The Scottish Council of Jewish Communities - www.scojec.org/
Large Spike in Antisemitic Incidents in Scotland
In the last week, SCoJeC has received around 25 reports relating to at least 12 separate antisemitic incidents, almost as many as in the whole of 2013. Incidents that have been reported to the police include threatening phone-calls, e-mails, and graffiti on synagogues, as well as two cases of incitement to break the criminal law.
In addition, many members of the community have told us they do not feel safe wearing a kippah or Star of David or speaking Hebrew in the street, are avoiding contact with work colleagues, neighbours, or parents of other pupils at their children’s schools in order to avoid aggressive attempts to draw them into arguments about the Middle East, or are worried and depressed, and unable to sleep. A number of people have said they no longer feel welcome in Scotland and are actively considering moving to Israel; some Israelis who have made their lives in Scotland have said they are afraid to say where they are from; Jewish students have told us they do not feel safe on campus; and some people planning holidays in Scotland have told us they have cancelled their plans.
We have received many complaints about the disproportionate obsession with Israel in Scottish public life which has itself made many Jewish people very uncomfortable, whatever their views on the current conflict. To give just four examples:
- Since the last Scottish Parliamentary election, there have been 50 Members’ Motions relating to Israel, out of a total of 260 that relate to countries outside the UK. Malawi is currently second with 14 motions, Syria, South Africa, and Iraq joint third with 12. No other country is in double figures.
- There have been 8 Scottish Government statements about Gaza since 9 July. By comparison, there have been just 4 Scottish Governments statement about Syria since January 2013.
- The deputy leader of Glasgow City Council said the decision to fly a Palestinian flag over the City Chambers “is not intended to show support for one side or the other in this conflict”, but made no mention of suffering on the Israeli side and refused a suggestion they fly both flags.
- There have been 3 Scottish Human Rights Commission statements about the conflict in Gaza since 16 July. This brings the number of statements relating to Israel to 6 out of only 7 statements that they have made about countries outwith the UK since the SHRC was established.
The event that has given rise to most concern in the Jewish Community is the outrageous call by Yvonne Ridley, a former parliamentary candidate for the “Respect” party, “to make Scotland a Zionist-free zone”. Since recent authoritative academic research found that more than 90% of the mainstream community identify with Israel in various ways, and around 3/4 describe themselves as Zionists, this is a call to expel the vast majority of the Jewish Community from Scotland, and has naturally caused not only outrage but fear. SCoJeC is therefore amongst those who have reported this noxious example of hate speech to the police.
SCoJeC has consistently been at the forefront of campaigns against hate crime, and efforts to promote good community relations in Scotland, and we therefore welcome the Muslim Council of Britain’s statement that they are “resolved to ensure that the Israel-Palestine conflict does not affect the excellent relations held between Muslims and Jews in the United Kingdom.”
It is not SCoJeC’s role to express opinions on Middle East politics. It is SCoJeC’s role to represent the interests of the Jewish Community in Scotland. We utterly condemn these latest manifestations of antisemitism masquerading under the pretext of political protest. We are continuing to collate information from the community on the developing situation, and are providing briefings for the Scottish Government, Police Scotland, and Crown Office.
Antisemitism does not consist only in personal abuse of individual Jews; it includes the application of different rules to Jewish people, institutions – and to the only Jewish country. As the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) hate crime manual put it, “Whilst all crime can increase the fear of being targeted in people other than the victim, fear of hate crime escalates dramatically in those who share with an immediate victim, the same group identity that has made a victim a target.” We are therefore concerned by the evident impact on Jewish people living in Scotland when those who condemn Israel are silent both about it’s right to defend its citizens, and about conflicts with far more casualties; and when the very people who rushed to condemn the stigmatisation of the entire Muslim community after the murder of Gunner Rigby take the lead in the stigmatisation of the entire Jewish community. We are also concerned by the abuse of Holocaust-related language and images, and the appearance of unequivocally antisemitic slogans such as “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas” at recent demonstrations.
We wish to remind the Scottish Government, other faith communities, Trades Unions, and other public bodies that the Macpherson principle, that “A racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person” applies just as much to Jews as to others, and call on them publicly to condemn all forms of antisemitism in whatever guise it may appear.