Scottish Tories launch cross-party group to boost support for Israel in Scotland
Group aiming to boost support for Israel in the public’s perception of the Israel/Palestine conflict holds its inaugural meeting in the Scottish Parliament
Scottish Parliament - credit: Holyrood
A cross-party group aiming to boost support for Israel in the public’s perception of the Israel/Palestine conflict has held its inaugural meeting in the Scottish Parliament.
The group, Building Bridges with Israel, was founded by Scottish Tory MSP Jackson Carlaw as part of Conservative efforts to lobby for closer ties between Scotland and Israel.
In its registration form the CPG points out that there is already a Palestine CPG in the Scottish Parliament, and claims that “since its inception the Parliament has been seen to favour the Palestinian side of the Israel/Palestine conflict.”
It adds: “In having a ‘Building Bridges with Israel’ Group this would allow for a greater breadth of debate and to promote an alternative viewpoint to that singular one which is to therefore at present”.
The CPG aims to build links with Israel based on business, culture and academia, while countering anti-Semitism.
The inaugural meeting, held yesterday, focused on culture, with the Women’s International Zionist Organisation presenting paintings created by a diverse group of women living in Israel and the Occupied Territories.
Participants expressed concern that there is a widely-held belief that Israel discriminates against the Arab population.
Convened by Carlaw, with Richard Lyle acting as deputy convener, it is made up of five Tory MSPs, two from the SNP and one from each of Labour and the Lib Dems.
The Scottish Green Party, which supports a boycott of Israel, chose not to join the group because of concerns over Israel's treatment of the Palestinian people.
The establishment of the group follows a controversial Scottish Conservative trip to Israel and the Occupied Territories, funded by Conservative Friends of Israel in the summer.
Nine Scottish Conservative MSPs took part in the party’s first ever Scottish Parliamentary delegation to Israel and the occupied territories, where they met Israeli politicians, received security briefings from the Israeli Defence Force, and visited the West Bank security barrier.
The group of MSPs also visited a winery based in the Golan Heights, an area which Israel has illegally occupied since 1967.
After the group returned Scottish Tory MSP John Lamont lodged a motion in Parliament calling “for Scottish airlines and airports to seriously consider establishing a direct service between Scotland and Israel to strengthen cultural, trade and tourism links between Scotland and the Middle East”.
Speaking after the trip, Dr Nizard Ayoub, director of the Al-Marsad Arab Human Rights Centre in Golan Heights, told Holyrood: “Al-Marsad hopes that the MSPs were made aware that the Golan Heights Winery is established in an illegal Israeli settlement, on land that was appropriated from the native Syrian population.”
He added: “In order to ensure the delegation obtained a balanced view of the situation in the Occupied Golan Heights, Al-Marsad would have welcomed the opportunity to meet the MSPs to discuss the daily challenges faced by the remaining native Syrian population in the Golan Heights, due to Israel's occupation.”
Asked if they raised concern over human rights abuses carried out by Israel against the Palestinian or Syrian population, Tory MSP John Lamont said, “The human rights of everyone in the region was discussed.”
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