Cross party debate to find peaceful solutions for Palestine.
The cross party event organised by Muslim Women's Association of Edinburgh and Edinburgh Friends of Al Aqsa brought together Labour, SNP and Green party members who shared their personal insights into the struggle of the Palestinian people and along with the audience, agreed that it was possible to do more in Scotland.
Sarah Boyack, MSP who in 2015 voted for the recognition of Palestine as a state stressed, "Almost everything we take for granted here is not accessible for so many Palestinians. The Palestinians don't have access to one of the most basic human rights which is water. The experience of Palestinians has been getting worse and is at the level of humanitarian crisis.”
The speakers acknowledged the inequalities suffered by Palestinians in their country; "seeing for myself what it was like on the ground was really shocking...[there was] a complete suppression of any kind of normal life for Palestinians,” Ian Murray. While Eurig Scandrett, convenor of Green Friends of Palestine, looks to solutions from the people themselves: "This is very much a colonisation process...Britain has a lot of responsibility to respond to the ongoing colonisation of Palestine...Wherever I go in Palestine and ask people what they want us to do they all say Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)."
The need for a BDS campaign was explained by Tommy Sheppard SNP MP; "The international community has almost forgotten about the Palestinian refugees. Boycott is a good way to help people make a link between an item on a shelf and the occupation happening. There are also a significant amount of people within in Israel who are working for peace and we should work with them.”
Tommy Sheppard was a Palestine activist as a student and is depressed the situation has only worsened. "There are two systems of law: one for Israelis and military courts for Palestinians. I find it difficult to use any other word than apartheid."
Conscious of his white privilege on his last visit to Palestine, Andy Murray, Convenor of SNP friends for Palestine was detained, strip-searched and denied access to the embassy It was "an exercise in humiliation". Such treatment is regularly meted out to Palestine activists.
In response to the question from an audience member: “Can we suspend party politics to unite for Palestine?” This is what the panel had to say: Andy Murray (SNP): "It's already happening... I speak on an almost daily basis with Labour. The cause is bigger" Tommy Sheppard SNP MP: "There is quite a lot of common working behind the scenes particularly in all parliamentary groups. There are even Tory backbenchers who speak up"
Eurig Scandett: “The Balfour declaration provides for the rights of the indigenous population. A Zionist interpretation of the declaration has made things even worse. “Balfour was from Scotland. There is an opportunity for an all-party apology.”
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Ian Murray "It's incumbent on us all to get the message out. Don't underestimate the power of going to see your MPs. I got involved in the issue of Balfour after a constituent came to see me." But to the good news "There is a real drive in the UN to bring this up the agenda... I left the UN very heartened"
In summarising the feel from the room, Sarah Boyack felt more could be done, "There's a desire for cross party action. we need to use our political influence including with unions, journalists and civic groups. There are opportunities in the city throughout the year: at the International Festival, Peace and Justice festival. calls for some greater focus for Boycott and finding a Scottish connection, building links with environmental groups"