Highland councillor calls for support for Palestine
A Highland councillor has demanded the local authority denounces Israel’s "illegal" occupation of Palestine and compared it to South Africa during apartheid.
Donnie Kerr has lodged a motion at Thursday’s full council meeting in Inverness urging it to condemn the Israeli government for its "occupation of Palestine’s east Jerusalem and the West Bank and its continuing illegal blockage of Gaza".
But a Jewish group leader is alarmed that tension in this country may be inflamed by "disproportionate" political criticism of Israel.
Councillor Kerr, an Independent Nationalist, said that Israel continued to ignore and breach international law and believes there will be backing for his move, particularly in the wake of Nelson Mandela’s death.
"Just as individual sanctions against apartheid in South Africa led ultimately to its demise there, so individual and collection sanctions against the State of Israel will end apartheid and suffering in Palestine," states the motion, which urges the council to resist any action that gives political or economic support to Israel.
The former SNP councillor, who regularly wears a Palestinian badge, insisted there would be local backing, when asked if he thought constituents would prefer him to concentrate on Highland issues.
"I am aiming to ensure that Highland Council does not engage in activities or enter into contracts that give support to Israel’s illegal occupation and violations of international law," said Councillor Kerr (Inverness Central).
"In the week before Christmas and following the international outpouring of gratitude for Nelson Mandela, I believe that the motion will receive support from Highland councillors. Highlanders have a strong sense of fair play and justice.
"In my work as a local councillor and as a supporter of local activities aimed at raising awareness about the Palestinian people’s struggle for self-determination, I have found there is considerable support from local people. We must do everything we can to bring about a resolution that will allow both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace with each other."
The council could not confirm whether it had any ties, economic or otherwise, with Israel, at the time of going to press.
A similar motion has been supported by three other Scottish councils this year.
Linda Martin, a Highland ambassador for the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, said it awaited the outcome of the debate "with interest" but was concerned at verbal and physical attacks on Jews. "The Scottish Council of Jewish Communities has no collective view on Israeli policies because Jewish people hold as wide a range of views as does the rest of society," said Ms Martin.
"We are, however, concerned at recent research findings that reveal verbal and sometimes physical attacks on Jewish people in Scotland because of their perceived identification with Israel, and the fact that disproportionate criticism levied at Israel by some politicians makes people feel alienated and vulnerable."
The motion has been seconded by Lochaber councillor Andrew Baxter.
Israel has been in conflict with the Palestinians and its Arab neighbours over ownership of land considered holy by Jews, Christians and Muslims since its creation in 1948.
The Palestinians in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem have lived under Israeli occupation since 1967.