Embargo: Tuesday 3rd April 2012
Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign: Media Release
APPEAL AGAINST ISRAEL FLAG “RACISM” CONVICTION
A former St Andrews University student who defaced an Israeli flag and referred to Israel as a terrorist state is set to appeal his conviction for racism tomorrow [Wed 4th April 2010].
Paul Donnachie was sentenced to 150 hours community service at Cupar Sheriff Court last August when Sheriff Charles MacNair ruled that “Saying that a state is terrorist says that everyone within the state is terrorist.”
It is understood that Paul Donnachie will argue that he had a legitimate right to criticise the State of Israel and its flag, and that the sheriff had been wrong to consider criticism of Israel as an attack on the Jewish faith.
After his conviction, the sheriff 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 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.”
In 2010, charges of racism 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. In what appears to directly contradict the Cupar ruling, 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].”
SPSC chair, Mick Napier said of the 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. There is no question that this conviction will be overturned.”
The appeal at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh is scheduled to last all day tomorrow.
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. Paul Donnachie was found guilty of racially aggravated conduct, contrary to the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995 Section 50A (1)(b).
3. The appeal of Paul Donnachie takes place at the Court of Criminal Appeal, Lawnmarket, Edinburgh, on Wed 4th APril 2012 (scheduled to last one day).
4. 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”.
5. 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:
The Herald’s front page reported, “Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism, rules sheriff”
The Herald, April 9th 2010: