Open Letter January 2010
January 04, 2010
Alex Salmond MSP
Edinburgh EH99 1SP
Dear Mr Salmond
Scotland – Israel an Open Letter of Concern
Having observed the previous supportive positions of the Scottish Government in relation to Palestinian issues, it is with surprise and dismay that Scottish Friends of Palestine (SFoP) learned of the impending visit, to Israel, by representatives from Scottish Development International. As part of the Smart Successful Scotland initiative, this visit could be construed as representing the people of Scotland.
While supportive of any initiative which serves to develop the industrial/commercial base of Scotland, and hence benefit the people of Scotland, we must, at the outset, emphasise that SFoP see nothing “smart” about this visit and must question any notion of “success” which may result. Quite simply, we feel there has been a total failure by the Scottish Government to comprehend the consequences of such a visit.
SFoP is not aware of any form of mandate given by the people of Scotland which entitles the Government to deal in any way with a pariah state such as Israel. In fact there is evidence to the contrary. You must be aware of the democratic decision taken by the Scottish Trades Union Congress last April. By a near unanimous vote, Congress, as directed by its members – all part of Scotland’s electorate – adopted the position of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the state of Israel. It was not a rushed decision. It did so after years of discussion, delay and of informed debate. It is to be regretted that there is no evidence of any similar thought on the part of the Scottish Government. It is to be regretted that the Government has ignored the will of the people as expressed through the vote at the STUC April 2009 Conference.
There is still plenty of time to rescind the decision and we very much urge you to do so.
There is no intention, here, to reiterate the case for an economic boycott of Israel. Richard Falk, the UN Rapporteur for occupied Palestine, recently did just that and if there is any doubt in your mind, we would refer you to his report on the living conditions of the 1.5 million Palestinians under military occupation, following a destructive military campaign against the civilian population and 3 year siege of the Gaza Strip – near genocidal conditions now prevail, the responsibility for which lies squarely on the shoulders of the state of Israel, Scotland’s putative trading partner.
However, if you remain confident in your decision, we would ask you be honest and consider the following few questions:
*Much is made in Scotland, and the wider UK, of “inclusion”. No one should be excluded, in any sense of the word. Yet in Israel when it comes to the divide between its citizens (there is no such thing as an Israeli national) , Palestinian and Jewish, exclusion – based on race – is the rule. From social benefits to educational opportunity and housing, discrimination on the basis of race is the norm. Currently, in the Negev, there are Palestinian Israeli “unrecognised villages” whose access to services are nil or minimal at the most. In the same location, the indigenous Bedouin citizens have their shacks demolished and crops destroyed, while the Jewish National Fund (which retains control over 13% of the land for exclusive Jewish use) encourages Jewish only settlement on the land.
Why is the Scottish Government so keen to establish business relations with a racist state? Would you, Mr Salmond, have traded with apartheid South Africa? Just what identity are you trying to create for Scotland and the Scottish people?
*Much is made of Israel’s contribution to “life sciences” Less mentioned is the contribution to “death sciences” by which is meant the unique, destructive injuries (requiring amputation) suffered by many of Israel’s victims last year in Gaza. And the increase in cancers and birth abnormalities in the Gaza Strip over the past year.
Why is the Scottish Government happy to establish relations with a country responsible for this situation? Just what identity are you trying to create for Scotland and the Scottish people?
*You will be aware that it is only a matter of weeks since former Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, cancelled her plans to come to the UK following news of the issuing of an arrest warrant, in her name, on suspicion of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Ms Livni was one of the unapologetic (despite the Goldstone Report which clearly outlines Israel’s complicity) architects of Israel’s military operation, Cast Lead, which led to so much death, injury and devastation last year in the Gaza Strip.
Why does the Scottish Government wish to do business with a state which harbours possible war criminals? Just what identity are you trying to create for Scotland and the Scottish people?
*We now mention three names with which you will be unfamiliar. There is Mohammad Othman, Jamal Juma’ and Abdallah Abu Rahmeh. All are civil right activists, two of them have travelled abroad and spoken extensively and eloquently of life under occupation and Israel’s apartheid wall. You may be interested to know that Mohammed is a resident of the village of Jayyous which is the link village of the Falkirk based Antonine Friendship Link. All have been arrested in recent weeks by Israel’s occupation forces.
Two have no evidence presented against them, with administrative detention the future option. The other has been charged on arms related offences – namely he made a piece of art-work from the discarded and spent munitions resulting from the actions of the occupation forces against peaceful demonstrators protesting against the Wall.
Do you not recognise, Mr Salmond, that Scotland has no affinity with a state which seeks to perpetuate a permanent state of war to serve its own ends? Just what identity are you trying to create for Scotland and the Scottish people?
And finally, we would refer you to just one of the many fatalities suffered by the Palestinian people in the struggle for their rights and independence over the decades.
*During December 2006, 14 year old Jamil Jabaji – who liked horses, acted in the drama group of the local community centre, took karate lessons and was a member of the Boy Scouts – stood on a cliff and threw stones at the jeep below. The reasons we will never know. Was he fighting for independence for his people, in the only way a child can ? Was he seeking revenge, in the only way a child can, for a relative long dead thanks to the occupation? Was he simply playing a game? No one ever knew what was going through Jamil’s head. Just as they never knew the thoughts of the Israeli soldier when he aimed his gun at Jamil’s forehead and killed him with a single shot.
However, the people of Scotland are entitled to know what was going through your head when you and your Government agreed to support this visit to Israel. Just what benefits do you hope to gain for Scotland? Just what identity are you trying to create for Scotland and the Scottish people?
It is not too late to cancel this visit by Scottish Development International. We would urge you to do so.
Scottish Friends of Palestine
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