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

 

Parliamentary solidarity with the
Jewish Community

 
22 January 2015

Ministers and MSPs have expressed support for the Jewish community following the horrific events in Paris two weeks ago, the report on the prevalence of antisemitic attitudes in the UK, a YouGov report that a significant proportion of British Jews no longer feel welcome here, and the reassessment by the police and security services of the security to the Jewish Community.

A parliamentary motion about antisemitism, which was tabled by John Mason MSP has so far attracted the support of 30 other MSPs:

That the Parliament expresses its concern regarding the recent rise in anti-Semitism across Europe and considers that this antipathy toward Europe’s Jewish community has sadly been a recurrent theme for hundreds of years; notes Scotland's traditionally positive relationship with its Jewish population; strongly asserts Scotland's warm desire that Jewish people living in Scotland should feel safe, completely at home and a key part of the multicultural Scottish community, and believes that Jews, Muslims, Christians, people of other religions and people of no religion should all be treated equally and should all be able to live here free from the threat of violence or other discrimination.

The subject was also raised in at First Minister’s Questions, when Ken Macintosh MSP asked “what steps the Scottish Government has taken to reassure the Jewish community following recent terrorist attacks and the reported rise in anti-Semitism.”

The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, responded that tackling antisemitism is a key priority for her Government, and that she had spoken with SCoJeC’s Director to offer their condolences and support to the Jewish community in Scotland. She added that the Scottish Government’s commitment to countering intolerance is demonstrated by their support for interfaith dialogue and education to eliminate religious intolerance, and Holocaust education to keep alive the memory of what can happen if we allow hatred, prejudice and intolerance to remain unchecked.

In his supplementary question, Ken Macintosh commented that the reaction to recent events should be one of reassurance, not alarmism, and while he welcomed the First Minister’s supportive statement to the Jewish community, he regretted that this support had not been publicly demonstrated by publication of the statement on the Scottish Government website.

Nicola Sturgeon replied this had been an oversight and she would ensure it is rectified, adding:

"It is very much a case of uniting together in solidarity but resisting alarmism, and instead taking every opportunity that we can to reassure those in our Jewish community. We are lucky in the diversity of our country. The Jewish community in Scotland plays a massive role in this country and makes a massive contribution. We are proud of that, and we should all stand shoulder to shoulder with it at this time."

Stewart Maxwell MSP then asked the First Minister to comment, in the light of the Home Secretary’s statements and assurances to the Jewish community in England, on additional security measures that will be provided to the Jewish community, particularly at synagogues, community centres, and schools. She replied that Police Scotland are “undertaking a range of measures to provide not just reassurance but tangible reassurance”, including support to universities, where they are liaising with university chaplains, and schools, where the safety of pupils is of paramount importance. She continued:

"I have no doubt that that will be a welcome message to everybody who, like me, wants to send out a very clear message that we will not tolerate in any way, shape or form the intolerance and prejudice that, unfortunately, some people in our faith communities are subject to."

Replying to Jackson Carlaw MSP, the First Minister said that she agrees wholeheartedly that disagreement with Israeli Government policy should not be conflated with the Jewish community in Scotland, and does not justify attacks on Jewish people:

"Just as the wider Muslim community is in no way, shape or form responsible for the kind of atrocities that were carried out in Paris, so, too, the wider Jewish community is not responsible for any of the actions of the Israeli Government. Whatever people’s views are about Israel, that is not the responsibility of the Jewish community here in Scotland."

The First Minister concluded emphatically:

"I want to see, and I believe that everybody in Scotland wants to see, all our wonderfully diverse communities coming together and demonstrating, in how we behave and how we carry ourselves, that, whatever differences there might be between us, we are one Scotland."

Commenting on the exchange, SCoJeC Director Ephraim Borowski said, “It is extremely regrettable that, once again, circumstances make messages of support and reassurance from the First Minister necessary.  While Scotland remains a welcoming environment for its well-established Jewish Community, and even this week’s poll indicated that there is less antisemitism here than in the rest of the UK, it must also be recognised that there is more unease amongst Jewish people in Scotland than elsewhere, and we are grateful to the Scottish Government for funding our current study of the extent and causes of this.”

 

   
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