Take a Stand

Oh, Gaza! I don’t think the Palestinian question has ever resounded so plaintively around the world as it does today. In previous decades worldwide interest focussed on acts of PLO terror and here in the UK there was a generalised sympathy for the Israeli state under siege…a westernised, often English-speaking democracy many of us could identify with.


Israel is still responding to acts of terror – that’s what firing rockets into their territory amounts to – but the reaction this time has awakened a hurricane of popular fury that goes beyond the committed Left and western critics. This begins to feel like a tipping point because of the grim evidence of carnage, the viciousness of the weaponry, the relaxed air of indifference in Israel itself and the sickening sense that we have been through the ritual dance of international-led negotiations and hand-wringing so often without solution. Still the corralling of the Palestinians goes on, the destruction of the basic needs for survival continues and no sustainable resolution to the historic injustice is achieved let alone a workable means of mutual co-existence.


And still we pay for it. Whenever Israel devastates the infrastructure it is us as European citizens who pay to have it rebuilt. If Israel is our ally in the West, they have a counter-productive way of showing it. It is Europe which directly supports Palestinian reconstruction and has for decades.

In  2012, the European Union frontloaded €156 million for the Palestinian Authority’s recurrent spending, including €11 million for private sector reconstruction, €25 million for infrastructure development in the Gaza Strip, €27.5 million for institution-building projects €8 million in East Jerusalem.

€42 million was committed for humanitarian intervention in Palestine, €24 million under the food security programme and €7.5 million through the UN’s humanitarian crisis prevention initiative in Gaza, Lebanon and Syria.

Last year, the EU provided €168 million for direct financial assistance.

Pledges of money for reconstruction this time are being recorded – $93 million from the United Arab Emirates, $10 million from Kuwait, $5 million from Bahrain. Government sources in Tel Aviv indicate Israeli money could be available this time on condition Hamas agrees to ceasefire.


But public opinion even among the normally staunch US Jewish community is saying enough is enough as we witness the scale of devastation and the images of death and horrific injuries. The realisation that the all-powerful and heavily-armed Israeli Defence Force is prepared to smash anything near a potential target in defiance of world opinion is hardening opposition in Hamas’ favour. Yesterday’s strike on a UN school occurred because they were aiming at militants on a passing motorbike. That sounds cavalier and certainly uncaring of potential innocent death. It isn’t just that this prolonged attack is enough, it is that the situation which permits it is also now too much to bear. Instead of just the Americans, who help arm the Israelis, who hold the ring, it is the world community which needs to find a new resolution, a determination to force a change in attitude that decrees a settlement must now be formulated.

I already boycott Israeli goods – after all Israel boycotts Gazan goods and the navy blockades its ports. But that needs to turn into an international movement, one that makes the supermarkets think twice before ordering.

But here’s the thing…for all that we protest and complain our voices need the loudspeaker of the government. Tomorrow Alex Salmond has an opportunity to put Scotland on the map in the Gaza disaster by making a statement during the televised debate condemning Israeli aggression. He can take a lead, following the offer of treating the injured, that would be bold and echo the feelings of the Scots by speaking out on behalf of the Scottish government and demanding not just an end to the bombardment and immediate reparations but urging a UN peace conference. And offering to host it.

So far the UK government’s response has been mealy-mouthed and pro-Israel. Such a statement and offer by Salmond would force Cameron’s hand on the day he dared not appear in Scotland to confront his nationalist opponent on television.

This has the obvious danger – and will be criticized thus – of being an act of political expediency, of playing to a gallery. But who has a locus? Not even the Americans if we read the script, because Netanyahu has previously ignored Obama and awaits his departure. Seemingly, so does Obama, unaware that this episode will taint his legacy.

Right now it is the people across the world who are raising their voices, urging their governments to engage and condemn. Do we exclude ourselves from this because we are Scots, because we are not a sovereign state, because we are too small or because we don’t care enough? Didn’t we just have a global event in our biggest city placing us firmly at the heart of international affairs? Do we leave this to the Norwegians and the Swiss who stand ready to mediate – both of them also small countries?

Isn’t independence about taking our place in the world and playing a full role? What better sign could we give than to put into official words the message that is resounding around the world…

The SNP showed itself resolute and confident when it freed Megrahi – in the teeth of world and Washington opinion. This would be much less controversial and be hailed abroad if not at home where Salmond’s opponents would display the customary  national self-loathing by jeering him for saying what they themselves believe and what their own party leadership is saying. That can be laughed off.

It isn’t an easy decision. No administration seeking approval for cutting against the grain to win its independence wants to alienate neighbours and international power bases unnecessarily but has there ever been a moment of such disgust coinciding with a mass audience when the voice of the Scottish people can be heard so clearly? There are times, and this one, when it is plain humanity, not politics that is to the fore. Whichever side you are on, whatever doubts about Hamas and its policies you hold, you can put up a hand and say Enough.

Politicians speaking up now may find they are on the right side not just of the argument but of history if Israel’s brutality really has turned the tide of world support against them. Let’s be part of that movement for peace.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

16 thoughts on “Take a Stand

  1. Two contrasting pieces in the Sunday mail yesterday, one by Kellan Macinnes praising the NHS and his treatment and how its made him determined to vote Yes to save it
    The other by Alistair Campbell who has made a career out of destroying peoples life’s , there was the jibe that salmond used the minutes silence the mention of putin, Scotland putting on a wonderful games ( with help from uk) and up pops on my timeline a volunteer at the games saying how proud she was of the Uk for making the games happen she had seen at first hand bla bla and there on her timeline abuse of Salmond, poor vote for Snp rabid etc etc
    Its people who care about other people who have humanity thats voting yes
    And frankly folk who would drag you and our country down just so long as they are ok that are voting no our reluctantly ouf of fear
    300 + years ago the small country being blockaded ban from trading and under threat of invasion if it did not do as told was Scotland
    Lets make that stand lets show the world we are different from those who rule us from Westminster and remember labour boasted of record arms sales to Israel there no different
    Let us be that light

  2. Excellent idea Derek, Alex Salmond should propose a peace Conference. Not because of the naysayers ( this is more devastating than their over inflated egos) and not even to be controversial but because something has to happen to stop this carnage and it would be the human response, right thing to do.

  3. Derek, I don’t know if you know this, but I published a book about the Lockerbie case at the end of last year. This shows beyond any reasonable doubt at all that the bomb that destroyed Pan Am 103 was introduced at Heathrow airport in the afternoon, not at Malta airport in the morning. As Megrahi was in Tripoli on the afternoon of 21st December 1988 he has a better alibi than I have. http://www.troubador.co.uk/book_info.asp?bookid=2499

    Distressingly, the evidence showing this is simple and straightforward, and it was completely overlooked, ignored, buried, however you want to look at it, from January 1989. In 1999 the Crown Office had to examine the evidence again in preparation for the trial, and it looks very much as if they realised the significance of the Heathrow evidence at that point. They completely repackaged the case, introducing assumptions which were contrary to those the original investigation had been working on, and losing rather a lot of important evidence down the back of the sofa. Otherwise, if they’d held to the original line and presented all the evidence in court, the truth would have been plain for all to see.

    The police know this. The Crown Office knows this. Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill have to know this. But still the Crown Office hold to the line that Megrahi did the deed, and they’re still trying to trace the accomplices who helped him put the bomb on the plane in Malta – something that simply didn’t happen.

    Not all of this was known in 2009, but much of it was. In particular it was known that Megrahi wasn’t the man who bought the clothes packed around the bomb, as the original court had maintained. He was set to be acquitted on appeal on this basis, in 2009. Except, he was persuaded that he had a better chance of being granted compassionate release if he abandoned that appeal that would have cleared his name. It looks very much as if all that “compassion” had a very cynical aim – to get the appeal dropped so that Megrahi could still be labelled “the Lockerbie bomber” and the Crown Office avoid the omlette heading for its face.

    Now the entirety of the Scottish legal establishment has set its face against acknowledging any of this. To quote another prominent campaigner for independence, James Robertson, “A fair, open and properly functioning justice system is a prerequisite for a fair, open and properly functioning modern democracy. Whatever the outcome of the coming referendum on independence, this proposition is still valid: the prospect of opening a new chapter in our history – whether as an independent country or as a continuing part of the UK – with questions over the Lockerbie case unresolved is not a good one.”

    Why am I saying this, when your article is actualy about Gaza? Simply to make the point that everything in our judicial system, and the governmental oversight of our judicial system, is not a shining beacon of honesty and rectitude. Sad to say.

  4. Glasgow has provided a fine example by going against much public opinion at the time with its support of Mandela – this was indirectly lauded at Games events ( bikes through Mandela Square etc ). This suggestion for upping the anti-Israeli thing might be a step too far at this late stage in the Ref campaign, although like you I’ve become very anti-Israel which seems to me well on its way to becoming a theocracy.

    However with the mandate a YES will provide, I will be looking for enterprising moves like this, and at home, with Land Reform.

    Andy Wightman was very restrained – as he was at the Online Bothy previously http://www.theonlinebothy.com/interviews/land-reform-in-scotland/

    As I understand he ( rightly by the sounds of it ) resigned from the LRRG and I note SG have only agreed to a register, within 10 years, of ownership, so that’s kicked into the long grass.

    • Andy Wightman was never a member of the LRRG. It was Jim Hunter who resigned.

      Andy’s concern, as I understand it, is that the completion of the register should be undertaken rigorously, not that it has been kicked into the long grass.

  5. I’d be first to cheer Derek, but I’d be surprised if the FM used Tuesday’s forum to make such a statement. As Yerkitbreeks points out Scotland has form on thumbing its nose at government narratives, but it tends to come from the bod in the street upwards.

  6. That would be a bold statement. The cynical handwringing of UK and US governments at Israel’s war crimes has been the standard response since ever I can remember. Alex Salmond could assert Scotland’s different stance tomorrow. It would, of course, bring howls of outrage and accusations of anti-semitism to add to his profile of nazi/commie dictator! But never let your sense of propriety stop you from doing the right thing!

  7. If the FM or Justice minister came out and said that Megrahi was innocent then they would be in breach of the Ministerial code for real and not just as spurious slabber attacks. Morag know this but still helps the enemies of Scotland drag the SNP into the Lockerbie fraud.

    It would be worth outing the friends of genocide in public. murphy, foulkes and the rest. the reaction would be predictable though. We’ve already had johnston press turn the Saltire into a swastika and endless SNP are Nazi smears. They’d just be given free rein to do their worst. An all out media war against the people. Only going to be one winner but would be messy while it lasted.

  8. The FM and the Justice Secretary don’t need to come out in public and declare that Megrahi was innocent. They could easily stop obstructing attempts to inquire more deeply into what happened, and generally facilitate truth and justice. It ain’t happening.

  9. I can’t see Salmond risking calling for a peace conference. We do not have the clout yet, as only a Yes vote will secure the necessary amount required. In addition, the Israeli state is not interested in peace. They would laugh off Salmond, and I think he probably knows this. The Yes campaign should be taking baby steps towards independence, we still have to convinced a significant number to vote Yes to be successful. The situation in Gaza is horrendous, but Scotland is not in the position, as a political entity, to contribute much at the present time unfortunately. The same is true over Lockerbie. That is just realpolitik. We are only partly represented by a devolved administration at the moment. We simply do not have the power yet to risk pissing off Israel over Gaza, and have a public inquiry into Lockerbie. That is not to say people should not go on demonstrations/ protests over Gaza, or boycott Israeli goods.

  10. We do have the power to hold a public inquiry into Lockerbie. But in fact a third appeal is on the cards so if that gos before the court it would take precedence. It would be nice if the Crown Office would stop trying to find ways to prevent the appeal going ahead though.

  11. dennis mclaughlin

    I echo your sentiments regarding the Gazan /Palestinian situation, but it must wait ’till after the Referendum for any proposals from the SG.

    We are in the final straight of the campaign and everyone is well aware that the Westminster machine is capable of torpedoing the whole shooting match; with GCHQ and the security services ready to come off their leashes.

  12. Shopping in Kirkwall in the Orkney sunshine today and observing little fair haired toddlers with their doting parents, thinking ‘what could happen to you if you lived in Gaza?’. We’ve seen what would happen and it’s horrific.

  13. Looking forward to the STV debate tonight I wonder if either will touch any of this?
    I also wonder if when they no doubt dispute Scotland’s obligation to pay our share of UK national debt £1.25trillion and rising, by £121bn last year, will they also dispute Scotland’s share of UK public assets?
    I checked the UK National Audit Office and they put a figure of £1.26bn on it.
    It strikes me that the two figures are gey similar!
    Where am I going wrong: UK National Debt is near as damnit equal to UK public assets. If independent Scotland is due her population share of each, then does the new economy start off debt free but liable to build everything from scratch?

  14. On the money ! Which is what it is about – or Gas. And America having a tame lapdog in the Middle East.

Leave a Reply