This case should send a clear message on the law

By Rabbi Garry Wayland, September 1, 2011

Chanan Reitblat, a normally confident, outgoing student, contacted me late at night about a "vile hate-crime" that he had suffered. For me, this was a clear welfare issue - a student going through a traumatic time, needing support, space and time.

After he had finished with the police, he came to stay with me.

Just before the trial, the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) posted on their website a call to "defend the right to criticise Israel", and that it was an "attempt by Scottish prosecutors yet again to conflate legitimate political criticism of the state of Israel with racism." Were they misinformed about the case, or were they deliberately trying to confuse the issue?

As I left court, Sarah Glynn, a member of SJJP, in tears, said to me that I was "destroying Judaism". I was shocked; I had sat in court supporting a student. I have never made any comments about my political beliefs. I had the feeling that they still didn't get it; Paul Donnachie had committed a hate crime; he had admitted under cross-examination it was a "disgusting thing to do".

If SPSC are so interested in fostering political debate and free speech at universities, they should be encouraging their members to debate in an open forum, and in an articulate manner. Of course, when their members, led by chair Mick Napier, stormed a lecture by an Israeli diplomat at Edinburgh University last winter, they showed that this is not their goal, but rather one of suppression and intimidation.

I hope that this case sent a message to students that the law is cognisant of their rights, and that they can begin to regain confidence on campus to express their political or Zionist beliefs freely openly.

Rabbi Garry Wayland is chaplain
to the Northern Region

Last updated: 1:05pm, September 1 2011