paul Donnachie's protest was directed not against Chanan Reitblat as a Jew or indeed as a person, but against the political view that he espoused. We condemn the way that the Sheriff's decision confuses the legitimate right to criticise the State of Israel with racism, and conflates Jewishness with support for Israel."
Last year, similar charges were thrown out of an Edinburgh court after five members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) disrupted a concert by Israeli Army musicians, the Jerusalem Quartet. Sheriff James Scott ruled that their "comments were clearly directed at the State of Israel", that, "The Israeli state is not a 'person'", and that to limit criticism of a state would "render worthless their article 10(1) rights [freedom of expression]."
In what appears to directly contradict the Edinburgh ruling, Sheriff MacNair told Donnachie that, "The state of Israel is the land and its borders and the people in it... Saying that a state is terrorist says that everyone within the state is terrorist."
SPSC chair, Mick Napier said of the Cupar conviction, "Sheriff Charles MacNair violated every canon of fairness and balance, and at least partly based his guilty verdict on his mistaken characterisation of the complainer, Jewish American Chanan Reitblatt, as a 'member of Israel'. To say he was confused would be an understatement."
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 throughout Scotland, and members and supporters from Scotland and elsewhere.
For further information, contact:
SPSC Chair, Mick Napier: 0131 620 0052; 07958002591
2. Samuel Colchester and Paul Donnachie faced two alternative charges:
racially aggravated conduct, contrary to the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995 Section 50A (1)(b) and 5;
behaving in a threatening or abusive manner, contrary to Section 38 (1) of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010.
Paul Donnachie was found guilty of the first charge, while charges against Samuel Colchester were found to be not proven.
3. The sentencing of Paul Donnachie takes place at Cupar Sheriff Court on Tuesday 13th September at 10am.
Cupar Sheriff Court
St Catherine Street
Map and directions: http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/locations/index.asp?crt=cpr&val=contact
4. Neturei Karta was formed in Palestine in 1938 but has roots tracing back to 1912. It was established "for the purpose of fighting Zionism", which it has continued to do even after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
5. Scottish Jews for a Just Peace "are a group of Jews, with supporters in all parts of Scotland, who are opposed to Israeli policies that undermine the livelihoods, human, civil and political rights of the Palestinian people and the ethical and political welfare of the Jewish people."
Their website can be found here: http://blog.sjjp.org.uk/ ; and includes their full "statement on the conviction of Paul Donnachie".
6. The SPSC has produced an open letter to "Defend the right to criticise Israel":
which condemns the "attempt by Scottish prosecutors yet again to conflate legitimate political criticism of the State of Israel with racism."
7. Similar charges of racially aggravated conduct were alleged against five members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign after their Aug 2008 disruption of a concert by the Jerusalem Quartet in Edinburgh.
After a 20-month legal process, on April 8th 2010, Sheriff James Scott dismissed the charges. See the Sheriff's ruling: http://www.scottishpsc.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3286&catid=332:trial&Itemid=200248
After the trial, the Herald's front page reported, "Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism, rules sheriff"
The Herald, April 9th 2010:
An SPSC media release on the ruling can be found here:
The BBC reported, "Israel protest at concert 'was not racist'"
BBC News, 8th April 2010:
More media reports here: