Call to avoid Glasgow March and Rally Against Racism, 16 March 2019

This came into our in-box yesterday, 21 February 2019, from our friends, Scottish Friends of Palestine.

16th March is the UN anti-racism day. Here, in Scotland, the organising of the Glasgow march and rally  takes place within the structure of Stand Up to Racism (SUTR). As with last year, SFoP contacted SUTR regarding the participation of racist bodies such as the Confederation of Friends of Israel in Scotland (CoFIS). Unlike last year, SUTR have failed to respond. However the Facebook posts from CoFIS (and other sources) indicate that participation by Israel affiliated racist bodies has not been opposed by SUTR.

It is therefore with regret that Scottish Friends of Palestine must ask its members and associates to boycott the Glasgow march and rally. [Below] is a statement [DOC 1] which outlines the racist nature of the state of Israel. In addition, [below] is the response from the Cross Party Group on Palestine to the Scottish Govt’s consultation on hate crime legislation [DOC 2].

[DOC 1] Scottish Friends of Palestine statement [DOC 1]:

Zionism  =   Israel   =  Racism

In 2017, Glasgow’s Stand Up to Racism(SUTR) march and rally became victim of Zionist intent when the Confederation of Friends of Israel forcibly joined the march with the Israeli flag to the forefront.

In 2018, despite the best efforts by SFoP and others to engage SUTR in debate on the issue of Zionist participation, the march went ahead with no effort by SUTR to prevent their participation. In the immediate aftermath SFoP approached some trade unions to discuss their position. One said they would consider their position in 2019, another replied that they had no policy on the issue, the majority ignored the opportunity to discuss SFoP’s concerns.

Now, in 2019, we find that the position has not changed. So it continues to be important that the record is set straight regarding the state of Israel’s racist credentials.

At the beginning of the 20thcentury when Zionist colonisers acquired land in Palestine, often purchased from absentee owners, the cry was for ‘Hebrew labour’, with the Palestinian Arab fellahin discriminated against and unemployed. Fast forward 100 years and we now have Jewish only roads to be found on the West Bank – to give just one example of the apartheid system which now rules over the Palestinian under military occupation.

And in the interim we now find nearly 70 laws that discriminate directly or indirectly against Palestinian citizens in Israel and/or those under occupation on the basis of their national belonging ( It is worthwhile looking at the consequences of just one of these laws.

There is no such thing as Israeli nationality – only Jewish nationality, whereas citizenship exists for both Jew and Palestinian within Israel. If there is a clash between citizen rights and national rights, the latter will be upheld by officialdom and the courts. In reality, officialdom is required by law to discriminate. Another consequence is that Israel’s Palestinian minority can pass their citizenship ‘downards’ to offspring but cannot extend it ‘outwards’, as a Jewish national can, to members of their extended family. So Israel has its Law of Return entitling all who claim to be Jewish to settle in Israel. This does not apply to the extended family of Palestinian citizens and those forced into exile by Israel since 1947/48.

Zionism may have no theory of race, but practical Zionism and racism go hand in hand. Racism in Israel is embedded in the structures of the state, it is institutionalised.

All this is underlined by two events which took place in 2018.

On the 18thJuly 2018 The Nation State Law was passed by Israel’s Knesset. This new legislation adds to existing discriminatory laws covering housing, family, residency rights, land rights and ultimately favours Jews over the indigenous Palestinian people thus creating a two-tier apartheid system that ignores the 20% of Palestinians that make up the population of the state of Israel. The law denies the national and historical rights of the Palestinian people in their homeland. For those citizens within Israel’s Palestinian and Druze communities, at a stroke of the pen, their second class citizen status within the State of Israel was legally confirmed.

Then on the 12th December 2018 a bill to maintain equal rights amongst all its citizens was voted down in the Knesset by a margin of 71-38.  The text of the doomed Basic Law: Equality billwas clear and concise: ‘The State of Israel shall maintain equal political rights amongst all its citizens, without any difference between religions, race and sex.’ – a direct quote from Israel’s Declaration of Independence.

No less importantis the presence of the Israeli flag. This is the flag which has gone, and still goes, in advance of the slaughter of the Palestinian people, their expulsion from their land, the confiscation of their land, the building of settlements, the destruction of their homes, the arrest and detention of their children. It is the flag which holds sway in the military courts and their record of near 100% conviction rate of those Palestinian children who pass through their doors. This flag has no place in the streets of Scotland and certainly not at an event purporting to stand up against racism.

And finally . . .  the Zionist lobby must be pleased with its handiwork. Where Scotland was once regarded as a strong critic of Israel and its deadly policies towards the Palestinian people we continue to see doubt and dissension appearing amongst those who should be natural supporters of Palestinian rights. This year’s demonstration on March 16th [2019] in Glasgow gives another opportunity for the SUTR steering committee to address racism in all of its forms.

In the absence of this Scottish Friends of Palestine advocates a boycott of the march.

Scottish Friends of Palestine       


[DOC 2]Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group on Palestine  [DOC 2]:

Submission to the Independent review of hate crime legislation in Scotland[1]

We welcome the Scottish Government’s review of hate crime in Scotland, and would like the following submission to be taken into consideration.

In December 2016, the UK Government adopted the ‘non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism’ produced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). Earlier this year[2], Angela Constance MSP, The Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities confirmed that the Scottish Government would do likewise.

As a result of concerns arising from this IHRA definition, a number of Jewish-led political campaigning organisations sought and commis-sioned legal counsel on its meaning and implications. This has resulted in a full assessment from Hugh Tomlinson QC[3] as well as a scathing critique from Jewish former Appeal Court Judge Sir Stephen Sedley in the London Review of Books[4].

‘Antisemitism’ under the IHRA definition is words or actions ‘expressed as hatred towards Jews’; the lack of legal clarity within the definition is an issue. However, the primary difficulty with the definition is [the] illustrative examples that accompany it, most of which do not relate to Jews at all, either individually or collectively. They relate to attitudes to the state of Israel. Hugh Tomlinson has made clear in his laying out of the legal principles pertaining to the IHRA definition that in order to constitute anti-Semitism, the conduct described in all of the illustrative examples must be a manifestation of, or amount to, an expression of hatred of Jews.

Although, as Tomlinson points out, the IHRA definition itself has no legal standing, and no public body is obliged to adopt or apply the definition, there is clearly a risk of a chilling effect. As Sir Stephen Sedley has also written,

The IHRA definition offers encouragement to pro-Israel militants whose targets for abuse and disruption in London have recently included the leading American scholar and critic of Israel Richard Falk and discouragement to university authorities which do not want to act as censors but worry that the IHRA definition requires them to do so.[5]

We believe the IHRA document sows confusion in the fight against antisemitism and racism, which must be a key priority at this time of rising right-wing hate-mongering against ethnic and religious minorities. We also believe it poses a threat to freedom of expression, which it is a key duty of local authorities to protect

Antisemitism may sometimes be masked by a critical attitude to the State of Israel, that is true. The IHRA definition, though, seems designed not so much to catch speech or actions clearly motivated by hatred of Jews, as to defend the State of Israel against criticism of its violations of human rights, and to justify aspects of its foundation and constitution, opposed by many Jews, both within and outside Israel. We know of many disturbing cases of the IHRA document being used to limit critic-ism of Israel and restrict campaigns in support of justice for Palestinians. The legal opinion from Hugh Tomlinson QC makes clear that public bodies using it in this way, including against the boycott movement, would be open to legal challenge for breaching their duty under the Human Rights Act to defend freedom of expression.

The practical implications of Tomlinson’s legal principles should therefore be fully understood by all those who have adopted the IHRA definition for policy guidance and it should be clearly acknowledged that events that seek to protest against Israel, or to highlight the plight of the Palestinians, are lawful expressions of political opinion. Allegations that such events are anti-Semitic need to be tested for ‘evidence of hatred towards Jews’as required by the Definition.

The central concern then is that the IHRA definition, or more specifically its illustrative guidelines, could, by conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, easily be used as a tool to shut down campaigning for human rights on behalf of Palestinians.

We would prefer [for] the IHRA definition [to be] rejected in its entirety. However, as an absolute minimum alternative, we would urge that the illustrative examples be disregarded and that Tomlinson’s guiding legal principles be explicitly acknowledged and endorsed by the Scottish Government, including the following:

  • Banning or restricting events which involve criticism of Israel
    • No public entity may rely on the Definition to ban or restrict events perceived as ‘anti-Israel’solely on the basis of their‘anti-Israel’content, their vociferous nature or because supporters of Israel find them upsetting or offensive. Without actual evidence of hatred towards Jews, such banning or restriction would be unlawful.
    • No public institution may rely on the Definition to justify treating ‘anti-Israel’events differently from other political events, by assuming a heightened risk of antisemitism, by imposing special procedures or conditions, or by requiring their organisers to prove that they are not motivated by antisemitism. Without actual evidence of hatred towards Jews, the imposition of special conditions on ‘anti-Israel’ events would be unlawful.

We look forward to the opportunity to engage in further productive discussion about these important issues.

The Scottish Parliament
Cross Party Group on Palestine

– Appendix A: IHRA definition of Antisemitism
– Appendix B: Opinion of Hugh Tomlinson QC on the IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism]

Appendix A: IHRA definition of Antisemitism

In the spirit of the Stockholm Declaration that states: ‘With humanity still scarred by … antisemitism and xenophobia, the international community shares a solemn responsibility to fight those evils’,the committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial called the IHRA Plenary in Budapest 2015 to adopt the following working definition of antisemitism.

On 26 May 2016, the Plenary in Bucharest decided to:

Adopt the following non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism:

‘Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.’

To guide IHRA in its work, the following examples may serve as illustrations:

Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectively. However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic. Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for ‘why things go wrong.’It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.

Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective – such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

Anti-Semitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of anti-Semitic materials in some countries).

Criminal acts are anti-Semitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property – such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries – are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews.

Anti-Semitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.


Appendix B: Opinion of Hugh Tomlinson QC on the IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism.

Counsel’s opinion on the IHRA definition




I am asked by Free Speech on Israel, Independent Jewish Voices, Jews for Justice for Palestinians and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to provide an Opinion on the effect of the Government’s decision to ‘adopt’ the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (‘IHRA’) non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism (‘the IHRA Definition’). I am also asked to consider the meaning and effect of the IHRA Definition and its compatibility with the obligations of public authorities under the Human Rights Act 1998 (‘the HRA’).


The IHRA is an intergovernmental body whose stated purpose is ‘to place political and social leaders’ support behind the need for Holocaust education, remembrance and research both nationally and internationally’. On 26 May 2016 the IHRA made a decision (‘the IHRA Decision’) to adopt what it described as a ‘non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism’ in the following terms:

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non- Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

This definition is then followed by ‘examples’ which serve as illustrations. A full copy of the IHRA Decision adopting the IHRA Definition is appended to this Opinion.[6]

  1. In 2016 the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee (‘the Select Committee’) conducted an investigation into ‘Antisemitism in the UK’. In its Report, published in October 2016, it considered definitions of antisemitism and concluded thatWe broadly accept the IHRA definition, but propose two additional clarifications to ensure that freedom of speech is maintained in the context of discourse about Israel and Palestine, without allowing antisemitism to permeate any debate. The definition should include the following statements:

    •                It is not anti-Semitic to criticise the Government of Israel, without additional evidence to suggest anti-Semitic

    •                It is not anti-Semitic to hold the Israeli Government to the same standards as other liberal democracies, or to take a particular interest in the Israeli Government’s policies or actions, without additional evidence to suggest anti-Semitic intent[7]
  1. The Select Committee went on to recommend that the IHRA Definition – with its ‘additional caveats’ – be ‘formally adopted by the UK Government, law enforcement agencies and all political parties, to assist them in determining whether or not an incident or discourse can be regarded as anti-Semitic’
  2. The Government responded to the Select Committee Report in December 2016[8].
    In relation to the recommendation concerning the IHRA Definition, the Government agreed to ‘adopt’ this. In relation to the suggested ‘additional caveats’ the Government said
    We believe that references within the definition stating that ‘criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic’ are sufficient to ensure freedom of speech.The Government went on to note that an earlier version of the definition[9] is being used by the police and forms part of the National Police Chiefs Council Hate Crime Manual for officers and suggests that the IHRA Definition is a useful tool for criminal justice agencies and other public bodies to understand how antisemitism manifests itself in the 21st century.


  1. Three initial points can be made about the IHRA Definition. The first is that it is expressed to be a ‘non-legally binding working definition’. In other words, it cannot be construed in the same way as a statutory definition or one produced as part of statutory guidance. The IHRA Definition does not purport to provide a legal definition of antisemitism. It does not have the clarity which would be required from such a definition. It is perhaps worth pointing out that the fact that conduct is ‘contrary’ to the IHRA Definition could not, of itself, render that conduct ‘illegal’ in any sense.
  2. Second, there is an obvious problem with the wording of the IHRA Definition. The use of language is unusual and therefore potentially confusing. The phrase ‘a certain perception’ is vague and unclear in the context of a definition. The use of the word ‘may’ is also confusing. If it is understood in its usual sense of ‘possibility’ then the definition is of little value: antisemitism ‘may be expressed as hatred towards Jews but may also be expressed in other (unspecified) ways’. This does not work as a definition. In my view, the very least that is needed to clarify the IHRA Definition is to reformulate the first sentence so that it reads as follows:Antisemitism is a particular attitude towards Jews, which is expressed as hatred toward Jews.

    Even in these amended terms the definition is unsatisfactory. The apparent confining of antisemitism to an attitude which is ‘expressed’ as a hatred of Jews seems too narrow and not to capture conduct which, though not expressed as hatred of Jews is clearly a manifestation of antisemitism. It does not, for example, include discriminatory social and institutional practices.

  1. These problems with the wording of the IHRA Definition mean that it is very difficult to use as ‘tool’. It is obviously most unsatisfactory for the Government to ‘adopt’ a definition which lacks clarity and comprehensiveness in this way. It means that there is likely to be lack of consistency in its application and a potential chilling effect on public bodies which, in the absence of definitional clarity, may seek to sanction or prohibit any conduct which has been labelled by third parties as anti-Semitic without applying any clear criterion of assessment.
  2. Third, it is important to note the structure of the IHRA Decision. The IHRA Definition is contained in the two sentences set out at paragraph 2 above. The remainder of the decision consists, as the IHRA Decision says, of ‘examples by way of illustration’. These examples must be read in the light of the definition itself and cannot either expand or restrict its scope. All of them must be regarded as examples of activity which can properly be regarded as manifesting ‘hatred towards Jews’.
  3. In many of the examples which are given the ‘hatred towards Jews’ is obvious and uncontroversial. For example, ‘charging Jews with conspiring to harm humanity’, or ‘justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of ideology or religion’ obviously involve ‘hatred towards Jews’. However, in some cases, the examples do not explicitly refer to the ‘hatred’ requirement and therefore need further elaboration.[10] I will consider two of the examples given although the point is a general one:
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations’. This must be read in the light of the definition. Such an accusation would only be anti-Semitic if motivated by hatred of Jews. If, for example, the accusation was motivated by a reasonable belief that a particular Jewish citizen or a group of citizens had by their words or actions showed that their loyalty to Israel was greater than their loyalty to their own nation, the accusation could not be properly regarded as anti-Semitic
  • ‘Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour’. This must, again, be read in the light of the definition. A denial of a Jewish right to self-determination could be the result of a particular analysis of the nature of the Jewish people (motivated, for example, by religious considerations) which had nothing to do with the ‘hatred of Jews’. Furthermore, unless such a claim was informed by hatred to Jews, it would not be anti-Semitic to assert that as Israel defines itself as a Jewish state and thereby by race, and that because non-Jewish Israelis and non-Jews under its jurisdiction are discriminated against, the State of Israel is currently a racist endeavour.


  1. The Government has decided to ‘adopt’ the IHRA Definition. This is not a decision made in accordance with any statutory power but is a freestanding statement of policy. It cannot, and does not purport to, have any binding effect on any public body and no public body is under a resulting obligation to adopt or use this definition. It is simply a ‘suggestion’ by the Government as to a ‘definition of antisemitism’ which public bodies might wish to use. No public body could properly be criticized for refusing to adopt the IHRA Definition. On the contrary, in view of the unsatisfactory nature of the IHRA Definition, it is my view that a public body should give very careful consideration to its suitability for use as a guide to decision making and should, if it is adopted, give careful guidance as to its application.
  2. The Government has declined to adopt the ‘caveats’ suggested by the Select Committee which it said were designed to ‘ensure that freedom of speech is maintained in the context of discourse about Israel and Palestine’. It has done so on what is, strictly speaking, a mistaken basis. It is said thatreferences within the definition stating that ‘criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic are sufficient to ensure freedom of speech (emphasis added).

    In fact, the IHRA Definition does not contain this statement. It appears within the ‘illustrations’ designed to guide the IHRA in its work. Nevertheless, the intention is clear: the Government takes the view that the Select Committee’s caveats are unnecessary because it is already clear from the IHRA Definition and the illustrations that it is not anti-Semitic to criticise the Government of Israel, or to hold that Government to the same standards as other democracies ‘without additional evidence to suggest anti-Semitic intent’. This view is reflected in the letter sent by the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Jo Johnson MP, to Universities UK on 13 February 2017 (‘the Minister’s Letter’) in which, after referring to the IHRA Definition he points out that it ‘gives examples of the kind of behaviours, which depending on the circumstances, could constituteanti-Semitism’ (my emphasis). In other words, the Minister accepts that the ‘examples’ given may not, of themselves, be of anti-Semitic behaviour but that ‘anti-Semitic intent’ also has to be demonstrated.

  3. In short, the Government’s decision to ‘adopt’ the IHRA Definition does not, of itself, have any immediate or direct legal consequences. It will only have such consequences if, following the Government, public bodies also decide to ‘adopt’ the definition and then seek to apply it in practice. I will now turn to the question as to how the definition should be applied by public


  1. A public authority such as, for example, a university or a local authority is free to decide whether or not to adopt the IHRA Definition as part of its own anti-racism policies. It is noteworthy that, in the Minister’s Letter, it is not suggested that Universities are under any obligation to ‘adopt’ the IHRA Definition. It is simply suggested that the definition is ‘disseminated’. If a public authority does decide to ‘adopt’ the definition, then it must interpret it in a way which is consistent with its statutory obligations. I would draw attention to two such obligations, one general and one specific to ‘universities, polytechnics and colleges’.
  2. First, there is the general obligation. Public authorities cannot lawfully act in a manner which is inconsistent with rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (‘the Convention’).[11] This means that, for example, a public authority cannot interfere with freedom of expression unless this is justified under Article 10(2) of the Convention or with freedom of assembly unless this is justified under Article 11(2). Such justifications must be ‘convincingly established’. It is, of course, fundamental that freedom of expression ‘is applicable not only to ‘information’ or ‘ideas’ that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that ‘offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population.’[12] However public authorities are likely to be justified in restricting or prohibiting statements or demonstrations which meet the strict test of being ‘a direct or indirect call for violence or as a justification of violence, hatred or intolerance’.[13] Speech which is incompatible with Convention values, such as Holocaust denial or justification of pro-Nazi policies is outside the protection of Article 10.[14]
  3. In addition to the ‘negative obligation’ on public authorities not to interfere with freedom of expression unless such interference is justified under Article 10(2) of the Convention, they are also under a ‘positive obligation’to create a favourable environment for participation in public debates for all concerned, allowing them to express their opinions and ideas without fear, even if these opinions and ideas are contrary to those defended by the official authorities or by a large part of public opinion, or even if those opinions and ideas are irritating or offensive to the public.[15]
  1. The Court of Human Rights has not sought to provide a general definition of antisemitism. However, the recent case of CICAD v Switzerland[16] provides a useful indication of its likely approach to the IHRA Definition. The applicant in that case, CICAD, was an NGO which campaigned against antisemitism. An article in its newsletter had condemned an academic for using anti-Semitic language. He had edited a book entitled Israel et l’autre and had written a Preface which contained the following passages:By becoming very consciously the Jewish state, Israel brings together on its shoulders the weight of all these questions which explicate the basic Jewish question. (…) The identification of Israel with Judaism means that all political, diplomatic, military activity is considered as an examination of Judaism: let us see how (…). Under these conditions, it is perfectly futile to consider that Israel is a State like any other: its hands are bound by the definition it has set itself. When Israel is exposed on the international scene, it is Judaism that is exposed at the same time.

    In the field of politics too, there are few such impressive examples of the active presence, at all levels, of a strong and interventionist state like the State of Israel, A state which assumes so completely the morality of ‘dirty hands’ (in particular the policy of closure of territories, destruction of civilians’ houses, targeted assassinations of alleged terrorist leaders) in the interests of the security of its citizens.

    CICAD’s newsletter condemned these arguments as anti-Semitic. The academic brought a successful civil action in the Swiss Courts. CICAD was ordered to remove the article, publish the court’s judgment and pay costs. Its complaint that this ruling was a breach of its Article 10 rights was dismissed by the Court of Human Rights. The domestic court had rejected the argument of CICAD that the academic’s comments were within the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism. The Court of Human Rights found no basis for disturbing that conclusion. Although it did not directly engage with the merits of the EUMC Working Definition it is plain from the Court’s reasoning that it did not accept that comments of the type made by the academic could properly be characterized as anti-Semitic.

  1. Secondly, in the case of universities, polytechnics and colleges there is a specific statutory ‘duty to ensure freedom of speech’[17]expressed in the widest terms. Such institutions are under a duty totake such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees… and visiting speakers.[18]

    They must ensure, insofar as is reasonably practicable, that no individual is denied use of their premises on any ground connected with ‘the beliefs or views of that individual’. The only basis on which the duty to ensure freedom of expression can be overridden is if what a visiting speaker is likely to say is not ‘within the law’ or it is not ‘reasonably practicable’ to allow use of university premises.

  1. The effect of the general obligation on a public authority to act compatibly with the Convention is that, if it adopts the IHRA Definition, it would have to take active steps to ensure that it was applied in a way which was consistent with Article 10. It would, for example, be lawfully entitled to prohibit conduct which incited hatred or intolerance against Jews. It would not be lawfully entitled to prohibit conduct on the sole basis that supporters of the State of Israel found it upsetting or offensive.
  2. A number of the ‘contemporary examples’ of antisemitism in public life included in the IHRA Decision might, if read literally, appear to condemn as anti-Semitic conduct which does not constitute or manifest hatred or intolerance against Jews. As I have already discussed, those examples must be read in the light of the definition itself and can only properly be regarded as anti-Semitic if they ‘manifest a hatred against Jews’. This was recognized by the Select Committee when it suggested that criticism of the Government of Israel, is not anti-Semitic ‘without additional evidence to suggest anti-Semitic intent’. The Government expressed the view that this qualification was already present in the IHRA Definition so that no express caveat was needed. The position is, however, unclear and public authorities should take steps to ensure that freedom of expression and assembly are properly protected by ensuring that unpopular but lawful views can be put forward at meetings or demonstrations.
  3. In my view any public authority which sought to apply the IHRA Definition to decisions concerning the prohibition or sanctioning of activity which was critical of the State or Government of Israel would be acting unlawfully if it did not require such activity also to manifest or incite hatred or intolerance towards Jews. If an authority applied the IHRA Definition without such a requirement it would be in breach of Article 10 of the Convention and would, therefore, be acting unlawfully under domestic law in the United Kingdom.
  4. A number of examples of conduct which have been criticised as anti-Semitic have been suggested in various publications. These include:
  • Describing Israel as a state enacting policies of apartheid.
  • Describing Israel as a state practising settler colonialism.
  • Describing the establishment of the State of Israel and the actions associated with its establishment, as illegal or illegitimate.
  • Campaigning for policies of boycott divestment or sanctions against Israel, Israeli companies or international companies complicit in violation of Palestinian human rights (unless the campaigner was also calling for similar actions against other states).
  • Stating that the State of Israel and its defenders ‘use’ the Holocaust to chill debate on Israel’s own behaviour towards Palestinians.

In my view, none of these statements or activities could, of themselves, be properly described as anti-Semitic. I do not think that any of them, without more (that is, without evidence of ‘hatred towards Jews’), fall within the terms of the IHRA Definition. If an event were to be banned by a university or other public authority on the grounds that such views were being expressed by the organisers or by speakers on a panel then, without more, such a ban would in my view be unlawful.

  1. The position would, of course, be very different if the organisers or speakers at an event where such views were expressed were also inciting hatred or intolerance towards Jews by, for example, seeking to justify the killing of Jews in the name of radical Islam or claiming that the Holocaust had been invented or exaggerated by the State of Israel. Such statements would be the ‘additional evidence’ referred to in the Select Committee’s suggested ‘caveats’ and would then be likely to justify prohibition or sanction.
  2. The starting point should be that events which seek to protest against the actions of the State of Israel or the treatment of Palestinians are lawful expressions of political opinion. There is no justification in law for treating such events any differently from any other political protests. Any policy which a public authority adopts for the regulation of political meetings or protests should be applied consistently to all events and protests. In particular, the organisers of events of the kind mentioned should not be required to justify them or prove that they are not motivated by antisemitism and should not be subject to special restrictions or conditions. In the absence of positive evidence of antisemitism such restrictions or conditions would be unlawful.



  1. In summary, therefore, it is my view that:

a.  The IHRA ‘non-legally binding working definition’ of antisemitism is unclear and confusing and should be used with caution.

b.  The ‘examples’ accompanying the IHRA Definition should be understood in the light of the definition and it should be understood that the conduct listed is only anti-Semitic if it manifests hatred towards Jews.

c.  The Government’s ‘adoption’ of the IHRA Definition has no legal status or effect and, in particular, does not require public authorities to adopt this definition as part of their anti-racism policies.

d.  Any public authority which does adopt the IHRA Definition must interpret it in a way which is consistent with its own statutory obligations, particularly its obligation not to act in a matter inconsistent with the Article 10 right to freedom of expression. Article 10 does not permit the prohibition or sanctioning of speech unless it can be seen as a direct or indirect call for or justification of violence, hatred or intolerance. The fact that speech is offensive to a particular group is not, of itself, a proper ground for prohibition or sanction. The IHRA Definition should not be adopted without careful additional guidance on these issues.

e.  Public authorities are under a positive obligation to protect freedom of speech. In the case of universities and colleges this is an express statutory obligation but Article 10 requires other public authorities to take steps to ensure that everyone is permitted to participate in public debates, even if their opinions and ideas are offensive or irritating to the public or a section of it.

f.  Properly understood in its own terms the IHRA Definition does not mean that activities such as describing Israel as a state enacting policies of apartheid, as practicing settler colonialism or calling for policies of boycott divestment or sanctions against Israel can properly be characterized as anti-Semitic. A public authority which sought to apply the IHRA Definition to prohibit or sanction such activities would be acting unlawfully.


[1]   Note added on 22 February 2019 by OC4P – Oban Concern for Palestine:
The Independent review … consultation is now closed; relevant documents published by Lord Bracadale on 31 May 2018 can be found here:

[2]   Note added on 22 February 2019 by OC4P – Oban Concern for Palestine:
This submission is undated, and was received on 21 February 2019 by e-mail from Scottish Friends of Palestine. The PDF document can also be found online by searching for the Stephen Sedley quotation below (see note 4).
Moreover, due to several notes being added by OC4P, the numbering of notes below is different from that in the original document.

[3]   Legal review by Hugh Tomlinson QC, Matrix Chambers, 8 March 2017:

[4]   Stephen Sedley: ‘Defining Anti-Semitism’, London Review of Books,Vol. 39, No. 9, 4 May 2017:

[5]   see previous note

[6]   The IHRA Definition was broadly based on the working definition of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (‘EUMC’). The EUMC Definition has proved controversial, see, for example, the report of Professor David Feldman: Sub report for the Parliamentary Committee Against Antisemitism (1 January 2015).

[7]   Antisemitism in the UK, para 24

[8]   Government Response to Home Affairs Committee Report, Anti-Semitism in the UK, CM 9386

[9]   That is, the EUMC Definition, see note 1 above

[10]  This requirement of evidence of subjective intent is appears to be the Select Committee was seeking to achieve through the additional caveats.

[11]  See, HRA section 6(1).

[12]  This formulation first appears in Handyside v United Kingdom (1976) 1 EHRR 737 [49] and has been repeated in numerous subsequent judgments

[13]  See, Perinçek v Switzerland (2016) 63 EHRR 6 [206] and the cases cited there

[14]  As a result of Article 17 of the Convention, see Ivanov v Russia, Decision of 20 February 2007

[15]  Dink v Turkey Judgment of 14 September 2010 (in French only) [137]

[16]  Judgment of 6 June 2016 (in French only).

[17]  See Education Act 1986, section 43

[18]  Ibid, section 43(1).

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Sorry, Palestine – we’re closing down

For over half a century, Israel has illegally occupied the Palestinian territory of East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Moreover, in violation of international law, Israel in 1980 illegally annexed East Jerusalem with the aim of taking complete control of the city. Due to Israel’s ongoing illegal occupation, the international community has committed to a UN resolution not to establish diplomatic embassies in Jerusalem.

The above notwithstanding, and with deep regret, Oban Concern for Palestine, founded in or around 2006, is now closing down due to loss of members and a severe lack of active interest & participation. Individual members will, of course, continue to support the Palestinian people.

Thank you for your support in the past!

A recent meeting decided to donate the funds remaining in our bank account to MAP – Medical Aid for Palestinians. This donation is underway.

Finally, here is a list of organisations you can join or support:–

Balfour Project – Peace, Justice and Equal Rights in Palestine/Israel

“Our Vision: Lasting peace with justice, security and equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis alike.
“Our Mission: Acknowledging Britain’s historic and continuing responsibilities and advocacy to advance equal rights for all in Palestine/Israel, regardless of race or creed.”

BDS – Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions

“Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality.
“BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity.”

BDS – Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

“Freedom Justice Equality”

EAPPI – Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel

“Enthusiastic, caring, and dedicated. A vision of justice and peace in Palestine and Israel brings internationals human rights monitors to witness life under occupation and go home to promote change.”

MAP – Medical Aid for Palestinians

MAP work “for the health and dignity of Palestinians living under occupation and as refugees. We provide immediate medical aid to those in great need, while also developing local capacity and skills to ensure the long-term development of the Palestinian healthcare system.”

SPSC – Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign

“Building Effective Solidarity”

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Mapping Palestine: An Online Exhibition, 5th July 2021 19hrs BST

This is an invitation to attend this online launch, via our friends at The Balfour Project:

The Balfour Project is launching its first ever virtual art exhibition exploring the theme of mapping in order to raise awareness of the ongoing occupation and press the British Government to take responsibility for their historic role. This is one of this year’s fellowship projects, and was planned and coordinated by our fellows Rosie Richards and Francesca Vawdrey.

When asked why they chose to focus on the theme of mapping, they explained that the majority of Britons today are unaware of Britain’s colonial role in Palestine and its impact on the current reality. 

“We believe that this is one of the key reasons why people do not engage more with this issue. We want to raise awareness of the ongoing occupation in order to press the British Government to take responsibility for their historic role in the region. We are using art to articulate the struggle for human rights because it is an accessible format through which the British public can engage.

“This theme has an explicit link to British colonialism and the way in which the Palestinian territory has been contested and divided. In the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, Britain and France secretly agreed to carve up the Ottoman Empire without the consent of its indigenous peoples. The Agreement delineated arbitrary borders with no regard to ethnic and religious groups. 

“Maps define and concretise territory and are inherently political and often contested. They create worlds and shape reality, legitimise and delegitimise populations. The fact that there is no appearance of Palestine on the world map equates to denial of Palestinian existence and results in lack of awareness around the world of Palestine, its traditions and its history.”

The proceeds from this event will go to the artists who contributed their work to it.

Watch our fellows Rosie and Francesca explain about the project, and why was it shifted from a joint Israeli-Palestinian to a Palestinian exhibition:

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Save the Date: 27/10/2020, 10-18GMT: Balfour Project Conference on Jerusalem

Hi there

This online conference organised by the Balfour Project may interest you – it’s free but please consider a donation to keep the Project going.

Jerusalem: From Past Divisions to a Shared Future?

For hundreds of millions of followers of the three Abrahamic faiths around the world Jerusalem is a sacred city. Being able to access freely its holy places is for them of primordial importance. And, for Palestinians, East Jerusalem must be the capital of their future state. Putting the city back on the table is the purpose of this major conference. Inclusive, not exclusive, solutions will be sought by a range of distinguished expert speakers.

Tuesday, 27 October 2020, 10am-6pm

Click here to reserve your place and see details of the event, including the Conference Schedule and List of Speakers.

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Tue 4 Aug 2020, 6-c7pm UK time: zoom event with guest speaker, Chair of Balfour Project, Sir Vincent Fean

***Note for your diaries***

Chair of Balfour Project, Sir Vincent Fean, guest speaker

“Strengthening Friendship with Palestine, Countering Annexation”

Tue 4 Aug 2020, 6-c7pm (zoom)

HAFSA (Hanwell Friends of Sabastíya) are delighted to welcome guest speaker Sir Vincent Fean to their next HAFSA Zoom meeting on Tuesday, August 4th at 6pm.

Sir Vincent served as Consul General in Jerusalem between 2010-2014 and is the patron of Britain Palestine Friendship and Twinning Network and chair of the Balfour Project.

His talk, “Strengthening Friendship with Palestine, Countering Annexation”, will be followed by Q&A. We plan to finish by 7pm.

Please add this event to your diary for Tuesday August 4th at 6 pm and click here to register. HAFSA will send you a confirmation email with the details to join the meeting. You will only be able to join the meeting if you have registered in advance. HAFSA will send a reminder the day before the event.

HAFSA (Hanwell Friends of Sabastíya) has been supporting the people of Sabastiya in Palestine since 2010. To learn more about them, please visit If you are not already a member then why not join?

HAFSA look forward to seeing you in just a couple of weeks!

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Cultural Leaders arrested in East Jerusalem

Oban Concern for Palestine joins PalMusic UK, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) and other groups in condemning the actions of the Israeli state:

Early Wednesday morning, 22 July 2020, Israeli forces arrested three cultural leaders of East Jerusalem, and confiscated computers and documents on transparently trumped-up pretexts.

Rania Elias, director of the Yabous cultural centre, and Suhail Khoury, director of the Edward Said National Conservatory for Music, were released on the same day. As far as we have been able to ascertain, however, Dawoud al-Ghoul, head of the Jerusalem Arts Network, remains in custody at the time of writing.

For more details, please see this post at IMEMC, the International Middle East Media Centre.

This attack on Palestinian national identity and culture in East Jerusalem and beyond by the Israeli state’s armed occupation forces is testimony to the powerful contribution that Palestinian culture makes to rooting the Palestinian people to their land. It is indicative of the power of culture and heritage in the face of Israeli lethal aggression, daily violence and racism.

We urge international actors to raise with Israeli authorities the issue of the arrests, and the broader context of repression of Palestinian civic space in Jerusalem.


(with thanks for the original alert via Scottish Friends of Palestine)

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“Toppling Balfour”, online live-video talk by Sarah Helm, Thu 23 July 2020, 3pm UK/BST

The Balfour Project invites you to register here:

Live-video talk by Sarah Helm

Thursday, 23 July 2020, 3pm UK/BST

Sarah Helm, former Middle East correspondent for The Independent, asks how far the roots of today’s tragedy in Palestine and Israel lie in the arrogance and racism of British imperialism. Could Balfour’s experiment have been reversed – at any point during the British mandate?

Please register here, now:

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Tomorrow, 3pm BST: Balfour Project webinar: “The UN, Britain, Palestine/Israel, 1947-present”

Apologies for late alert! Please sign up for this important Balfour Project webinar, tomorrow Friday, 5 June 2020, 15:00 BST:

The UN, Britain and Palestine/Israel – 1947 to Present Day

Andrew Whitley is founder and executive director of Geo-Political Advisory Services (GPAS), a UK-based consultancy that works on the alleviation of armed conflict in the Middle East and Asia.
“[Andrew] was previously Policy Director and interim Chief Executive of The Elders, the organisation of global figures founded by Nelson Mandela. Before joining The Elders in London, in January 2011, Andrew worked for four decades around the world, first as a journalist with the BBC and Financial Times and later, from 1995 to 2010, with the United Nations. From 1990 to 1994 he was the founding director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, then known as Middle East Watch.
At the UN, Andrew successively held senior posts at UNCTAD (the UN Conference on Trade and Development), the Department of Peace-Keeping Operations – in UN-administered East Timor and Kosovo – and at UNRWA, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. A specialist in the Middle East, he has lived twice in Iran and twice in Israel and Palestine.
The current work of GPAS is focused on Yemen as well as relations between Iran and its western neighbours.
Andrew holds Bachelors’ and Masters’ degrees in History from St Catharine’s College, Cambridge.”

Please register here, now. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Feel also free to forward this link to trusted friends:

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Eyewitness in Oban, Sunday, 23 February 2020, 18:30–20:30 (6:30–8:30pm)

Eyewitness in Oban:
Stories from the West Bank & Israel

Come and hear first-hand from EA*) John Payne,  recently returned from the West Bank.

• What is daily life under Israeli occupation really like?
• What is the Israeli Peace Movement doing?
• What can we do to further a Just Peace in Israel-occupied Palestine?

St. John’s Cathedral, Oban
Undercroft, Lindsay Room

Sunday, 23 February 2020, 6:30–8:30pm


Please bring a small dish of food to share. Also, your donation to defray costs will be much appreciated, any surplus donations will go to EAPPI:

*) EA: Ecumenical Accompanier


Meeting organised by OC4P • Oban Concern for Palestine
07747 300 062 •


Thank you for making a regular donation to Oban Concern for Palestine
RBS Oban Branch • s/c 83-26-04 • acct 0071 4446
and/or to
For details, please call 020 7663 1144 or email

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The U.S. so-called “Peace Plan” is DOA–”dead on arrival”. Here’s why:

We’re sharing this important message recently received from Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) *):

“Trump’s not announcing any ‘peace plan'”

The “so-called ‘peace plan,’ crafted in large part by [DT’s] unqualified son-in-law and already rejected by Palestinians [won’t work]. We have every reason to expect it will be more of the same: one-sided support for Israeli control and illegal annexation.

“Both President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu are ratcheting up their political campaigns after being impeached and indicted, and this plan is little more than a political stunt; it’s expected to cater to Trump’s evangelical Christian base and the extremist Israeli settler movement. In essence, like the Trump administration itself, the plan will likely be dishonest, inhumane, and unjust.

“Here’s a reminder of what Trump’s done so far:

[OC4P transcript of image below, headed “TRUMP’S DISASTER SO FAR IN ISRAEL/PALESTINE”:

  1. Endorsed Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem & moved the U.S. embassy there
  2. “Recognized” Israeli ownership of the Syrian Golan Heights
  3. Cut UN aid to Palestinian refugees
  4. Reversed U.S. policy deeming Israeli settlements illegal
  5. Issued an executive order to suppress [U.S.] student activism for Palestinian rights



“Trump has taken what was already an Israel-centric foreign policy to an extreme: the United States has reversed its position and contradicted international law on the illegality of Israeli settlements, the annexation of the Golan Heights, and the status of Jerusalem, while cutting massive amounts of humanitarian aid to Palestinians. It’s absurd to think that he has any credibility or interest in true peace.

“Palestinian freedom isn’t for Trump to give away or for Netanyahu to steal.

“Whatever comes at us today, we know that no peace can come without justice for Palestinians, and that means building and supporting a broad-based effort that allows for self-determination and equality. JVP commits to working towards this future for all in Israel/Palestine.

“[Use this link to ] share [the] image today. In times like these, it’s crucial that people get information they won’t get from mainstream media.”


JVP is a U.S. national membership organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for the justice, equality, and dignity of all the people of Israel/Palestine.

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Tue 17 Sep 2019: Oban Phoenix Cinema & OC4P present

Mark Thomas

Documentary by renowned British satirist, Mark Thomas, about the Apartheid Wall between Israel and Palestine.

Oban Phoenix Cinema,
Tuesday, 17 September 2019, 6pm

Entry by donation*)

“Good fences make good neighbours,
but what about bad ones?”

“The Israeli separation barrier is probably the most notorious divider of land since the Berlin Wall. It has been declared illegal under international law and its impact on life in the West Bank has been enormous.

“Political satirist Mark Thomas decided that the only way to really get to grips with the barrier was to use it as a route map. That is, to walk the entire length of the wall with little more in his armoury than Kendal Mint Cake and a box of blister plasters.

“In the course of his epic ramble Mark was tear-gassed, stoned, sunburned, rained and hailed on. He even lost the wall a couple of times. Thankfully, he was also welcomed and looked after by Israelis and Palestinians – from farmers and soldiers to smugglers and zookeepers – and gained a unique insight into the real Middle East in all its entrenched, yet
life-affirming glory.

“And all without hardly ever getting arrested!”


*) Donations to Oban Concern for Palestine to cover costs.
Any excess donations will be donated to MAP – Medical Aid for Palestinians.

RBS Oban Branch • s/c 83-26-04 • acct 0071 4446 • Oban Concern for Palestine (OC4P)




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