Falkirk’s ties with Palestine

Anti-Israel demonstrations have been held all over Scotland in recent weeks
Anti-Israel demonstrations have been held all over Scotland in recent weeks

Israel’s attacks on Gaza have sparked outrage among local politicians and campaigners.

Since fighting broke out at the Gaza strip four weeks ago, an estimated 1800 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have died. Israel has lost 67 nationals, 64 of them military.

Falkirk East MP Michael Connarty has long-standing connections with Palestine and has visited the area several times.

He is a former vice-chairman of Medical Aid for Palestine and is a member of the Parliamentary Group for Palestine and The Council for Arab-British Understanding.

He said: “I would fully back Falkirk Council following others’ example by boycotting Israel. The situation is awful, it’s an apartheid regime and, while Hamas certainly has blame to share, what Israel is doing to civilians, to women, to children, is deplorable.”

Stirling, Clackmannan and West Dunbartonshire Council have all passed motions condemnting Israeli actions

Mr Connarty urged members of the public to refuse to buy Israeli products and shout to make their voices heard.

“When South Africa had an apartheid regime in place, the public stood up and said we won’t have this, we boycotted the country and as a result the regime ended.

“Collectively the people have power - we need to be writing to Obama, to Cameron, to MPs, to MEPs - let them know we won’t stand for this.”

Falkirk has strong ties with Palestine through the Antonine Friendship Link, formed 10 years ago to offer support to people living in the West Bank community of Jayyous.

The Link offers financial aid, helps pay for a crèche in the town and raises awareness of their situation.

Tom Wallace, the group’s secretary, said members were horrified at the suffering during the latest fighting.

“Like everyone,” Mr Wallace said, “we are shocked and saddened at the situation in Gaza. Some of our members have been to Gaza and we’ve had guests from Palestine visit Falkirk. These are our friends and we can’t begin to imagine what is happening to them.”

Jayyous sits near the illegal Israeli security barrier, which separates the community - who are mainly olive farmers - from their olive groves. The Israelis allowed them access once a day to tend to their crops, but the wall created a five hour detour for them.

Tom continued: “Our group isn’t about condemning anyone, it’s about raising awareness of what is happening there and letting them know they are not alone.

“Most Falkirk folk are horrified at the situation and when we have stalls at events, ask what they can do to help.

“People can boycott any products made on illegal settlements. It can be difficult to know, as some items say made in Palestine but are made in illegal Israeli settlement in Palestine. But we are working with supermarkets to determine the origins.”

Items likely to come from Palestinian land include dates, almonds and olives.

Antonine Friendship Link, will have a stall at Charities Day in Falkirk High Street on Saturday, August 16.

The Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) is holding a meeting tomorrow (Friday) at the Smith Gallery in Stirling from 7.30 p.m.

The speakers will be journalist Yvonne Ridley, who has made several documentary films and visited the West Bank, Gaza and refugee camps in the area; Dr Esam Hijjami, who is now an opthalmologist working in Edinburgh but was leader of the Palestinian student movement from 1974-76; and Mick Napier from the SPSC .