West Dunbartonshire Council has passed a motion banning Israeli goods from its libraries and other council locations in response to Operation Cast Lead in 2009. Councllor John McColl has expressed shock and dismay at the reaction to this by 'zealots' accusing him of anri-semitism. The following is an open letter to Councillor McColl:
June 1st 2011
Dear Councillor McColl,
I have just watched your video blog on YouTube and would like to apologise for the abuse that you and your fellow council members have received from members of the public who are responding inappropriately to your council’s decision to impose a (somewhat selective) ban on goods produced in Israel. I shall refrain from commenting on your interesting views how items such as mobile phones purchased in stores Glasgow owe nothing to Israeli technology, or how you seek to avoid any accident that might require you to receive medical treatment pioneered in the country you and your council seem to have singled out as the sole perpetrators of human rights abuses and atrocities.
Please allow me to be slightly more constructive and make some suggestions as to how you might restore the image of your council as a legitimate and sensible authority rather than appearing to be anti-semitic by focusing exclusively on the State of Israel for your ‘symbolic’ gesture.
Why not propose a motion at your next Council meeting condemning the violent and oppressive treatment of the Syrian people by their own government? And in case you think what is currently happening is an isolated incident, check this out: http://bit.ly/mBGcr9 . Worth a symbolic protest of some sort, don’t you think?
Or how about the Democratic Republic of Congo? www.savethecongo.org.uk. Darfur? Burma? Tibet? Sadly, the list of places in which human rights abuses are perpetrated by one group of people against another is a long and painful one.
As a rabbi, I have consistently found myself being vilified by my own community for comments that I have made criticising Israel’s actions. We are, after all, a people who are taught to think of ourselves as ‘poor we us’, as you so rightly observe, and how dare one of the Jewish people’s own leaders dare to add his voice to those who demand no less than Israel’s destruction? But when I do so, I try to balance my arguments (eg http://bit.ly/kLFUky , http://bit.ly/bYbSAI) – and I also recognise that there are other regimes in the world worthy of criticism.
That last point, I am afraid, is where your claim that West Dunbartonshire Council’s venture into international relations represents a genuine concern with human rights smacks of the anti-semitism that you seek to deny. Your council’s actions are unbalanced, are directed towards one individual country’s failings, but do not even try to take into account the numerous other human rights’ abuses that exist in our troubled world.
Councillor McColl, if you are genuinely concerned about human rights, and you genuinely want to demonstrate that West Dunbartonshire Council is similarly dedicated to such issues, might I suggest that you seek out one or two other causes to champion in your Council Chambers, some different human rights’ violations over which to make a ‘symbolic’ gesture? Otherwise, I am afraid, your protests that you are not behaving in an anti-semitic manner founder on the knee-jerk reaction your Council has made to one situation while ignoring numerous others.
I look forward very much to hearing that West Dunbartonshire Council has passed a resolution condemning the actions of the Syrian government, the Libyan government, the Egyptian government, the Burmese government, or any other cause of your choice. If you are unable or unwilling to do this, then I am afraid you are guilty as charged, and your position in singling out Israel is indefensible.
Rabbi Pete Tobias