Scotland’s First Minister attempted to calm fears about his stance on Israel at a meeting with senior Jewish community leaders in Glasgow this week.
Humza Yousaf, who has previously met Hamas leaders and called for an independent Palestinian state, reportedly told representatives of Scottish Jewish community groups that he understood their fears for their family and friends in Israel.
According to the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, Yousaf “spoke frankly about his wife’s fears for her family in Gaza, and said he therefore understood all the better the fears of members of the Jewish Community for their family and friends in Israel”.
The meeting was followed by a visit to Giffnock Newton Mearns Synagogue where Rabbi Rubin spoke with the First Minister. pic.twitter.com/Q5zCLZfWJB— SCoJeC (@SCoJeC) May 19, 2023
He had previously said his wife Nadia El-Nakla, who is of Palestinian decent, had been “in floods of tears all evening” following a series of air strikes on the Gaza Strip in May 2021 where he family lives.
A day earlier, Yousaf met the Palestinian ambassador Husam Zomlot, telling him he “reaffirmed the Scottish Government’s desire to strengthen our relationship with Palestine”.
It comes after he met Hamas military chief Mohammad Sawalha, the “mastermind” of its political and military strategy”.
The meeting took place in 2008, when Yousaf was 22 and working as a parliamentary assistant for the late-Bashir Ahmad, Scotland’s first Muslim MSP.
Sawalha had been Hamas’ West Bank military chief and was then appointed to its political leadership. He reportedly had fled in 1990 after being placed on a wanted list by Israel. Hamas had at the time been proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the US, but the UK did not follow suit until 2021.
In a meeting at Giffnock Newton Mearns Synagogue with members of @SCoJeC and @GJRCouncil, First Minister @HumzaYousaf discussed the interests of the Scottish Jewish Community and what more can be done to tackle prejudice and antisemitism. pic.twitter.com/cDJLaqi4vP— First Minister (@ScotGovFM) May 19, 2023
The new SNP leader, who took over from Nicola Sturgeon who had stepped down as First Minister last March, met with members of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities and the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council and toured Giffnock Newton Mearns synagogue.
In a statement, he said: “We spoke about a number of issues, first and foremost the importance of tackling antisemitism wherever and whenever it appears.
“In the fight against antisemitism, the Jewish community in Scotland should be in no doubt that they have an ally in me as First Minister.
“I reaffirmed my absolute commitment that the Scottish Government will continue to engage with the Jewish community on our collective aim of stamping out antisemitism, prejudice, and hate crime, which have no place in Scotland.
“We spoke about a number of issues, first and foremost the importance of tackling antisemitism wherever and whenever it appears.”