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Board anger over council's refusal to cut links with pro-Palestinian group

Concern at social media messages posted by individual group members

    West Dunbartonshire Council's offices
    West Dunbartonshire Council's offices

    The Board of Deputies has expressed anger that a Scottish Council has refused to disassociate itself from a pro-Palestinian group over claims that members of the group have posted and shared antisemitic material.

    Marie van der Zyl, vice-president of the Board, wrote to West Dunbartonshire Council last month over the actions of members of West Dunbartonshire Supports the People of Palestine (WDSPP).

    West Dunbartonshire Council has made premises available for WDSPP events and publicised the group’s activities on its website.

    The Board asked the council to cut its ties with group and consider cancelling the Palestinian Weekend Festival, which took place the end of July.

    In the letter the Board supplied evidence of social media posts shared by WDSPP members.

    In response council leader Jonathan McColl said: “The shared posts are quite clearly the worst kind of conspiracy theory nonsense, designed to cause offence, and in no way contribute to sensible debate.

    “That said, having looked at what you have sent, I cannot see anything written by any of the individuals on behalf of the group they are involved in that could be seen as racist.”

    Ms van der Zyl replied by saying the evidence the Board had supplied was clear, and that the fact that the council could support WDSPP "is something which causes huge distress to the Jewish community”.

    She said: “We have expressed our views in no uncertain terms to Mr McColl and once again request him to sever relations" with WDSPP.

    Councillor McColl responded in a second letter to the Board, clarifying that: “I did not mean to suggest that none of the posts or links you have referred to were racist in their content. What I said was that none of the individuals involved have posted anything inappropriate when acting as or on behalf of WDSPP.”

    Councillor McColl told the JC: “I cannot ask our partners in the Leisure Trust, or our Provost to block community events because a small number of individuals involved in the particular group running the event are sharing posts on their personal Facebook pages. That would be unfair on the community, but also on the many, many people involved with this group that have not done anything distasteful.”

    WDSPP has been contacted for comment.

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