University student convicted for desecrating flag

St. Andrews expels, suspends two students who called Israel "terrorist, Nazi state" and also abused an Israeli flag belonging to a Jewish student.

August 26, 2011 04:53
2 minute read.
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LONDON – A student at a Scottish university was convicted this week by a Scottish court for a racist breach of the peace for abusing an Israeli flag belonging to a Jewish student, who said he felt “violated and devastated” by the incident.

The incident occurred at St. Andrews University in Fife in March, when students Samuel Colchester and Paul Donnachie entered the dorm room of Chanan Reitblat, a Yeshiva University student who was at the university for a semester, and rubbed their hands on their genitals before wiping them on Reitblat’s Israeli flag.

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Reitblat, who has since returned to the US, said that after the flag incident the two students, who are both associated with the extremist group Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, went on an hour-long rant in the hall about how Jews have no claim to Israel, and accused it of being a terrorist, Nazi state.

“They were in my room for just a few minutes. It happened very fast. Down the stairs I could hear them shouting ‘Nazi, fascist and terrorist!’ I was trying to collect my thoughts. I was deeply disturbed, humiliated, shocked and violated,” Reitblat said.

“It caused me a lot of anxiety. I feared for my safety. I couldn’t eat and I couldn’t sleep, so I couldn’t study."

 He said the next day he saw messages on Facebook from Donnachie, including one saying there was a Zionist in his hall,” he added.

On Wednesday, Donnachie was found guilty by the court of racial abuse and was expelled by the university.

Colchester was suspended for a year, pending further investigation and a court hearing that will take place next month.

Presiding over the case, Sheriff Charlie Macnair, said that Donnachie had broken the law specifically because of his anti-Israel abuse.

“This flag was his personal property. I consider that your behavior did evince malice towards Mr. Reitblat because of his presumed membership of Israel,” Macnair said. “I’m satisfied that you said Israel was a terrorist state and the flag was a terrorist symbol and I also hold that you said that Mr. Reitblat was a terrorist.”

The conviction was welcomed by the Community Security Trust, a charity that provides security for the community and monitors anti-Semitism.

“The trial and conviction are welcome, because Jewish students – like all students – must be able to express their beliefs free from the fear of intimidation or threats. In this case, the court clearly decided that Donnachie’s actions transgressed the boundaries of legitimate expression, and crossed over into criminality,” the organization said on Wednesday.

Calling Reitblat a “Zionist ultra,” the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign accused the judge of a politically-driven verdict which “violated every canon of fairness and balance.”

The fringe group is now organizing a protest outside the Fife court next month, when Colchester will learn his fate.

“The logic of Sheriff Macnair’s ruling would be that criticism of the State of Israel will be inhibited on numerous occasions within earshot of Zionist-Jewish supporters of Israeli ethnic cleansing and apartheid on the grounds that they are members of Israel.

“We call on supporters of Palestinian rights, anti-racists, and supporters of free speech to assemble outside Cupar Sheriff Court on Tuesday, September 13 at 9 support Paul Donnachie.

An injury to one is an injury to all,” the group said.

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