‘Scotland must stand up for Palestine’: SNP condemn illegal Israeli settlements


SNP conference condemns illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine 

THE SCOTTISH NATIONAL PARTY HAS OVERWHELMINGLY backed calls for Palestinian justice in the campaign against occupation and for a two-state solution in the Middle East. 

Led by Edinburgh MP Tommy Sheppard and the growing Friends of Palestine movement in the party, the SNP’s spring conference condemned Israeli illegal settlement building 

The vote was overwhelmingly in support of the show of solidarity – and the call for an independent Scotland to show global leadership as part of the peace movement. 

Sheppard told the conference the party was “seeking justice for the Palestinians whose aspirations have long been ignored”, and made clear that the 1967 borders settlement would provide a just and lasting peace for a Palestinian and Israeli state. 

“The motion accepts the absurd fiction that the UK Government has been exerting some kind of ‘pressure’ on Israel to end settlement building.” Nick Napier

The Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC) had called for the motion to be far stronger.  However, SNP campaigners said the motion was a platform to build a stronger policy position in the future. 

SNP Friends of Palestine has made great inroads into building support for justice in Palestine, including receiving the backing of a majority of SNP MPs. The motion focused on Israel’s illegal settlement building on Palestinian land, which was condemned by the United Nations last December.

Campaigners point to decades of encroachment on Palestinian territory, regular bombing campaigns and the enforcement of a blockage by the state of Israel as evidence of repression.

International demands – including from Israeli ally the United States – for an end to the building of Israeli settlements have been ignored. The UK and US have continued to arm the Israeli regime regardless. 

Read more – Revealed: More than half of SNP MPs back Justice for Palestine campaign

Pro-Israel activist Sammy Stein, who faced internal party discipline for targeting party MSP Sandra White last year but says there was no evidence to substantiate the claim [CommonSpace has been unable to obtain documentation from Stein detailing the outcome for verification], spoke in favour of remitting the motion, and questioned why Palestinian refugees did not assimilate into the societies they join as refugees.

“I would urge you all of you to think about both sides in the conflict,” he said. “As was said by our previous speaker, the Palestinians are the only people who have been refugees for 60 years. 

“Why are they still refugees? Why do refugees who come to Scotland get assimmilated in Scotland and become Scots? Why can’t Palestinians wherever they end up in the world, whether it’s Palestine or the United States or Europe, why do they have to stay Palestinians refugees?”

Stein, whose comment during the debate was met by boos, helped set up a new group within the party, called SNP Friends for Peace in the Middle East, which was criticised by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in Scotland amid concerns over neutrality – but was welcomed by Israel’s honorary consul in Scotland. The group was asked for further comment on the motion and debate, but did not provide a quote by publication.

Sammy Stein’s contribution can be viewed from 11.20

Mick Napier of the Scottish PSC wanted the SNP to go further. He told CommonSpace, when the motion was tabled, that: “This motion is terrible, only re-stating UK Government policy on the illegal settlements as a barrier to a desired and desirable two-state solution, a policy that is no more than a fig leaf for further Israeli dispossession of Palestinians and long since made impossible by settlement building.

“The motion accepts the absurd fiction that the UK Government has been exerting some kind of ‘pressure’ on Israel to end settlement building. Arms sales, lucrative trade deals, and unflinching political and diplomatic support at the UN and other international bodies do not suggest pressure.”

However, SNP Palestine activists welcomed the outcome as a move forward – recognising the party’s pro-peace position following the huge growth in its membership since 2014.

UPDATE 28/03/2017: This article was changed to amend an inaccuracy in a quote from Sammy Stein and a video was added containing Stein’s contribution to the debate for viewers to watch; and changed to reflect a development in the dispute between Sammy Stein and Sandra White.

Picture: CommonSpace

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