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We won't march with an organisation that works to supress anti-racism

SACC statement, 7 February 2019

SACC has worked with Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) Scotland since its inception1. We regret that this year we cannot support SUTR’s anti-racism march, to be held in Glasgow on 16 March, as we understand that it will include representation from Glasgow Friends of Israel (GFI) and the Confederation of Friends of Israel, Scotland (COFIS)2.

GFI and COFIS are pro-Israel lobby groups inspired and guided by organisations that work with the Israeli government. They 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.

We cannot ask anti-racists to march along with the banners of organisations that are dedicated to suppressing a key element of the anti-racist movement.

SACC endorses the finding by Richard Falk, former UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Palestine, that Israel is an apartheid state3.

We encourage anyone organising or participating in an anti-racist event, whatever its main focus, to include the demand: “No to Israeli apartheid.” The campaign against South African apartheid was organically linked to campaigns against racism in the UK. The campaign against Israeli apartheid should be no less closely linked to campaigns against domestic racism.

SACC’s primary focus is on campaigning against the racially aggravated attack on civil liberties on the pretext of fighting terrorism that has been underway in the UK since the Terrorism Act 2000 came into effect. As part of and alongside this, we campaign against other aspects of racism. We stand firmly against Islamophobia, anti-black racism, anti-Roma racism and anti-semitism, as we do against all forms of racism.

The growth of far-right parties and the spread of far-right views across Europe and the UK mean that anti-semitism is a more serious threat than it has been for some time. It is not difficult to distinguish between anti-semitism and opposition to Israeli policies or to the structure of the Israeli state. The efforts of the pro-Israel lobby to obfuscate this issue, in close co-ordination with the Israeli government, are potentially very damaging to the international anti-racism movement. We hope that the movement and the UK’s minority communities, including the Jewish community, will resist attempts by the Israeli and British state apparatus to hijack them to promote reactionary foreign policy goals and divide progressive organisations and movements.

The Muslim Council of Scotland, the Muslim Women's Association of Edinburgh, the Palestine Alliance (comprising most of the pro-Palestine organisations in Scotland) and the Glasgow Palestine Human Rights Campaign are also refusing to support the march because of the involvement of COFIS/GFI. 

Photo: hjl, "Fading homage to Delacroix", February 2013. Some rights reserved

  • 1. The first of the annual Glasgow "Stand Up To Racism" demonstrations was held on Saturday 22 march 2014. The march was organised by Unite Against Fascism and supported by a wide range of organisations, including SACC. It was one of a constellation of events held across Europe to more or less coincide with the UN's International Day Against Racial Discrimination (21 March), following a proposal from the Greek anti-fascist organisation KEERFA in response rising violence of Golden Dawn and the murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas (Killah P) on 13 September 2013.

    The UK Stand Up to Racism organisation was subsequently set up. The 2015 Glasgow march was organised in its name, supported by Unite Against Fascism, SACC and a wide range of other organisations. The first Stand Up To Racism Scotland conference was held in Glasgow on 17 September 2016. This marked the launch of Stand Up To Racism Scotland and led to the creation of a Stand Up To Racism Scotland committee. SACC has worked closely with Stand Up To Racism Scotland over the years but is not affiliated to it.

  • 2. COFIS has joined or attempted to join each of the last two annual anti-racism marches organised in Glasgow by SUTR.
    SUTR Scotland has repeatedy rejected 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).
  • 3. "Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid" by Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley, 2017. The report was commissioned and published by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. It recommended:

    "United Nations bodies, national Governments and civil society actors,including religious organizations, should formally endorse the principal finding of this report that the treatment by Israel of the Palestinians is consistent with the crime of apartheid."

    Shortly after publication, UN Secretary-General António Guterres ordered the report to be removed from the UN website. The report can be downloaded here.

    The apartheid character of the Israeli state was further institutionalised in 2018 with the approval by the Knesset of a new Nationality Law that defines Israel as the "nation-state of the Jewish people."