Thursday, 20 October 2016

SNP Friends of Peace in the Middle East is a pro-Israel front group

A new pro-Israel front group is seeking to exert its influence within the SNP.  

SNP Friends of Peace in the Middle East claim to be promoting 'common dialogue' towards a 'two state solution'. 

But behind the seemingly all-inclusive title and benign facade, it's really a Zionist advocacy group formed through Glasgow Friends of Israel and Sammy Stein, a leading figure within both bodies.

Contrary to their 'pro-peace' and 'pro-Palestinian' claims, each of these groups is dedicated to upholding Israel's occupation, colonial settlements and apartheid state.

The manoeuvring of those behind SNP Friends for Peace in the Middle East has been ably reported by Michael Gray at the social media news site Common Space. This includes leaked emails revealing support from the Israeli consular in Scotland, despite the group claiming to have no particular alignment with the state of Israel. 

As detailed at Common Space, Stein, a former-serving soldier in the IDF, gained the backing of wealthy SNP associate Joe Goldblatt to help establish the organisation through a floor stall at the recent SNP conference. Behind the smooth promotion, it's a brand exercise in disguising Israel's crimes. A Jewish community leader has even denounced it as an 'Israel front group'.

With Israel coming under increased international pressure, this is part of the wider hasbara effort to contrive a new 'peace' image. But it requires little research or scrutiny to see the real reactionary nature of such groups.

Glasgow Friends of Israel hand out street literature produced by the US-based, far-right Zionist lobby, Stand With Us. Stein has also appeared on the evangelical Christian-Zionist channel Revelation TV, defending Israel, smearing the Palestinian solidarity movement, and damning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.

Stein is also facing an SNP disciplinary committee for undermining party MSP Sandra White's candidacy during the 2015 Scottish Parliamentary elections.   

Disappointingly, on the eve of the SNP conference, the party's Glasgow South MP Stewart McDonald wrote a comment piece at STV endorsing Stein's new group. (The STV site has been overseen by digital and comments editor Stephen Daisley, an ardent defender of Israel, who was recently 'reined-in' by the channel following concerns over his inappropriate use of the space.)

As reported at Common Space, McDonald's approval of the group has led to considerable critical reaction, both within and outwith the party. 

The independent journalist Liam O'Hare has produced a searching critique of McDonald's claims to be a 'progressive, liberal moderate' serving the 'real' interests of Palestinians, reminding him that this group "is not pro-Palestine in any sense". Noting the "naivety displayed in McDonald’s article", O'Hare says of such groups' manipulative branding:
The creation of front groups is not a new tactic among those who seek to defend Israel’s actions. They represent an attempt to create an equilibrium in a conflict where none exists. I risk stating the obvious, but it’s important to remember that there is an occupier and an occupied. Israel is a nuclear-armed state, with the ninth strongest army in the world, and the blanket support of the world’s sole superpower. The Palestinians are a dispersed and dispossessed people largely abandoned by the international community.
At The National, Cat Boyd, offers further critical questioning of McDonald's "Palestinian rights activists have been unable to move with the times" line, and his chorus-joining 'concerns' over anti-Semitism on the "anti-imperialist" left. Boyd also challenges his invocation in the article of Winnie Ewing's past travels around Israel with Menachem Begin as some kind of 'inspiration to Scotland'. Where, we might ask, was his mention of Begin's own colonialist terror role, or his order to invade Lebanon in 1982, leading to the massacres in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps?          

Like many authentic SNP supporters of Palestinian rights, one can but speculate as to the reasons for McDonald's tortured endorsement of this organisation. But it's deeply perplexing that he should have failed to understand the group's real motivations, or, having been duly informed of its true agenda, still not renounced it.  

McDonald has since declared his enduring commitment to the Palestinian cause. But many will question the kind of 'solidarity' that still approves and engages such zealous pro-Israel voices.

With Gaza under relentless, merciless siege, and the murderous occupation intensifying daily, it's never been more important to stand up unequivocally for Palestinian justice by helping to expose, rather than indulge, this kind of Brand Israel duplicity.

As Desmond Tutu reminds us: "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

For the purposes of confirmation, here's the short leaflet produced and distributed by Glasgow Palestine Human Rights Campaign denoting the true agenda behind Glasgow Friends of Israel and their associate Friends groups. The very same deceit applies to SNP Friends of Peace in the Middle East.

Friends of Israel are NOT 'pro-Palestinian'
Friends of Israel are committed ONLY to Israel

Alarmed at growing, global criticism of Israel's mass crimes and apartheid system, Friends of Israel are using the words 'pro-Palestinian' to disguise their true agenda of protecting Israel.
Friends of Israel:
  • HAVE NO SUPPORT within Palestinian civil society, or any Palestine solidarity group.
  • WON'T USE the term 'pro-Palestine', as this entails actual support for Palestinian rights.
  • CLAIM TO BE 'pro-peace', yet say nothing about Israel's refusal to engage in meaningful negotiations, end the occupation, cease settlement expansion, or stop the assault on Gaza.
  • REFUSE TO CONDEMN Israel's war crimes, or demand that its leaders be indicted by the International Criminal Court.
  • TURN A BLIND EYE to repression and atrocities. While Israel bomb homes, schools and hospitals in Gaza, and deny humanitarian aid, Friends of Israel blame it all on Hamas.
  • WON'T BACK apartheid-breaking Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.
  • ARE CLOSELY LINKED with other Zionist organisations. Much of their literature comes from the right-wing (US), evangelist group Stand With Us.
  • CONSISTENTLY IGNORE international law:
UN Resolution 194 - Palestinian Right of Return (General Assembly, Dec 11, 1948)
UN Resolution 242 - Occupation of Palestine illegal (Security Council, Nov 22, 1967)
UN resolution 446 - West Bank settlements illegal (Security Council, March 22, 1979)
International Court of Justice - Wall illegal (General Assembly, August 2, 2004)

Friends of Israel's MULTIPLE EVASIONS over Palestinian rights, and cynical claim to be 'pro-Palestinian', are intended to deflect public attention from Israel's colonisation of Palestinian land, war crimes and apartheid violations. DON'T BE MISLED BY THEIR STREET DECEIT.