The UK government is actively complicit in genocide in Gaza – indeed with its supply of weapons to Israel, provision of communications intelligence and aerial surveillance and participation of UK special services, I would argue it is more than complicit. The UK government is a part of committing genocide in Gaza. This is vile to many people in the UK, but it is especially anathema to a large majority of people in Scotland.
This YouGov survey of November 2 shows that a strong majority of people in Scotland say that their sympathies lie on the Palestinian side, whereas both in England and in Wales majority support is on the Israeli side by a small margin.
Furthermore this survey attempts to measure strength of feeling, and Scottish support for Palestine is the most strongly held opinion in any constituent part of the UK and on any side of the question, by a wide margin, with 43% of Palestinian sympathising Scots holding that view “a great deal”.
Earlier YouGov surveys gave the same result, with Scotland being the only UK nation with majority Palestinian support. This one is for 24 October.
Across the UK as whole, there is a massive difference in age group, with support for Palestine very high among young people, who sympathise with Palestine by 46% to just 9% for Israel. Support for Israel is highest amongst over 65s, by 30% to 10%. I suspect it is related both to closeness of birth to the Second World War, and to propensity to use mainstream media for news.
I would stress that none of this is new: polls have always shown much higher support for Palestine in Scotland than in England. The same is also true of Ireland, and I have no doubt that in both Scotland and Ireland this instinctive support for the Palestinians is in part related to folk memory of dispossession from the land and colonial occupation.
It is important to remember that the extraordinary rise of the SNP and support for Scottish Independence in the first decades of this century was, in part, fuelled by revulsion at the heavy UK involvement at the attacks on Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. Those imperialist wars resulted in millions of dead and maimed and tens of millions of displaced, and the complete destruction of infrastructure in those countries.
The urge to be free from a state that continually engaged in aggressive war motivated a great many Scots to support Independence. It can do so again now over UK support for Gaza. Blair’s rampant neo-imperialism also did much to break Scotland’s support for the Labour Party. We might now realistically hope for a similar reaction to Starmer’s Zionism.
That revulsion is now felt again. Every citizen of the UK is tainted by the support of the British state for genocide. We all bear a drop of responsibility for each drop of child’s blood spilt in Gaza. Because like it or not, the UK government represents us. The military support it gives to Israel is paid for with our taxes. None of us did enough to prevent being ruled by callous enablers of murder. There are degrees of complicity, but everybody is tainted.
All three major England-based parties – the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats – openly support Israel and oppose efforts to halt the genocide.
I hear a number of the wonderful people who marched through London for peace last weekend, and in many other English cities, groaning at me. Of course there is a strong movement for Palestine in England, and a great many of my friends are in it. But here in Scotland we are operating in a fundamentally different political culture, that values community and horizontal solidarity.
We Scots deserve the right to allow that culture to flourish away from the imposition of an alien political culture by a much larger neighbouring nation.
Suella Braverman’s far-right bully boys were only the tip of the iceberg of racism which has been enabled in Europe by the support of conservative political elites for the genocidal attack on Gaza. The morass of online Islamophobic and anti-immigrant abuse which accompanies the pro-Israeli rhetoric is frightening. This “war of civilisations” undercurrent is there right across Europe. Where there have been pro-Israeli demonstrations, they have been remarkably white.
Here in Scotland I have been impressed by Humza Yousaf, the Scottish First Minister, for his calm and serious reaction to the Gaza genocide and his unequivocal call for a ceasefire. Yousaf has subsequently been treated to an insane barrage of racist and Islamophobic abuse online. This should be a rallying point for all decent Scottish people to defend their First Minister from racism, whatever smaller disagreements they may have.
MPs had the chance to put humanity before politics.
To say the killing of innocent civilians in Gaza must stop. And it must stop now.
MPs who voted against @theSNP calls for an immediate ceasefire are on the wrong side of history.
This cannot continue. Humanity must prevail. pic.twitter.com/5iDCfwPcQI
— Humza Yousaf (@HumzaYousaf) November 15, 2023
This points the way to a reinvigoration of the Independence movement. I can find no statistics on it, but it is evident from social media that there is a very strong correlation between unionism and support for Israel, and between Independence support and support for Palestine.
For Independence to be achieved in the short term, Independence supporters need to rally round a cause, and Palestine is it. There is clear blue water between Scottish and English opinion, and there is clear blue water between Scottish and London political parties. There is also clear blue water within Scotland between nationalist and unionist opinion.
The Palestinian cause is popular in Scotland and in fighting it, we also fight racism. This is the moment to focus on working together on Palestine and putting any divisive issues less acute than genocide (and all issues are less acute than genocide) firmly on the back burner, or perhaps in the fridge.
SNP and Alba party MPs walked together through the Westminster lobby to support a ceasefire in Gaza, while the leadership of Tory, Labour and Liberal parties all voted for more killing. Let us build on that.
Nothing is more fundamental than genocide, nothing is more urgent to prevent than genocide. Let us work together to prevent it.
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