Scottish parliament to go ahead with Israel exhibition

Refuses to heed calls to cancel event that looks at Israel’s contribution to medicine, science and technology.

By JONNY PAUL
April 8, 2010 05:45
3 minute read.
Scottish Parliament

Scottish Parliament 58. (photo credit: .)

LONDON – The Scottish Parliament has refused to heed calls to cancel an exhibition it is hosting later this month that looks at Israel’s contribution to medicine, science and technology.

Organized by the Scottish Friends of Israel, and sponsored by Labor MSP Ken MacIntosh, the exhibition is non-political and will run in the Scottish Parliament from April 27-29.

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“The exhibition comprises a series of pictures and narratives which presents a view of Israel beyond the conflict and focuses on what could be achieved, with peace, for Israel and her immediate neighbors, something that gets little or no acknowledgement in the UK media in general and Scottish media in particular,” said Stanley Grossman from Scottish Friends of Israel.

“I’m very conscious that portrayal of Israel is often damaging and one-sided,” he said. “When violence and tension increases in Middle East it tends to have an effect in this country thus for many reasons I was more than happy to sponsor the exhibition,” MacIntosh said.

The MSP said he wanted to counter the damaging rhetoric and acknowledge the contribution Israel has made.

“We have a lot of negative views on Israel that are not helpful, many are poisonous and damaging. Rather than responding to the rhetoric, I thought it would be better to show positive side of Israel and acknowledge the huge contribution it has made.

“I hope will the exhibition will help redress the balance, counter the negative and stereotype notions of Israel and broaden the debate,” MacIntosh said.

Branding it a “shameless PR exercise,” radical fringe group Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) member Sofiah MacLeod initiated a petition on the parliament’s Web site calling for the exhibition to be cancelled.

“Hosting this exhibition in the Scottish Parliament potentially implicates all of us in a whitewashing of Israeli crimes. Cancellation will send a clear message that Scots oppose the heinous crimes of Israel,” she said.

MacLeod, who is also a member of the parliament’s Palestine cross-party group, is facing a charge of “racially aggravated conduct” with four other SPSC activists after disrupting a concert by the Jerusalem Quartet at the Edinburgh Festival in 2008. Judgement will be made on Thursday morning.

At press time, the petition had attracted 945 signatures since its launch on March 22.

A group of Scottish doctors have signed an open letter also calling for it to be cancelled.

Using the exact same text as the petition, Dr. Kaye Alston, Dr. Jock McDougal and Dr. Muhammad al-Ashqar from Edinburgh and Dr. Alan Mackinnon and Dr. Ali Syed from Glasgow are among the 12 signatories of the letter.

“Instead of seeking to mend the cracks on the road to peace, certain Scottish political factions and elements of the media appear to be more intent in singling out and vilifying Israel at every turn,” Grossman said. “That being so, it was considered appropriate to highlight contributions Israel has made to society and the world at large in the fields of medicine, science and technology in the short period of its existence.”

Parliament authorities have refused the demands for cancellation, stating that the exhibition is non-political and that MSPs are entitled to host exhibitions.

“Members are fully entitled to sponsor exhibitions in the parliament which have relevance to their parliamentary or constituency roles,” a Scottish Parliament spokesperson said.

“Ever since the Scottish Parliament was established back in 1999, there has been no shortage of anti-Israel sentiment,” Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw said. “That is why I tabled a parliamentary motion calling for politicians of all parties to be more responsible in what they say on the issue.

“I feel the time has come to move on, and that the parliament should begin to be a bit more measured and realistic about how it portrays this highly sensitive issue,” he added.

In January, the Scottish Parliament hosted an exhibition entitled “Gaza Now.” Organized by charity Edinburgh Direct Aid, and sponsored by Labor MSP Pauline McNeil, it contained photographs and testimonies of Gaza residents and casualties during Operation Cast Lead.

The exhibition caused controversy after an entry in the exhibition’s comments book called for Israel to be wiped off the earth.

Appearing alongside an array of messages of support for the Palestinian people, the comment, by someone calling themselves “Raza from Glasgow,” said: “Israel must be (and will be inshallah) wiped off from the Earth!”


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