Scottish Council of Jewish Communites
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities

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Scottish Council of Jewish Communities
Representing, connecting, and supporting Jewish people in Scotland

SCoJeC supports JLC protest against
Amnesty ban on free speech

28 January 2018
 
JLC logo
Amnesty International logo

SCoJeC has supported a protest by the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) at the cancellation by Amnesty International UK of a booking by the JLC for a debate on Israel due to be held at Amnesty's headquarters.

Amnesty gave as its reason for the cancellation that "it is not appropriate for AI UK to host an event by an organisation that actively supports Israel's settlements", but – whether or not such censorship is justifiable in principle – it can have no grounds for applying it to the JLC other than ill-informed presuppositions and stereotyping about the UK Jewish Community in general and of the JLC in particular.

In fact the JLC has never expressed any position either for or against Israeli settlements, and indeed some of its office-bearers have previously outspokenly condemned them. Recent research by City University on the Jewish Community's attitudes to Israel found that 68% "despair" at Israeli settlement policy. We note also that Amnesty itself had originally agreed to be part of this panel although it later pulled out, so it is Amnesty itself that has made the panel unbalanced. For an organisation that purports to promote freedom of expression now to ban the meeting is doubly hypocritical.

What we find disturbing is that Amnesty's bigoted generalisation about one of the leading organisations in the UK Jewish Community, and its imposition of a boycott solely on the grounds that it disagrees with some the views that it believes – wrongly – that it espouses. In the light of other events that Amnesty has hosted without demur, we share the JLC's concern that, even were the accusation true, this is unabashed discrimination against a Jewish organisation, and represents the top of an inevitable slippery slope from boycotting Israel to discrimination against Jews as Jews.

We therefore join the call by the JLC and others for Amnesty to publish the evidence on which they purport to have based this suppression of free speech, to rescind their ban, and to apologise to the Jewish Community as a whole for this prejudiced and discriminatory decision.

The text of the letter to Amnesty reads:

We are writing to express our extreme disappointment at your cancellation of the Jewish Leadership Council's panel debate on Israel due to be held at the Amnesty International UK (AI UK) headquarters. The reasons stated for the cancellation of this event are problematic and unacceptable.

The belief that it is not appropriate for AI UK to "host an event by an organisation that actively supports Israel's settlements" vindicates those who argue that there is a slippery slope from endorsing the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to discrimination of Jews.

The Jewish Leadership Council takes no set position on settlements. AI UK has maligned the Jewish community by making sweeping accusations and assumptions about its policies on Israel. There have been a number of events previously held at the AI UK premises with speakers that hold problematic views. These speakers are seemingly not held to the same level of scrutiny as the Jewish community has been on this occasion.

We therefore ask that you issue a public apology to the Jewish community for your discrimination and openly share the criteria under which you made this decision.

We look forward to receiving your prompt response.

 

   
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Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation no. SC029438