Five Palestine supporters arrested last year for disrupting a concert by an Israeli group are due to appear at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Friday.

The campaigners, all members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC), stood up during the Aug 29th Edinburgh Festival performance of the Jerusalem Quartet and made statements including “End the Siege of Gaza—Boycott Israel!”

The campaigners were originally charged with Breach of the Peace, and had been due to be tried on March 9th. However, at an Intermediate Diet one week before the trial, the Procurator Fiscal made a motion to desert that case and bring forward new charges that their Israeli boycott protest was “racially motivated”.

Sofia MacLeod, SPSC Secretary, and one of the five accused said, “Given the absurd nature of a charge clearly designed to criminalise the growing campaign to boycott Apartheid Israel until it respects Palestinian human rights, rather than oppose the new charges, we welcomed the opportunity to highlight that to boycott Israel is the opposite of racist.”

Late last year, the UN General Assembly President, Miguel d’escoto Brockmann, was condemned by pro-Israel groups when he described Israel as “apartheid” and recommended that the UN follow “the lead of a new generation of civil society, who are calling for a similar non-violent campaign [to that used against Apartheid South Africa] of boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel to end its violations.”

Campaign chair and fellow accused, Mick Napier, said, “The International Court of Justice advised in 2004 that signatories to the Geneva Conventions (including the UK) have an obligation to act to ensure that Israel dismantles its illegal settlements and the Apartheid separation wall that steals yet more Palestinian land.

“With the complete failure by the UK and other governments to fulfill those obligations, Israel feels able to break international law with impunity. The devastating result is what we saw in Gaza earlier this year with a death toll in excess of 1300, including 300 children. If our government won’t act to uphold international law, the responsibility falls on ordinary citizens through our power of protest and boycott.”

Local Jewish writer and journalist, and honorary president of the SPSC, Marion Woolfson, described the latest charges against her fellow campaigners as “ridiculous”.

“It would have been absurd to label Peter Hain and Desmond Tutu etc as racist for pushing the successful boycott of Apartheid South Africa; clearly they were anti-racist. Those who use boycott to pressure Israel are similarly anti-racist.”

Before the concert, Woolfson had called on Edinburgh Festival organisers to rescind the invitation to the Israeli musicians. In a letter to the Queen’s Hall venue, she wrote, “I simply cannot understand why you should have invited the representatives of a country that practices ethnic cleansing and a form of apartheid which even those who have lived in South Africa have said is worse than anything thought up by the former rulers of their country.”

However, Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Ron Prosor condemned the action of the Scottish pro-Palestine group, telling the Jewish Chronicle “We must not give in to the attempts to sabotage the marketing of Israeli art and culture in Britain.”

ENDS

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 five appear at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Friday 17th April 2009 at 10am for a Pleading Diet.

3a. Extract of Speech by PRESIDENT of the 63rd Session, United Nations General Assembly
At the 57th Plenary Meeting on Agenda Item 16, the Question of Palestine
UN Headquarters , New York, 24 November 2008
http://www.un.org/ga/president/63/statements/agendaitem16241108.shtml

“More than twenty years ago we in the United Nations took the lead from civil society when we agreed that sanctions were required to provide a non-violent means of pressuring South Africa to end its violations.

“Today, perhaps we in the United Nations should consider following the lead of a new generation of civil society, who are calling for a similar non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel to end its violations.”

3b. Brockmann was condemned by pro-Israel groups including the Zionist Organization of America:

http://www.zoa.org/sitedocuments/pressrelease_view.asp?pressreleaseID=1525

Also see Jerusalem Post article, Nov 25, 2008, “UNGA head accuses Israel of apartheid”: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1226404827209&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

4. International Court of Justice, Summary of the Advisory Opinion of 9 July 2004: http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/131/1677.pdf

See Page 10, paragraph 4:

“The Court concludes that the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (including East Jerusalem) have been established in breach of international law.”

See Page 21, point D:

“By thirteen votes to two,

All States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction; all States parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 have in addition the obligation, while respecting the United Nations Charter and international law, to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that Convention”.

4. Marion Woolfson is the author of many books and articles including:

Prophets in Babylon: Jews in the Arab World, London, 1980, Faber and Faber;

Israel's long-term policy of annihilating the Palestinian leadership, 31 August 2001: http://www.redress.btinternet.co.uk/mwoolfson.htm

5. Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Ron Prosor, is quoted in the Jewish Chronicle stating that, “We must not give in to the attempts to sabotage the marketing of Israeli art and culture in Britain.”
“Israel is heckled at Edinburgh Festival”, 4 Sep 2008: http://thejc. com/node/ 5104

6. The state of Israel inflicted the ‘Nakbah’, or catastrophe, upon Palestinians, expelling hundreds of thousands who today are still refused their rights under international law to return to their home. The crimes committed against the Palestinian people did not end in 1948. With daily theft of land and resources, Israel continues to push forward its policy of replacing the Palestinian people with Jewish immigrants from around the world.

7. 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: http://www.badil. org/Boycott- Statement. htm

8. 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.

9 The Aug 29th protest was endorsed by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI): http://www.pacbi. org/campaign_ statement. htm

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) fully endorses the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign's call on the Edinbugh 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.

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