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Scottish Government policy on Israel-Palestine Conflict

SACC recently highlighted comments about BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) reported to have been made by Humza Yousaf MSP, Scotland's Minister for External Affairs and International Development, at an open meeting with the Jewish community in Giffnock Synagogue on 13 May 2014. Humza Yousaf has provided the following statement as clarification of the Scottish Government's policy.

"The Scottish Government continues to believe that a two state solution based on the 1967 borders and Jerusalem as a shared capital is the best solution for a peaceful resolution. We stand with international partners to condemn any expansion of settlements which we view as illegal and an obstacle to peace, furthermore we call on the blockade of Gaza to be lifted immediately. I spoke on this matter in a recent Scottish Parliament debate on the issue of water supply in the Gaza Strip (“Thirsting for Justice”) and you can find the full speech on the link below:
Scottish Parliament, Report for 4 March 2014

The Scottish Government has previously stated that it is wrong to collectively punish the people of Gaza for the actions of their Government. The situation in Gaza continues to be a humanitarian crisis and we join with voices in the international community and call for the illegal blockade to be lifted.

The Scottish Government also called on the UK Government to support the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN and my full remarks on the matter can be found here. Furthermore, we believe that dialogue is an important step towards peace and encourage both the Israeli and Palestinians authorities to resume peace talks immediately.

The Scottish Government, in line with other Governments in Europe, does not have a policy of boycotting Israel. We believe that engagement with the Israeli Government provides us with an opportunity to call for a peaceful resolution between both sides of the conflict and present any concerns the Scottish Government may have. Recently, those concerns have included the expansion of illegal settlement and the continued damage caused by the illegitimate blockade of Gaza.

The Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs Fiona Hyslop, has made it clear that while the Scottish Government does not advocate a boycott of Israel, it is not the place for the Scottish Government to dictate to cultural institutions or other organisations on decisions they have taken.

I have personally engaged with the Cross Party Group on Palestine, which brings together a number of groups concerned at the situation in Palestine, and met with this Group in November 2013. The Scottish Government, through the Scottish Fire Services College has also helped to support training visits for firefighters from Palestine since 2012. In addition, I have continued engagement with Professor Manuel Hassassian, Head of the Palestinian General Delegation to the United Kingdom.

We continue to believe that Scottish Government engagement with those who represent both sides of the conflict is vitally important."

Open meeting with Humza Yousaf at Giffnock Synagogue

The meeting at Giffnock Synagogue on 13 May 2014 was reported by Scottish Friends of Israel. According to the report:

"Regarding the attempts to boycott Israeli businesses, he [Humza Yousaf] was clear: 'I can assure you that I do not support boycott of goods from Israel'. Asked if that included settlement goods, he responded: 'All Israeli goods'.

On the Israel-Palestinian dispute, Mr Yousaf said he supported a two-state solution, 'based on the ‘67 borders,' and believed that the settlements and their continued building are illegal. He would not be drawn further on the subject other than to point out the identity of his views with those of the UK Government.

Directly questioned whether he considered Israel an 'apartheid state,' he replied 'No!'"