On Thursday (25th February 2016) the Parliament debated a motion by Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw against the Boycott, Divest and Sanction campaign. You can read the motion debated and John’s speech below, as well as watch John’s speech.
That the Parliament acknowledges the recently published open letter signed by over 150 high-profile cultural and political figures in support of the aims of Culture for Coexistence, an independent UK network representing a cross-section from the cultural world; notes that this open letter calls for an end to cultural boycotts of Israel and Israeli artists; notes the views expressed in the letter in support of a two-state solution and the promotion of greater understanding, mutual acceptance and peace through cultural engagement; notes that one example of this cultural exchange took place in 2015 when the Israeli artist, Matan Ben-Cnaan, won first prize in the 2015 BP International Portrait Award and was given the opportunity to teach art to local school children at the opening of the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery; hopes that, through groups such as the Centre for Scotland and Israel Relations, based in East Renfrewshire, similar educational and cultural programmes will take place in the coming months, and notes the views expressed in the letter that “Cultural engagement builds bridges, nurtures freedom and positive movement for change. We wholly endorse encouraging such a powerful tool for change rather than boycotting its use”.
“First, I apologise to you, Presiding Officer, and to Mr Carlaw because the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing is meeting at 1.15 so I might have to leave before the end of the debate.
I declare my membership of the Scottish Palestinian solidarity campaign and the Scottish Green Party, whose mantra is people, planet and peace. Peace and security can be achieved only through global justice and the world will never be safe while we allow the obscenity of poverty, economic exploitation and illegal occupations to continue.
I turn to the issue of boycott, divestment and sanctions. Mr Carlaw’s motion is misleading because there is no boycott of Israeli artists such as Matan Ben Cnaan, as long as artists refuse to collude in the Israeli abuse of human rights. There is a boycott of the Israeli state and those who seek to normalise the occupation of Palestine.
The Scottish Green Party supports the Palestinians’ call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, including a boycott of Israeli goods and services and an academic and cultural boycott, until Israel fulfils its obligations under international law. Those obligations are: withdrawing to the pre-1967 borders; withdrawing from east Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and other land that was seized in 1967; withdrawing from and depopulating Israeli colonies in the West Bank; dismantling the separation wall; ending the siege of Gaza; granting the right of refugees from 1948, 1967 and other expulsions and their descendants to return to their homes, as required by United Nations resolution 194; and affording equal rights to all citizens within Israel, irrespective of religion or ethnicity, especially Palestinian citizens in Israel.
If I am accused of anti-Semitism because I am speaking like this, I have to say that I have no allegiance to any faith nor would I be critical of any faith.
The Scottish Green Party will campaign for and support divestment by local authorities, other institutions of government—including the local government pension scheme—and civil society organisations from Israel, Israeli companies and companies that support the Israeli Government’s illegal occupation of Palestine.
The Scottish Green Party supports the Palestinian non-violent struggle resisting the colonisation of their lands, resources and peoples by Israel and by Zionist settlers.
The Scottish Green Party will press for European Union legislation to prohibit the import into the EU of products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
The Scottish Green Party will work with solidarity groups within Scotland and with political parties and civil society organisations within Palestine and amongst the Palestinian diaspora that share our objectives.
The motion talks of a culture for coexistence; we cannot have that when there are apartheid walls. It talks of greater understanding, but is there an understanding of an imprisoned population? It talks of peace through cultural engagement. I love peace, I campaign for peace, I encourage peace and I condemn violence from whatever quarter—I hope that all other participants in the debate would do likewise.
I want to encourage equality. I support conflict resolution but peace came in the north of Ireland not when the walls went up but when the walls came down. I spoke to someone who was involved in the violence in the north of Ireland and he said, “We killed each other, we maimed each other, we injured each other, and we damaged each others’ property—nothing changed until they bombed the city of London.”
I am not condoning violence from any quarter, be that violence against individuals or violence against property, but there is no doubt that financial imperative can shape minds and change opinions, so I am four-square behind the boycott, divestment and sanctions.”