Backlash over Stewart McDonald MP’s support for SNP pro-Israel group #SNP16

Party colleagues and activists concerned over “misleading” 

SNP PARLIAMENTARIANS and activists have hit out at Glasgow MP Stewart McDonald’s backing of a new pro-Israel campaign group within the party. 

McDonald, who previously was a founding supporter of the party’s ‘SNP Friends of Palestine’ group, presented pro-Israel activists as representatives of an open, pro-peace organisation in an eve of conference piece for STV.

However, parliamentary colleagues told CommonSpace they were frustrated McDonald ignored the group’s connections to the Israeli government and opposition to peace in Palestine. 

One MSP colleague told CommonSpace: “I was surprised to say the least by Stewart McDonald’s comments. To try and compare the situation that Israel & Palestine are in, without mentioning the 1967 borders issue, is concerning.

“He seems to suggest that the Palestinian people give up the fight and allow Israel to do whatever they want to do to them. To so misunderstand the situation is expressly disappointing.”

“I recommend that Stewart reconsider his position and make a further statement fully in support of the people of Palestine.”

McDonald, speaking to CommonSpace, conceded there were issues with the new group - and reaffirmed his support for justice in Palestine. 

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“My support for the people of Palestine is long-standing, well documented and absolutely unwavering,” he said.

“As a Member of Parliament I was sworn in wearing a lapel pin with Palestine and Scotland flags woven together as a display of solidarity. I am a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Palestine - the first one I joined upon my election - and was a founding member of the SNP's Friends of Palestine.”

Delegates, who spoke to the group’s stall, said they felt it was “misleading”, as it claimed to be a broad campaign in relation to all Middle Eastern nations - despite all its founders involvement in various pro-Israel causes.

When asked whether the group had any Palestinians involved, journalist Liam O’Hare was told that its campaigner Sammy Stein was Palestinian. Stein, a prominent pro-Israel campaigner, was in the Israeli army. 

Stein also faced a recent SNP disciplinary hearing over a campaign targeting SNP MSP Sandra White

Controversy over the group extends beyond Stein. The Israeli government consul promoted the group, describing its activity as “waving the flag” for the country’s controversial political record.

Jeremy Stein, co-chair of the Glasgow Jewish Education Forum, said the group was “a front for a pro-Israel lobby group”.

McDonald’s article, which mentions party stalwart Winnie Ewing encounter with ex-Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, has enraged pro-Palestine campaigners. 

Mick Napier of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign accused McDonald of making “war crimes” supporters welcome in the SNP.

“Stewart McDonald is making an effort to make the SNP a congenial place for supporters of Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity,” he told CommonSpace.

“It’s shocking but not surprising, therefore, that he takes vicarious inspiration from Menachem Begin, the butcher of Dair Yassin, whose Herut party Einstein and others said was similar to the Nazis.”

The SNP Friends of Palestine group distanced itself from McDonald’s comments and criticised his support for the pro-Israel organisation.

“Stewart was not speaking on behalf of SNP Friends of Palestine. We continue to be committed to campaigning for a just settlement for the Palestinian people,” group convener Andy Murray said. 

“This includes recognising that the military occupation of Palestine is illegal under international law and that the colonial settling of occupied Palestine is the biggest single obstacle to a just peace.

“The group that Stewart McDonald has entered into a dialogue with fails to acknowledge these basic principles necessary to underpin a just peace.”

When CommonSpace spoke to the pro-Israel conference activists at the SNP conference, one of its promoters defended the bombing of Gaza and refused to recognise the Scottish Government’s definition of illegal Israeli settlements. 

Prior to his election, McDonald said Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be tried for war crimes, said Israel was a “apartheid” state, and that Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) of Israel should be “worthwhile pursuing”.

Picture courtesy of SNP snapper

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