Scottish court charges anti-Israel activists with 'racial' harassment
Comes after 4 members of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign interrupt J'lem String Quartet concert by shouting abuse.
By JONNY PAUL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENTPublished: MARCH 4, 2009 22:20Advertisement
A group of anti-Israel activists who disrupted a concert by the Jerusalem String Quartet in Scotland last August have been charged by a Scottish court with racially aggravated harassment.
At a the performance, in Edinburgh's Queen Hall on August 29, four members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) - a radical offshoot of the London-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign fringe group - interrupted the concert by shouting abuse at the musicians and audience.
It was claimed that the activists caused distress to both the orchestra and members of the audience.
The protesters had originally been charged with disturbing the peace, but at the Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Monday those charges were dropped in favor of the more serious charge of "racially motivated conduct."
Speaking to the Edinburgh Evening News, Sofia Macleod, secretary of the SPSC and one of those charged, said: "We think it's totally ridiculous. Our actions and campaigning are based on international human rights. We take the allegations seriously, but there is no question whatsoever that any of our actions are racist in any way."
She added that the Palestine solidarity movement was "an anti-racist movement based on anti-racism," a claim which was questioned by the Fair Play Campaign Group (FPCG), a community organization that coordinates activity against boycotts of Israel and other anti-Zionist campaigns.
"This is a common but obviously false argument - firstly the claim that the whole Palestine solidarity movement is 'anti-racist.' This is transparently not true; it has its share of outright racists and anti-Semites, a fact acknowledged even by many anti-Israel activists. Simply being a member of a pro-Palestinian group doesn't automatically make someone an 'anti-racist,'" an FPCG spokesman said.
"Now imagine someone wants to boycott all Israelis. So this person goes to a performance of an Israeli music group, shouts insults at the performers and generally disrupts the performance. Perhaps they accuse the performers of being racists or murderers because they're Israeli. Whether that person is a racist or an anti-racist, it certainly seems like they've committed racially aggravated harassment," the FPCG spokesman added.
In a statement put out by the group, SPSC chairman Mick Napier, who is also due to appear in court at a later date, said, "We thank the court for providing us with the forum to explain that opposition to the violent, racist state of Israel is motivated by a commitment to universal human rights. We support the Palestinian people faced with Zionist savagery, and we are contemptuous of attempts to smear such a struggle for justice with the taint of racism. I hope these charges are not quietly dropped and we will have the opportunity to meet our critics in open court."
In December, the SPSC fabricated a story that a number of Scottish companies and institutions had terminated contracts with an Israeli mineral water supplier. The allegations proved unfounded. In January, the group staged a Holocaust Memorial Day event with a Hamas representative.
Next week, another anti-Israel protester will appear in City of London Magistrate's Court charged with a public order offense. Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi was arrested at the Israel parade in central London last June for a disturbance at the event celebrating Israel's 60th anniversary.
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