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Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)

 

“Zero tolerance of antisemitism”
– but not quite yet
 
Click here for an update, including a meeting with the Chief Constable.
29 August 2014

Within the last week the First Minister, the Lord Advocate, and the Chief Constable have all asked to meet SCoJeC to discuss the unprecedented number of unambiguously antisemitic incidents in Scotland, and have sought to reassure the Community that hate crime will not be tolerated in Scotland.

We explained to them that, over and above these incidents, which continue to increase, there is an exceptionally high level of apprehension in the Community. We also made clear that it is not possible to draw a sharp line between political activity directed against Israel and hate crime against the Jewish Community. We spelled out that antisemitism does not consist only in personal abuse of individual Jews; it includes the application of different rules to Jews, whether individually or collectively, so that, criticising Jews for doing what you don't criticise others for doing is antisemitism. A disproportionate obsession with Israel crosses the line from political protest to antisemitism, and gestures that may not themselves be motivated by antisemitism can create the climate in which antisemitism can flourish.

Hate crime is defined as crime motivated by the victim’s perceived membership of a group, so that members of a community in which almost everyone has a connection to Israel were bound to be alarmed by the threatening rhetoric and behaviour that we have seen from many anti-Israel demonstrators even if it had not, as it so often did, crossed the line into unambiguously antisemitic name-calling, graffiti, and worse.

After meeting us, the First Minister issued the following statement:

First Minister Alex Salmond with SCoJeC Public Affairs Officer Nicola Livingston and GJRC President Paul Morron

"I was pleased to meet with representatives from the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council and the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities.  We had a productive discussion where I made it clear that we will not tolerate any form of racial or religious prejudice, and that the full force of the law would be brought down on the perpetrators of any antisemitic incidents in Scotland.

"All hate crimes are deplorable and have no place in modern Scotland – I support all efforts to stamp out this unacceptable behaviour."

The Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, wrote to SCoJeC:

Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC with SCoJeC Director Ephraim Borowski, Public Affairs Officer Nicola Livingston, and Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC with SCoJeC Director Ephraim Borowski, Public Affairs Officer Nicola Livingston, and Superintendent Gavin Philips

“As the head of the prosecution service in Scotland, I will speak out on the issue of hate crime if I believe that any community is suffering fear and alarm because they are being targeted on grounds of their race or religion.

It is important that all communities in Scotland feel safe when going about their daily business and engagements.

One of my key priorities as Lord Advocate has been to tackle all forms of hate crime, and the Crown Office and procurator Fiscal Service has a zero tolerance approach to any crimes motivated by prejudice and hate.

I would like to offer reassurance to your community that where any person has been abused, threatened, targeted, or otherwise subjected to criminal behaviour, then the police will investigate such cases thoroughly, and where there is sufficient evidence to prosecute, Scotland’s prosecutors will do so.”

In the face of the considerable number of demonstrations aimed at intimidating the audiences of Israeli shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and businesses selling Israeli products, Police Scotland issued the following message:

“We understand that people may wish to demonstrate and we will facilitate peaceful protest, balancing the needs and rights of protesters with those of people whose day to day lives may be affected by such protest. However, our communities will rightly expect that Police Scotland will not tolerate hate crime or any other criminal activity. Our officers will therefore deal swiftly and appropriately with anyone engaged in such acts.

Police Scotland is committed to keeping all our communities safe and will continue to work with partners to maintain public order and protect life and property.”

The police have advised us that they received reports of more than 35 antisemitic incidents in the last six weeks – compared with 14 in the whole of 2013 – of which more than 25 have been classified as crimes.  In more than half of these the likely perpetrator has been identified, and reports will be made to the Procurator Fiscal who will decide whether to prosecute.

In addition, SCoJeC has passed on information to the police about a further 14 incidents that were reported to us. We strongly urge members of the Community to report all incidents – antisemitism cannot be effectively tackled if its extent is not known, so even if the nature of an incident makes it difficult to follow up, it should be reported so that the authorities are aware of the true scale of the problem. Non-urgent reports should be made to the police by phoning the national non-emergency number 101, or using the Third Party Reporting form on this website.

We continue to reiterate our concern at the disregard some local authorities have shown for the concerns of their own citizens, in particular by flying the Palestinian flag from Council buildings. What citizens and visitors to Scotland see in that is the Councils' adoption of a symbol that over these last weeks has been used to harass and intimidate people in shopping centres and outside theatres.  We call on political leaders to reject such posturing, which does nothing to bring peace to the Middle East or to help civilians, but which drives a wedge between communities in Scotland and contributes to the sense of insecurity and alienation amongst Jewish people in Scotland, and instead to promote creative initiatives that foster good relations amongst local communities.

 

   
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