Salmond: Scots Jews are not persecuted

Alex Salmond

Alex Salmond

Scotland's First Minister has dismissed the claim that the country's Jewish community is shrinking because of a rise in antisemitism.

But speaking this week to a meeting arranged by Glasgow Jewish Educational Forum, Alex Salmond did acknowledge that there were incidents.

He went on: "I don't share the analysis that the Jewish community is suffering a wave of persecution or that antisemitism in Scotland is rapidly growing and such a severe problem that it is jeopardising this community."

Mr Salmond had been asked by a member of the audience what he could do to halt the weekly demonstrations and leafletting by pro-Palestinian groups in Glasgow, which propagated the delegitimisation of Israel and made comparisons to the Nazis.

He replied: "I don't think we should accept as a community that your position in Scottish society should be judged or affected by the policies of Israel. The Jewish community is not liable for those policies.

"It is possible to be critical of Israel without being antisemitic. The Jewish community should not be judged on whether people approve or disapprove of the actions of Israel."

He said people had the right to demonstrate peacefully, but would be dealt with by the law if they engaged in criminal acts. The Scottish government had toughened up laws relating to racist and religious abuse, while "Scotland has never had to introduce any laws to deal with antisemitism".

The event, held at Mearns High School Theatre, attracted less than 100 people. Michael Samuel, who chaired the meeting, said he was disappointed at the low turnout.

"It's a pity that some people have excluded themselves because this was organised by the Forum." This was a reference to the rivalry between the Forum and the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities over who speaks for the Scottish Jewish community.

Some Glasgow Jews backed Mr Salmond's views, including 72-year-old Arthur Brown. Mr Brown said: "We have three children, two of whom are living in London, and that's symptomatic of most families here. I haven't noticed any increase in antisemitism."

Another audience member called for a show of hands of those who believed the community was "under siege", but Mr Samuel declined.

But Leah Granat, public affairs officer of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, said: "The Scottish Council of Jewish Communities is contacted by people from all over Scotland who tell us about antisemitic incidents, although they often do not report them to the authorities.

"That does not mean that the Jewish community is under siege, but neither can these incidents be denied, and the fact is that last year 30 incidents were reported to police or CST, up from 10 in 2008."

A 45-year-old businessman, who did not want to be named, said: "It's difficult for Mr Salmond to pass comment when he is not Jewish and cannot empathise with the challenges Jewish people have every day. I respected his answers but it was more of a political statement than a pledge to provide us with protection and support."

    Last updated: 3:25pm, May 27 2010