Confederation of Friends of Israel, Scotland, supports a racist system and has no place on a Stand Up To Racism march

ScottishJAZ banner

Scottish Jews Against Zionism (Scottish JAZ) unreservedly oppose the presence of the Confederation of Friends of Israel, Scotland (CoFIS) on the annual Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) demonstration on March 16th 2019. The Israeli state, in its founding principles, and now strengthened by the 2018 Nation State law, explicitly prioritises Jewish people within Israel, whilst committing human rights atrocities and massacres in the Palestinian territories that it occupies. CoFIS campaigns to normalise this racist regime and therefore neither their official presence, nor the Israeli flags they wave, belong on a march dedicated to opposing racism, antisemitism and Islamophobia.

A state that prioritises an ethnic group is inherently racist. Different rules for Jews and non-Jews are built into Israel’s foundations. Israeli racism has been extensively and rigorously documented by human rights activists in Palestine and Israel and by South African and Jewish legal scholars. Their conclusions are unequivocal.[1] Like other anti-racists we cannot allow supporters of prolonged colonial settlement to exploit Scotland’s anti-racism demonstration in order to normalise institutionalised state racism.

It is not antisemitic to criticise Israel and those campaigning on its behalf. We are one of more than 40 Jewish groups who oppose equating antisemitism with criticism of Israel.[2]  Zionism is Jewish ethnic nationalism. Not all Jews support Zionism, and not all Zionists are Jewish (as demonstrated by the membership of CoFIS, which is a predominantly Christian Zionist organisation[3]). Zionism seeks to hold itself above criticism by portraying its political nationalism as integral to Jewishness, so that opposition to Zionism becomes tantamount to antisemitism. This presumption that all Jews share the same political position is itself racist. Wrongly accusing people of antisemitism can also obscure genuinely antisemitic acts.

In trying to align itself with an anti-racist campaign, CoFIS is exploiting the pain and grief and anguish in the lived experience of Jews to justify inflicting the very same on Palestinians.

Last year CoFIS activists were allowed to march, and this meant that Palestinians, including a delegation of firefighters attending training in Glasgow with the Fire Brigades Union, felt unable to participate, as they would have been marching alongside the flag of the country that is oppressing them.[4] Rather than unifying progressive forces, by allowing CoFIS to march, SUTR are facilitating a group grounded in right-wing politics and rhetoric to push out migrants and genuinely anti-racist campaigners from the demonstration.

We are not seeking to ban individuals. We call for the exclusion from an anti-racist march of an organisation that promotes racist ideas, and that uses its acceptance by SUTR as validation of its position.

  1. We call upon the organisers of SUTR to respect international law, respect the findings of the United Nations, respect the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, and find the courage to resist political manipulation.
  2. Above all, we call upon SUTR to respect the lived experience of all people living under racist governments, in racist states, historically and in the present.
  3. We call upon SUTR to explicitly state that no racist organisations or flags are welcome on the SUTR march.

In the event that CoFIS, or its member organisations, attempt to join the demonstration, we support those who use non-violent civil disobedience to prevent their presence in the main body of the march.

Scottish Jews Against Zionism

7 February 2019

References

[1] Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa, 2009, Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?A re-assessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law
http://www.hsrc.ac.za/en/research-data/view/4634

John Dugard, John Reynolds; ‘Apartheid, International Law, and the Occupied Palestinian Territory,’ European Journal of International Law, Volume 24, Issue 3, 1 August 2013, Pages 867–913, https://doi.org/10.1093/ejil/cht045

Falk, 2014, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, General Assembly of the UN http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/A-HRC-25-67.pdf

B’Tselem (The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), 2004, Forbidden Roads: The Discriminatory West Bank Road Regime
https://www.btselem.org/publications/summaries/200408_forbidden_roads

Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, 2017, Apartheid,
https://icahd.org/category/apartheid/

[2] Jewish Voice for Peace, 2018, First-ever: 40+ Jewish Groups Worldwide Oppose Equating Antisemitism with Criticism of Israel

https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/first-ever-40-jewish-groups-worldwide-oppose-equating-antisemitism-with-criticism-of-israel/

[3] Haley, 2019, Who are Friends of Israel? http://www.sacc.org.uk/articles/2019/who-are-friends-israel

[4] Hilley, 2018, ‘Israel’s racist front groups must be resisted, not placated or wished away,’ Zen Politics, https://johnhilley.blogspot.com/2018/03/