Only days after the SNP’s fourth consecutive victory in the Scottish parliamentary elections, the current crisis in Israel popped up in First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s news feed. Predictably, the Scottish Nationalist leader was quick to conflate the complex real estate ownership issues in Sheikh Jarrah / Shimon HaNatziv with rioting and violence on the Temple Mount, accusing the Israeli government of “attacking” mosques (the Israeli police were there to defend people’s rights to worship freely and safely during Ramadan, as well as prevent attacks on Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall directly below). While her justice minister, Humza Yousaf condemned the “forced evictions taking place in Sheikh Jarrah.”
Someone clearly failed to tell the Scottish Government that the Israeli Supreme Court, Arab justice included, has not yet ruled on the historical ownership of the concerned properties in Jerusalem, lawfully purchased by two Jewish organisations in the late nineteenth century and later seized under the Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem. The case has dragged on for years in the Israeli courts, and the reason for the evictions is due to the tenants never having paid rent on property given to them by the Jordanian “Custodian of Enemy Property.”
The rush to inaccurate judgement of Israel is a familiar story, one that British Jews have been suffering under for decades. But unlike in England, where Corbynism has—at least for now—been routed from the mainstream, Scottish independence could very well usher in Corbynism on a national scale.
The seriousness of the situation facing Scottish Jews and the pro-Israel community north of the Tweed has come into sharper focus in this election. Nicola Sturgeon represents Glasgow Southside, my former home, and one of the most diverse constituencies in Scotland. A fact which is often highlighted by the first minister, although the true diversity of Glasgow Southside also includes the Jewish community. The area is home to Queen’s Park Shul, and Glasgow’s Jews made their impact felt across the southside, from Govan to Langside, leaving a much forgotten legacy behind.
The constituency is also home to Scottish Labour’s first Muslim leader, Anas Sarwar, who stood directly against Nicola Sturgeon for the seat. Although the SNP leader beat the Labour leader almost 2-1, the main battlefield of Scottish politics are now firmly drawn in the demographics of Glasgow’s Southside constituency.
Not far down the road in Eastwood, Scotland’s most Jewish constituency, was once home to Scottish politics’ few defenders of Israel. Former Labour MP Jim Murphy won the Westminster version seat under New Labour and chaired Labour Friends of Israel. Then In the Scottish Parliament by Ken McIntosh who defended not only Israel but the Jewish community against Corbynist antisemitic tendencies in Labour north of the border.
In this election Eastwood was won by the Conservative’s Jackson Carlaw, a staunch Israel defender and former leader of what is the official opposition to the SNP in Holyrood. The danger of pro-Israel opinions becoming synonymous with only one political party has been worrying both Democrats and Republicans in the United States for years, and those same fears have smashed into Scottish politics like a Trump motorcade on its way to Turnberry.
Certainly the other parties in Holyrood, namely the Scottish Greens, have elected to take an even more unbalanced and blatantly pro-Hamas view of Israel and Palestine. Ross Greer, the Greens’ external affairs spokesman has often tweeted about Israeli “ethnic cleansing” and was instrumental in passing a Green motion de-listing Hamas as a terror group and cementing BDS as the central plank of Green foreign policy.
The Greens now hold the balance of power in the Scottish Parliament. The SNP won 64 seats, one shy of an outright majority, and will be forced to rely on their pro-independence allies in the coming fight with Boris Johnson for a second Scottish independence referendum. Most concerning for Scotland’s Jews is the spectre of an independent Scotland led by Nicola Sturgeon, hounded by Hamas-supporting Ross Greer in parliament, and stalked by Anas Sarwar on the streets of Glasgow Southside. While the Scottish Conservatives, who will realistically never form the largest party in parliament, are the lone voice calling for simple balance.
Like the forgotten Queen’s Park Synagogue, Scottish Jews are being written out of the country’s political future. An independent Holyrood with power over foreign policy would be five minutes away from debating a national BDS law in light of the recent violence. And what comes after a boycott? In the next round of inevitable provocations and Hamas-led terror attacks, how much further will Scotland’s political leaders go in outdoing each other with their attacks on Israel? Scotland’s Jewish community have much to fear in finding out that answer.