Danielle Bett
Danielle Bett

In Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Jewish community has a friend

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar in the Garden Lobby at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Picture date: Tuesday March 2, 2021.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar in the Garden Lobby at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Picture date: Tuesday March 2, 2021.

Over the past few years, Anas Sarwar MSP has become a well-known name to Jewish communal leaders and organisations in Scotland, thanks to his consistent and active allyship in the fight against antisemitism. He’s done so by reaching out, working proactively with our community, and challenging antisemitism in his own party, politics, and society.

As such, I’d like to share some of the fantastic work he’s done with us in Scotland.

In Scottish politics, Anas has been consistently vocal in our ongoing fight against anti Jewish racism. Firstly, in calling out his own party, and standing shoulder to shoulder with our community during the Labour antisemitism crisis. He did so by speaking on matters such as the adoption of IHRA, the international definition of antisemitism, and the need for strong processes to tackle antisemitism complaints, as well as publicly condemning anti-Jewish hate. But also, when it has come to local and national issues from antisemitism in schools, the media, or even in Scottish football – Anas is almost always guaranteed to uplift Jewish voices. Often, this has been at his own expense. Being outspoken on racism tends to invite attacks, conspiracies, and more racism – especially when it’s minorities who speak.

During my time working at the Jewish Leadership Council, the first time I was welcomed to speak about antisemitism at the Scottish parliament, it was by Anas at the Cross Party Group on Islamophobia. He has demonstrated, again and again, his understanding that anti racism cannot be fought on a single front or by a single group. More importantly, that being a true ally means listening, speaking out and acting where possible.

Anas has also been a vocal critic of the government of Israel. To my mind, this is a perfect example of how you can be a firm critic of Israeli government policy without expressing hatred against Jews or Israelis. How? Simple – listen to those people who are impacted by your words.

The fight against hate shouldn’t be left to minorities. Nonetheless, I’m grateful for the many opportunities I have had to learn about anti Muslim hatred – through our work together, the cross party group, and conversations in general.

I hope that this becomes a lesson to us all on the importance of sticking your head above the parapet, of standing up to hate, and of the progress that we can bring if we choose to work together.

About the Author
Danielle is Scottish Israeli, and has a degree in International Relations and Spanish from St Andrews University. She currently works with and for the Jewish community in Scotland.
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