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Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Supporters of Israel have been silent for too long

Sammy Stein (left) engages a member of the public in Glasgow's Buchanan Street

Sammy Stein, co-founder of Glasgow Friends of Israel, says anti-Israeli sentiment has gone too far in Scotland 

The Middle East conflict between Israel and the surrounding Arab states is complex, both historically and currently.

Yet, for many years public opinion in Scotland has been offered just a one-sided view of this multi-faceted dispute. Pro-Palestinian groups have enjoyed a free run as they set about promoting their own unbalanced agenda.

They portray themselves as victims of a massive miscarriage of justice, hoping to appeal to the innate Scottish support for the perceived underdog.

They succeeded up to a point because there was no-one to present the facts in a more balanced way and counter their misleading propaganda.

That, however, is no longer the case.

They portray themselves as victims of a massive miscarriage of justice, hoping to appeal to the innate Scottish support for the perceived underdog

Six months ago Glasgow Friends of Israel was born. The vast majority of our members are not Jewish. We advocate a two-state solution based on the establishment of a viable Palestinian nation living in peace and harmony alongside Israel.

Many independently-minded Scots believe in such a solution. Consequently, Friends of Israel has expanded rapidly and now has branches in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dumfries, Dundee and Inverness.

One of our first acts was to set up an information stall in Glasgow’s Buchanan Street every Saturday. The positive response from passers-by is overwhelming.

Their message to us is loud and clear: “Supporters of Israel have been silent for too long.”

Many of them have been searching for a non-threatening forum in which to air their support for the Jewish state. Until our formation this was not possible because the Palestine lobby is negative and hostile.

They want nothing less than a Palestinian state at the expense of Israel. Their dream is to destroy Israel and turn it into yet another failed Arab dictatorship.

This crazy ideology is just one reason why so many ordinary people continue to pledge their support for our campaign.

In contrast we offer a positive message of peace and reconciliation.

We sympathise with the Palestinian people, millions of whom have been victimised by their Arab brothers and sisters, particularly Jordan and Egypt, for nearly 70 years.

Various estimates suggest that around 700,000 Palestinians either fled or were forced out of what became the state of Israel in 1948.

The vast majority were jailed in refugee camps on the West Bank and Gaza, which at the time were controlled by Jordan and Egypt respectively.

Around 850,000 Jews were driven out of Arab countries at that time.

In contrast to the Palestinians, these displaced Jews were warmly welcomed by Israel and were integrated with the local population.

Over 600,000 Jewish refugees settled in Israel and today their descendants make up the majority of Israel’s population. The remaining Jewish refugees, nearly 300,000, chose France or the USA.

For this reason in 2015 Israel celebrated its 67th birthday as an independent Jewish democracy, while the Palestinians, who were deliberately kept in camps to make a political statement, are still awaiting basic human rights.

Glasgow Friends of Israel recognises that only a two-state solution can bring about an end to Palestinian misery.


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