Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl and Public Affairs Director Phil Rosenberg, Scottish Council of Jewish Communities Chair Micheline Brannan and Glasgow Jewish Representative Council Co-President Evy Yedd today met Scottish First Minister to discuss antisemitism, Israel and the Scottish Jewish community.
The Jewish delegation raised concerns about antisemitism, noting that Jews in Scotland had, for the first time in recent memory started to feel uncomfortable about persistently high levels of antisemitism, some of which grew out of extreme anti-Israel sentiment. The group praised the First Minister’s lead on adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism and its examples, noting that not all parties have done so.
On the subject of Israel, the group asked the First Minister to ensure an even-handed approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict which recognises the security threats that Israel faces. The delegation also asked whether Ms Sturgeon would support some of the efforts that the Jewish community is working on with other faith groups in Scotland to support reconciliation efforts and help ensure that Scotland does not import conflict but rather exports peace instead.
Responding to the delegation, the First Minister expressed her sadness at the prevalence of ‘appalling’ antisemitism and expressed her determination to confront it firmly ‘wherever and whenever it appears’. She said that the Scottish Jewish community was an important part of Scottish society and ‘will never compromise on our objective of building a country where people from all communities feel safe and valued and which Jews feel is their home’. Ms Sturgeon said that her Government ‘recognises and supports the existence of Israel’, wants to see a two state solution with a secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state and will consider how to support initiatives that promote these aims. She said that the Scottish National Party does not support the campaign of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel and envisages no change to that position.
Following the meeting, the First Minister said:
“I was pleased to welcome new Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl to Scotland and wish her every success in her new role. It is always a pleasure to meet with the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities and the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council. I was clear that my Government will not tolerate antisemitism in Scotland and will work with the Jewish community to defeat it. We were very proud to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism and we would call on all others political parties and authorities who have not yet done so to do so. I re-emphasised my Government’s commitment to a two-state solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, leading to a secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state. I look forward to continuing these valuable conversations. The Jewish community is a vital part of our national life in Scotland.”
Ms van der Zyl, Ms Brannan and Mrs Yedd said:
“We are grateful to the First Minister for taking the time to see us today and giving us the opportunity to raise matters of importance to the Jewish community in Scotland. We were pleased at her level of engagement and knowledge on the issue and look forward to continuing this important dialogue on behalf of Scottish Jewry”.
The meeting came at the end of Marie van der Zyl’s first visit to Scotland as Board of Deputies President, just one week after taking office. During the visit, Ms van der Zyl attended the AGM of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, addressed a public meeting of the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council and visited Jewish Care Scotland where she spoke and danced with residents.
Photo: Left to right: Phil Rosenberg, Marie van der Zyl, Nicola Sturgeon, Micheline Brannan and Evy Yedd