First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met SCoJeC Chair Micheline Brannan, Director Ephraim Borowski, and Glasgow Jewish Representative Council co-president Nicola Livingston at the Scottish Government offices in Glasgow for a very friendly and wide-ranging discussion of issues affecting Jewish people in Scotland.
As well as thanking the First Minister for her Government's continuing support for the Community and SCoJeC's work, our discussion covered a wide range of topics, including the changing demography of both the community and the country, the safety of students on campus, how the Israeli Ambassador was received in Parliament, scope for collaboration between community relations projects in Scotland and Israel, and the excellent record of Scottish police and prosecutors in dealing with antisemitism. The meeting also discussed the reports that had been published by the CST and others in recent weeks showing record numbers of anti-Semitic incidents and the crossover between extreme anti-Zionism and antisemitic themes such as Holocaust denial. We spoke about the ways in which social media have contributed to this, and the First Minister commented that it is important for politicians to choose their words carefully. The Scottish Government has endorsed the internationally accepted definition of antisemitism, and this does not stop people being critical of the Israeli government, provided they do so rationally and in the same terms as they would of any other country. She also expressed concern at the effect that antisemitism has on the well-being of Jewish people in Scotland.
"We talked about how peaceful co-existence and building a shared future are the only hope for peace in the Middle East," said Micheline, "and thanked her for her endorsement of the International Shalom Festival which was taking place at the same time in Edinburgh. Her support was crucial to building the coalition of support for an event that aims to promote peaceful coexistence."
Nicola added: "We suggested that it would send a strong message to those who attempt to divide our communities if we were to do something proactive to promote dialogue. We discussed creating projects that developed links between Scotland and Israel around areas of mutual interest, covering medicine, education, and technology."
"We are very grateful to the First Minister for giving us so much of her time and for a very positive and friendly meeting" commented Ephraim. "We left reassured about her commitment to do what she can to make Scotland a place where Jewish people can feel secure and at home."