BY SIMON YAFFE
THE Scottish Jewish community is an important part of Scottish society, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told a delegation of Jewish leaders last week.
“We will never compromise on our objective of building a country where people from all communities feel safe and valued and which Jews feel is their home,” she said.
Ms Sturgeon met with a delegation of Jewish communal leaders who told her that Jews in Scotland, for the first time in recent memory, have started to feel uncomfortable about the persistently high levels of antisemitism in the country.
And the delegation — consisting of Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl and public affairs director Phil Rosenberg, Scottish Council of Jewish Communities chairman Micheline Brannan and Glasgow Jewish Representative Council co-president Evy Yedd — explained that some of the antisemitism has grown out of extreme anti-Israel sentiment.
Ms Sturgeon expressed her sadness at the prevalence of “appalling” antisemitism and expressed her determination to confront it firmly “wherever and whenever it appears”.
The group asked Ms Sturgeon to ensure an even-handed approach to the Israel-Palestinian conflict which recognises the security threats that Israel faces.
Ms Sturgeon said that while her government “recognises and supports the existence of Israel”, she also expressed concern about the situation of the Palestinians and, in particular, the recent violence and loss of life.
She added that she wants to see a two-state solution with a secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state and will consider how to support initiatives that promote these aims.
Ms Sturgeon said that while people must have the ability to question the actions of the Israeli government, the Scottish government does not support the campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel and envisages no change to that position.
But the group praised the First Minister’s lead on adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism and its examples — and noted that not all parties have done so.
They also asked her whether she would support some of the efforts that the Jewish community is working on with other faith groups in Scotland to support reconciliation efforts and help ensure that Scotland does not import conflict, but rather exports peace.
“We were pleased at her level of engagement and knowledge on the issues and look forward to continuing this important dialogue on behalf of Scottish Jewry,” Mrs van der Zyl said.
The meeting came at the end of her first visit to Scotland as Board president.
She also attended the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities’ annual meeting, addressed a public meeting of the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council and visited Jewish Care Scotland, where she spoke and danced with residents.