Following a recent round table discussion about hate crime in Scotland, Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, and Marco Biagi, Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment, requested a briefing from SCoJeC about the issues surrounding the extraordinary rise in antisemitism experienced by the Jewish Community in Scotland following the 2014 conflict in Gaza in greater detail.
SCoJeC was represented by Public Affairs Officer Nicola Livingston, and Paul Morron, President of the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council, who provided detailed information about a wide range of incidents, including many that had been reported to us during our recent inquiry into What’s Changed about Being Jewish in Scotland. Many of these incidents had also been reported to the police, and recorded as “hate crimes” or “hate incidents” depending on whether they were regarded as crossing the threshold of criminality.
We explained that although the actual number of reported incidents has decreased in recent months, there are still too many incidents taking place, particularly on social media, and we have evidence that many of these are not reported to the police. The Community continues to be on edge, not only because of concerns about friends and family in the region, but also about their own safety because the conflict is being imported into Scotland, and we expressed particular concern that since a significant number of incidents have been related to events in the Middle East, the current outbreak of stabbings in Israel may make a further spike in antisemitism in Scotland more likely.
Mr Wheelhouse expressed shock and concern about the nature of these incidents and the resulting levels of anxiety and insecurity of both the individuals concerned and the Jewish Community as a whole, and asked what he and fellow Ministers could do to help.
Although the Community has received some level of comfort from the high level of detection by Police Scotland and several successful prosecutions, we told the Ministers about the widespread concern that the Scottish Government had been slow to issue public condemnations, for example, of the antisemitic murders in Paris and Copenhagen, by contrast with its swift response to the Charlie Hebdo murders. Furthermore, the message of reassurance issued after the security threat level was raised earlier this year was only given limited distribution.
Since we brought these issues to the attention of the First Minister at our meeting in June, she has taken the opportunity to condemn antisemitism publicly on several occasions, for example at her public meeting with the Glasgow Jewish Community at the end of August, and during a recent Holocaust Educational Trust event in the Scottish Parliament. Although, as we explained, this has provided some reassurance, the message needs to be more widely publicised in order to deter potential perpetrators, and send a clear message that antisemitism is always unacceptable.
Commenting on the meeting, Nicola Livingston said, “We are grateful to the Ministers for their interest and concern, their willingness to consider setting up better and speedier mechanisms for informing Government of incidents, and their undertaking to develop protocols for exchanging, and where appropriate disseminating, information and responses.”