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Scotland is being targeted by an anti-Palestine dirty tricks campaign

Clipping from a newspaper article on an Israeli lawyer targeting a Palestinian group, 26 September 2020
Clipping from a newspaper article on an Israeli lawyer targeting a Palestinian group, 26 September 2020

When Al Jazeera's hard-hitting documentary "The Lobby" exposed how the pro-Israel lobby had faked allegations of anti-Semitism and sought to influence British politics, it led to an apology from the Israeli Ambassador in London. Mark Regev, notorious for his spin doctoring during Israel's military offensives against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, apologised to the then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Disgraced embassy official Shai Masot, meanwhile, was sent back to Israel and resigned.

However, it seems that this was all simply lip service because, once again, elements of the pro-Israel lobby have been found to be running a series of dirty tricks campaigns against pro-Palestine activism, only this time in Scotland. An attempt to frame the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign in a fake vandalism plot was exposed in a national newspaper, and SPSC co-founder Mick Napier is now assembling his own dossier of the deliberate attempts to smear the organisation and its members.

The most shocking target of this anti-Palestine campaign carried out by Zionists in Scotland, says Napier, is the University of Edinburgh where a professor was accused a few years ago of failing a student because she was Jewish. The claim was made on Revelation TV by Nigel Goodrich, who founded the largely Christian fundamentalist Scottish Friends of Israel. Goodrich claimed on air that an American student at the university had failed two of her essays and was told by her professor that this was because she is "Jewish and supports the State of Israel."

After the broadcast, the then newly-elected President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush, met key people in the Scottish Government, the Church of Scotland and Edinburgh University where he raised the issue of the allegedly anti-Semitic professor.

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A report by the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC) explained that, "Mr Arkush expressed regret that Edinburgh University had gained a reputation as a difficult environment for Jewish students – following incidents when Jewish Student Society meetings had been disrupted and other instances of discrimination against Jewish students, seven Jewish students are known to have discontinued their studies in recent years, and this has given rise to widespread concern among Jewish students and the community at large."

According to Napier, he was able to locate and contact the student in question through social media, but when he asked her about the story, "she prudently declined to confirm or support Goodrich's claims." He added: "In other words the story was fabricated, invented and had no basis to it. Despite the story being untrue that did not stop attempts to demonise a great university."

Using the Freedom of Information Act, Napier said that he has uncovered numerous smear attempts against individuals, including Scottish politicians. He pointed out that the evidence of false accusations of anti-Semitism are being used to stifle political debate and silence criticism of Israel.

The tipping point came, he said, when lawyer Matthew Berlow was exposed by the Daily Record as having played a key role in faking a graffiti attack at his home, and then using the bogus incident to smear the SPSC. Berlow now faces a £500 fine for his part in the conspiracy after an investigation by the Law Society of Scotland. It emerged that he knew that his associate Ed Sutherland, a teacher at Belmont Academy in Ayr, had created a fake Facebook identity to infiltrate the SPSC in January last year.

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FoIA requests reveal a number of targets of the pro-Israel lobby groups, including myself. I seem to have incurred the wrath of anti-Palestinian activists when I posted a tweet calling for a Zionist-free Scotland. This, as any reasonable person would deduce, of course, was a plea for the demise of the political ideology of Zionism, not of Jewish people or their faith. My tweet had followed an earlier message calling for a UKIP-free Scotland. Unbeknown to me, a senior SCoJeC official contacted the Procurator Fiscals' office and urged that I should be charged with committing a hate crime.

"Emails have surfaced stating wrongly that you were an anti-Semite involved in hate speech calling for the expulsion of Scotland's Jews," Napier told me. "Obviously the complaint was thrown out and no action taken because it was another fake allegation. Nevertheless, this sort of behind-the-scenes targeting of individuals can prove to be extremely damaging."

The full content of the SPSC dossier listing untrue and hoax allegations by some members of the pro-Israel lobby to discredit critics of the Zionist state will be published before the end of the year. "Scotland has a proud reputation of being the only nation in Europe not to have used the state persecution of Jews," Napier concluded. "It is sad that SCoJeC says Scotland is no longer safe for Jewish people."

If that was actually the case, it would be a very sad day indeed, not least because many Jews are staunchly pro-Palestine and anti-Israel themselves. Political lobbying on behalf of the political and human rights of the people of Palestine has nothing to do with either their religion —Palestinians are Muslims, Christians and people of no faith — or that of their oppressors. Supporters of the state of Israel — Zionists — are not all Jews either, as the Christian fundamentalists in Scottish Friends of Israel illustrate.

This issue is not about religion or ethnicity. Scotland is being targeted by an anti-Palestine dirty tricks campaign for the simple reason that the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign is extremely effective in highlighting the injustices perpetrated by the state of Israel. As Mick Napier so rightly said, false allegations of anti-Semitism are being used to stifle political debate and criticism of Israel. Anyone and everyone who cares about freedom of speech should be concerned about this.

Israel's self-declared exceptionalism has seen its supporters around the world turn a blind eye to its contempt for international law and frequent violations of Palestinian rights, as well as its war crimes and crimes against humanity. It gets away with this precisely because of the activities of its well-funded lobby groups all over the world, who try to discredit those who stand up for the rule of law and justice for the Palestinians. The people of Scotland deserve better than this, and the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign is flying the flag of freedom for us all. It deserves our support now more than ever.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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