Scottish Government plan for ‘trade mission’ to Israel will shame Scotland!

[The visit is due to take place NEXT WEEK: 10-15 January 2010]

This week Richard Falk, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, told UN Radio:

“Obviously Israel does not respond to language of diplomacy, which has encouraged the lifting of the blockade and so what I am suggesting is that it has to be reinforced by a threat of adverse economic consequences for Israel,”

Scottish PSC has written to Scotland’s First Minister urging an immediate cancellation of the trip, which falls on the first anniversary of Israel’s war of aggression against the people of Gaza – that will only serve to reward Israel for their continuing violations of Palestinian human rights and international law.

Whether you live in Scotland or not we ask you to add your voice to this urgent appeal and contact:

– The Scottish Government
Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister: FirstMinister[at]
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister: Nicola.Sturgeon.msp[at]
Scottish Government Ministers: scottish.ministers[at]

– Your MSP

Search for your Member of the Scottish Parliament by postcode:

Dear First Minister

We are dismayed to learn that Scottish Development International (SDI) is planning a “Trade Mission” to Israel from the 10th to the 15th of January 2010 and we ask that the Scottish Government immediately cancels this trip to prevent Scotland”s reputation from being tarnished.

The SDI, which was created as part of the Scottish Government strategy to achieve a “Smart Successful Scotland” has aims that most people would agree with. Who does not aspire to a smart, successful Scotland? But after learning of this initiative, we cannot but stop to ask whether success is to be achieved at all cost? Should it be a trade-off on human rights and international law in the name of trade, success, science and business for Scotland?

The SDI website advertising this “trade mission” states that: “Israel enjoys a strong entrepreneurial culture which enables new ideas to be nurtured and developed, and this is especially true in the life sciences sector.” [i]

Israeli R&D and the Military

There is a host of evidence of strong links between Research and Development (R&D) and the defence establishment/policies and the military industry (Uri Yacobi Keller, 2009[ii]). We can see this link clearly even from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website[iii] which also states that “research and development is carried out primarily at the universities”. The head of Tel Aviv University (TAU) strategic studies, a serving major-general in the Israeli army, stated that “[TAU] is playing a major role in enhancing Israel’s security capabilities and military edge” [iv], while the head of the Chemistry School of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem during a presentation explained how “research defence requirements are often present in our universities and all the best people in hi-tech companies come from the Army or from the intelligence.” [v]

The issue is not only that R&D in Israel is fuelled by and directed to its military policies – it is also that those military policies are in contravention of human rights law and international law.

Violation of Human Rights & International Law

Israel is in contravention of numerous United Nations (UN) General Assembly resolutions[vi] and UN Security Council resolutions[vii]. Israel is in contravention of The Hague Regulations[viii], the Fourth Geneva Convention[ix], the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights[x], and the International covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights[xi]. More recently the International Court of Justice 2004 advisory opinion ruled the illegality of the Israeli Wall, while also stating that “all States parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention are under an obligation, while respecting the Charter and international law, to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that Convention” [xii].

To these long-standing breaches of humanitarian and international law, we have to add the recent Israeli operation on Gaza condemned by the UN Goldstone report that concluded: “there is evidence indicating serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by Israel during the Gaza conflict, and that Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity”, recommending that if Israel refuses to investigate its actions the UN Security Council should refer the matter to the International Criminal Court.[xiii] The Israeli blockade of Gaza before the military assault was described in the report as “collective punishment” [xiv]. Israel continues to impose this blockade in Gaza, which stops the vital reconstruction from taking place and impinges on Gaza”s daily life.

The state of Israel has no respect for human rights or international law and less for Palestinians who struggle daily against the crimes committed against them. Israel has some 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners in their jails, they include women and children, and many are routinely tortured. Recently Israel has escalated its attack on Palestinian human rights defenders. Jamal Juma”, coordinator of the Palestinian grassroots “Stop the Wall” campaign, who is internationally known and respected, was arrested by Israeli authorities on December 16th 2009. His arrest follows the imprisonment of Mohammad Othman and Abdallah Abu Rahmeh, both activists against the Wall. Mr. Juma” has been held without proper access to his lawyer and the judge has refused to allow observers from European Consulates from entering the court[xv].

R&D and hi-tech are not neutral in Israel, as the evidence above shows they are part of the political process (especially true in the life sciences sector). Trade in this context is also part of the political process. Israel has seen recently the Norwegian government divest its pension fund from Israeli company Elbit, involved in the construction of the West Bank separation fence, so as to not fund “companies that so directly contribute to violations of international humanitarian law” [xvi]. The world has recently seen how Veolia and Alstom have been taken to Court in France due to their operations in occupied territory. Even the UN General Assembly President stated in 2008 “how Israeli policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories appear so similar to the apartheid of an earlier era” and how “the United Nations should consider following the lead of a new generation of civil society, who are calling for a similar non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel to end its violations” [xvii]

Scotland”s past record of support for human rights is laudable. The election of Mordechai Vanunu as Glasgow University Rector in 2004 (unfortunately Vanunu who has been under draconian restrictions since he was freed from 18 years imprisonment, has again been arrested[xviii]) and the condemnation by the majority of the Scottish Parliament (including most of the current cabinet) of his treatment by the Israeli Government[xix] are just two examples. We have been proud to report to our Palestinian partners and fellow human rights activists in Israel that the Scottish government and Scottish civil society demonstrates such firm support for the Palestinians cause. A public and firm stand against injustice is particularly important if all the people of Israel/Palestine are to find a lasting peace.

The Scottish Government cancelled this same trade mission to Israel in 2009, quite rightly, as it would have been deeply insensitive and offensive not to have done so in the wake of Israel”s attack on the people of Gaza. The situation has not changed; Gazans continue to live in the rubble of their homes and for us to have Scotland associated in any way with the state of Israel would be deeply unpopular and unethical.

We are sure and confident that the Scottish Government will look towards countries which as well as excelling in science and business entrepreneurship also respect international law and human rights for all, and therefore will cancel this “Trade Mission” to Israel.

Let us never follow the path of those nations that trample on human rights.

We look forward to your reply.

Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign




Many thanks.

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