Please write to organisations that support the Stand Up to Racism (SUTR) demo in Glasgow asking them to urge the organisers to tell COFIS (Confederation of Friends of Israel in Scotland) and its affiliates that they are not welcome on any anti-racist demonstration.
COFIS has joined or attempted to join each of the last two annual anti-racism marches organised in Glasgow by SUTR. SUTR Scotland has so far rejected all requests that it should tell Friends of Israel groups that they are not welcome on the march. COFIS and its affiliate, Glasgow Friends of Israel, say they intend to join the march this year (2019). We want SUTR Scotland to re-consider its decision to allow this.
The Friends of Israel groups operating in Scotland are pro-Israel lobby groups. They were not created and built by the Jewish community. On the contrary, they have relied heavily on Christian Zionists for their grassroots support. They are inspired and guided, directly of indirectly, by the Israeli government. They work to remove discussion of Israeli state racism from the political agenda. One of their key aims is to suppress BDS - a movement built on anti-racist principles and supported by anti-racists. They have no place in any anti-racist movement.
We are not asking for individuals to be thrown off the march. We are asking march organisers, and stewards on the day, to tell COFIS and its affiliates (eg Glasgow Friends of Israel) that their banners and flags are unwelcome and that they not welcome, as organisations, to participate in the march.
We in SACC have decided, with regret, that we will not support this year's "Stand Up To Racism" march and will not participate in it as an organisation. But we are not calling for others to boycott the march. That's a decision for organisations and individuals to weigh for themselves. We are asking organisations and individuals involved in the march to press SUTR to change its stance.
Reasons to keep COFIS, Glasgow Friends of Israel and other Friends of Israel groups off the march include:
- These groups support Israeli state racism and aim to suppress the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel – a movement that is founded on anti-racist principles and is supported by anti-racists. They organise actively against this key element of the anti-racist movement. This is incompatible with participation in an anti-racist march.
- They are inspired and guided by organisations linked to the Israeli government. This level of linkage to a fundamentally racist government would be inappropriate in any case, but is especially problematic because of the underhand and abusive way in which Israel conducts its overseas campaigns - see the Al Jazeera documentary The Lobby, and also the consequences that a Scottish encounter with an Israeli "political officer" had for SNP Friends of Palestine founder Andy Murray.
- Whether or not COFIS gains any traction for its views amongst other march participants, the fact of its participation will help it afterwards to position itself as an anti-racist organisation and promote its groundless claim that BDS is an anti-semitic hate campaign. If we let it, it will exploit Scotland's anti-racism movement for a racist purpose.
- COFIS's racist and manipulative strategies are widely recognised for what they are in Scotland's Palestinian diaspora and in its Muslim Community. The Scottish Palestinian Society (a member of the Palestine Alliance) and the Muslim Council of Scotland have both refused to support the march because of COFIS's inclusion. SUTR Scotland is ignoring the views of sections of Scottish society that are on the frontline of the struggle against racism. SUTR Scotland's efforts to maintain its stance on COFIS benefit from the state and media racism that mute and intimidate Muslim and refugee voices. Islamophobia is the dominant form of racism in the UK. SUTR Scotland is undermining its own capacity to fight racism by positioning itself in this way.
- The growth of far-right organisations and views across Europe makes anti-semitism a more serious threat than it has been for some time. Far-right organisations that have built themselves up by exploiting and fuelling Islamophobia are increasingly turning to anti-semitism. Progressive cooperation between the Muslim and Jewish communities, freed from the chains of Israeli state racism, would be a powerful force to resist this trend. Building this kind of cooperation will be much harder if COFIS is given exposure and credibility by allowing it to participate in the anti-racism march.
- The pro-Israel lobby is working internationally to drive a wedge between the struggles of black people and the Palestinian struggle. Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Alabama, USA) tried recently to withdraw an award for Angela Davis for her support for BDS and Palestine. International pressure brought a reversal of this position. SUTR Scotland should not be doing the work that the pro-Israel lobby in the USA failed to do.
- Racism has always been an international issue. The anti-racism march is intended to mark International Day Against Race Discrimination (Thursday 21 March), which the UN inaugurated in 1966 to commemorate the Sharpeville massacre (21 March 1960) in apartheid South Africa. In 1977 the UN inaugurated an annual Week of Solidarity with the Peoples Struggling against Racism and Racial Discrimination, beginning on 21 March each year. Nowhere on earth is the theme of "Peoples Struggling against Racism and Racial Discrimination" exemplified more sharply than in Palestine. SUTR Scotland says: "From Germany to Brazil, Italy to the US, the far right is on the march." The Israeli apartheid system cannot be exempted from the international struggle against racism.
Here is a list of trade union and other sponsoring bodies. Please email each one separately. We hope you will make use of the information on this page and that, if citing SACC, you respect the position we have set out (ie what we are and are not asking for). If you have time, your message will probably be more effective if you use your own words. It would be helpful if you could let us know of the responses you receive.
STUC Black Workers Committee
EIS - anti-racist & BME committee
Local Area Office - Glw & West area
Positive Action in Housing
Edinburgh TU Council
Glasgow Trades Union Council
Glasgow & W of Scotland Unite Retired
Glasgow City Unison
People's Assembly Scotland &
All Under One Banner
This list of contacts is from SPSC (see link below) - Thank you. If you visit the websites of the organisations you may find other contacts that you could approach.
- Appeal by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, along similar lines to this SACC appeal.
- SACC Statement on the SUTR march in Glasgow.
- Muslim Council of Scotland Statement on the SUTR march in Glasgow.
- Palestine Alliance Statement on the SUTR march in Glasgow.
- Who are Friends of Israel? by Richard Haley (background on COFIS and GFI).
- Palestine Alliance Position Statement on COFIS and normalisation (more background on COFIS, plus the issues it raises for BDS).