In a historic debate held February 25, 2016, headlined “Cultural Bridges, Not Boycotts”, MSPs from across the political spectrum encouraged engagement and expressed their opposition to destructive one-sided boycott attempts.
65 members of StandWithUs’s Scottish partners, COFIS – the Confederation of Friends of Israel in Scotland – travelled from Inverness to the Scottish Parliament to support MSP Jackson Carlaw in proposing the motion that we need to build cultural bridges rather than boycotts. In attendance was Acting Ambassador Eitan Naeh, the first representative of the Israeli government to be officially invited by the Scottish Parliament.
Scottish National Party MSP Fiona Hyslop, who is Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs in the Scottish government, said that the government called for both Israelis and Palestinians to resolve the conflict peacefully and expressed its opposition to obstacles to the peace, such as the firing of rockets into Israel.
The government also condemned antisemitism and affirmed that cultural ties were a way to encourage understanding and dialogue.
Labour MSP Ken Macintosh condemned boycott attempts as a “depressingly illiberal attempts to interrupt or shut down discussion”.
He asked: “Is that really what we have become? A harsh, unwelcoming, intolerant country more interested in preventing concerts or banning books than in spreading understanding? That is not my vision for the modern Scotland.” He pointed out that “In Israel human rights are protected. In some countries nearby women are not even allowed to drive.”
Jackson Carlaw MSP stated that “Antisemitism is treating the Jewish state differently from other states”, and he urged: “Let us reach out and demonstrate what we can achieve, and what boycotts cannot achieve.”
StandWithUs Israel Executive Director, Michael Dickson, who is also President of COFIS, said: “Those pushing discriminatory boycotts have faced setback after setback in recent weeks. Governments and bodies from the UK to Canada, from US state legislatures to this development in Scotland are agreeing with vocal calls from those in civil society saying: no to boycotts. The idea of boycotting the world’s only Jewish country, with its roots in historical antisemitism, is repugnant and the extremists who are pushing the idea are not just anti-Israel, they are anti-peace.”
StandWithUs UK Community Director, Irene Naftalin, who hails from Scotland welcomed the news, saying that: “StandWithUs is doing much to outreach north of the border and this comes after our recent Scottish Students conference brought together student supporters of Israel from across the faiths, politics, ethnicities drawn from Glasgow, Strathclyde and Edinburgh. We will redouble our efforts in Scotland and across the UK to engender more understanding of Israel and build cultural and academic links between the UK and Israel”.