“There is no conflict”: Israel group to challenge SNP support for Palestine

Controversy over group’s failure to recognise occupied Palestine 

A SMALL GROUP of pro-Israel campaigners will target this Autumn’s SNP party conference, seeking to challenge growing support for justice in Palestine within the party. 

Three individuals have founded a pro-Israel group, which plans to present itself as a cross Middle East organisation with a stall at the party’s Glasgow gathering. 

Professor Joe Goldblatt, activist Sammy Stein, and Frank Angel founded the group following the recent growth of SNP Friends of Palestine - which is supported by a majority of the party’s MPs.

Goldblatt explained to CommonSpace that the group has three founding members although “currently there is no funding” for the group. It has booked a stall at the conference, which will cost thousands of pounds in exhibitor fees, but denies there is any outside or government funding for the group. 

Goldblatt wished to avoid the specifics of the illegal occupation of Palestine in discussions with CommonSpace. 

“There is no conflict,” Goldblatt said, asserting that he supported investment and links to the all parts of the Middle East, including the occupied territories. He claimed that the group’s position was an “identical position to that of the SNP”.

Co-founder Frank Angel previously said that there are “probably more [SNP] party members who support the Palestinian point of view” over the Middle East conflict.

“We are lucky to be members of a party that embraces democracy and freedom of speech, and that allows different groups to set up stalls at conference.” Andy Murray, SNP Friends of Palestine

Pro-Palestine campaigners are skeptical of the move.

Andy Murray, convener of the SNP Palestine group, told CommonSpace: “We are lucky to be members of a party that embraces democracy and freedom of speech, and that allows different groups to set up stalls at conference.

“Unfortunately in Israel you wouldn’t be able to have an Arab group set up a stall at a party conference.”

Protests over the ongoing occupation of Palestine grew following the 2013 bombing of Gaza by the Israeli military, which killed 1,903 Palestinians including 450 children.

The Scottish Government called for an arms embargo. Government procurement policy was then updated in 2014. The policy “strongly discourages trade and investment from illegal settlements" and states that "exploitation of assets in illegal settlement is likely to be regarded as 'grave professional misconduct.’” This includes the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement calls for economic and political sanctions to put pressure on the state of Israel to end the occupation of Palestine for a two state solution. 

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BDS has the support of some within the SNP, including depute leader candidate Tommy Sheppard MP.

Since the group was set-up in 2015, SNP Friends of Palestine has received widespread support within the party.

CommonSpace previously told the story of how Murray, a dad of two and community campaigner from Glasgow, was targeted by Israeli army guards, arrested, imprisoned overnight and then eventually deported when attempting to travel to Palestine.

Picture courtesy of SNP Friends of Palestine

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