Palestinian women & girls enjoy a day at the beach, organised by Israeli women – who risked prosecution to bring a little joy to their neighbours’ lives.
Scottish Jews will proudly tell you that theirs is the only country in Europe where a Jew has never been murdered for being a Jew. However, a few will cynically add that although this may be accurate historically, the local community is small and relatively young, going back only two centuries.
– Anshel Pfeffer
Regular readers will be aware that I’m involved in several peace organisations. You’d be amazed at how angry some people get when I talk about wanting peaceful solutions to Protestant-Catholic sectarianism, Chinese-Japanese xenophobia, and Israeli-Palestinian violence, to say nothing of nuclear disarmament and pacifism. For some reason, peace seems be controversial.
The utter tragedy that is happening in the Levant is, perhaps, the most difficult of them all to navigate, because how could it be otherwise? The entire history of Israel and Palestine since the beginning of the 20th Century is based on division and conquest, both sides used and abused in proxy wars by murderous powers for political and financial gain, no care or consideration given to the lives lost and ruined, the minds warped by hatred and loss, the generations sacrificed for money and power. Where once Jews, Muslims, and other religious and ethnic groups coexisted and worked together, now it seems to be torn asunder by madmen and isolationists.
The end result? Any discussion that’s even tangentially related to that period in our world’s collective history has to be treated with the utmost care and consideration. The ubiquity of the World Wars in our collective consciousness and the poppy policing sometimes makes it counter-intuitively easy to forget just how monstrous it all was. We got all the stories about toughing through the Blitz and making do with rations, the happy-go-lucky Evacuees and reunions with family after 1945, the tales of derring do as Our Boys whipped the Luftwaffe back over the Channel. The tales of children’s shoes & wedding rings piled into mounds, the boxer forced to fight his people in deathmatches, and the dark grey snowflakes that shadowed Europe may be occasionally revisited by way of a blockbuster film or television series – but all that happened over in other countries. Precious few of us, especially in later generations, have that connection with such a pivotal event in humanity’s collective soul.
I’d ask to keep the following things in mind:
22nd October 2018: Commonspace published an article regarding the Deputy First Minister’s decision to withdraw material on Israel-Palestine education sources following a complaint from the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities
27th October 2018: 11 are killed and 7 injured in a shooting at Tree of Life – Or L’Simcha Congregation synagogue in Pittsburgh
28th October 2018: the First Minister announced she would be joining school pupils on a visit to Auschwitz with the Holocaust Education Trust
30th October 2018: Dr. Philippa Whitford announces in the UK Parliament that she & other doctors hired by Medical Aid for Palestinians were denied permission to enter Gaza by the Israeli Government
30th October 2018: the SNP suspends a member for writing a blog post which was accused of antisemitism
30th October 2018: the First Minister returned from Auschwitz
This all happened in the space of a few weeks, in a political realm where SNP politicians have simultaneously been accused of antisemitism for retweets and meetings, while others were accused of apologism and timidity. Meanwhile, party activists have been detained & choices of conference stalls questioned, as social media and blogs are being scrutinised. I don’t even need to mention what’s going on in other parties.
Scotland is blessed with the presence of several thousand Jewish Scots, and is also home to a small number of Palestinian-Scots. There are people out there who don’t want them – us – to live in peace with one another, and will treat any attempt to reach that peace with as much hostility as they kindle in the people they seek to control. They have no ethnicity, no creed, no sense of commonality beyond shared love of power and profit – and even then, they will happy betray one another if it means getting one up on them. The people who so shamefully & unforgivably exploited and persecuted Jewish people over the centuries are the exact same people who chopped up homelands and radicalised devastated Islamic communities. This is how they work. This is how they’ve worked for centuries. The only thing that can stop them is peace.
There was a time that Glasgow was one of the most violent cities in Europe. Now it isn’t, and cities across the world are asking us how we did it. There was a time when sectarianism in Scotland and Ireland was a constant, persistent danger, and many believed that there would be no peace in my lifetime. Now there is peace. We didn’t get there by magic: we got there with hard graft, ignoring the people saying it was impossible or wouldn’t see fruition for decades, because we decided that enough people had died. Israel & Palestine are orders of magnitude beyond where Scotland was many years ago – but there was a time, not so long ago, where the peoples of those lands viewed their neighbour’s religion and ethnic background as just another facet of their common humanity. Not perfect by any means, but a damned sight better than the horror we see today.
Even as pundit after expert after commentator claims peace in the Middle East is impossible, the people who live there are ignoring them and working for peace. We’ll only get there if we work for it.