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Letters / Dangerous and disappointing

I write in response to councillor Morton’s letter Colluding in antisemitism (Shetland News, 19 February 2024) which makes a dangerous and unfounded link between antisemitism and individuals in Shetland, including myself for creating a petition in favour of a ceasefire motion.

Councillor Morton states himself that the phrase “Free Palestine” is not inherently antisemitic, and the source he refers to in his letter makes this clear. Yet, immediately after saying it is not antisemitic, he follows with quotes: “The phrase had ‘become a formalised, almost anthemic slogan of anti-Jewish abuse, which offenders know will offend or intimidate their target’”.

I do not think many will check the source he has shared, and his immediate quote afterwards suggests that we have used the phrase Free Palestine to intimidate.

At the time of our first gathering for peace, there was an imposed siege on Gaza, with the water supply switched off by Israel as well as the displacement of Palestinians to Rafah. There was no aid getting in at all at this stage of our first gathering. I have explained to councillor Morton that this phrase was used then to call attention to the siege.

He states in his piece that as a group we have purposefully changed our signage to manipulate local media, but this is not true.

Our signs were all made by local creatives and are kept by the creatives who made them. If an attendee cannot make it one week, nor can their sign. The Free Palestine sign was on display on Saturday 17 February.

We cannot control how others use the phrase Free Palestine, but it is disappointing how even after my response to councillor Morton he has not issued a retraction or even an amendment.

His article is intended to discredit and correlate individuals in Shetland with antisemitism, at best recklessly disregarding the fact that we are not antisemitic, and at worse, purposefully defaming.

I emailed councillor Morton with an in-depth response. He has written his piece without talking to attendees of the Gatherings for Peace (not protests, as he states) and without talking to me beforehand.

If he had, he would know that the Gatherings for Peace are held for both Palestinians and Israelis, that there is always a two-minute silence that is respected for both Palestinians and Israelis, and that I as an individual have undergone extensive training to recognise and counter antisemitic hate speech and rhetoric.

It would not be allowed at our gatherings and would be reported to the police accordingly. This has never needed to be implemented as those who attend are all respectful and good people who gather for peace.

Despite my emails to the councillor informing him of this and requesting a retraction of my name from his post at the bare minimum, he has not amended his post to reflect the work we are doing to actively ensure antisemitism is not welcome at our gatherings, nor has he retracted it.

His article is thus creating a narrative in bad faith against Shetland folk. His concerns about an increase in antisemitism are valid and anyone who thinks that Jewish people, especially in this country, are responsible for the actions of a foreign government’s military policy is misaligned. However, this is not me for bringing forward a petition, nor Councillors Armitage and Scott for calling the motion, nor the varied attendees of Palestinian Solidarity Shetland, who come together to promote peace and an end to the cycle of violence.

By naming me and the two councillors in his letter, although stating himself that there has not been a rise in antisemitic hate crimes in Shetland “yet”, he is aligning us with the actions of those who would act in such a despicable way.

He is calling into question our moral character and is having no regard to the potential consequences to our personal reputations in Shetland. Naming individuals and framing them alongside the word “antisemitism” when he knows that those individuals are not antisemitic can be just as bad as an outright accusation of antisemitism. The association will now be in the minds of some Shetland folk.

He states councillors Armitage and Scott are “identifying one particular war for their attention and, doing so, they are – I hope unintentionally- colluding in attacks on Jews throughout the world.”

The use of the word colluding suggests that Alex Armitage and Ian Scott are involved a secret plot to harm Jewish people. This is simply untrue. The councillors brought the motion because we at the Palestinian Solidarity Shetland group asked for it, with reference to the council’s previous statements on international issues.

It is this current conflict that the ICJ [International Court of Justice] have said there is merit that acts of a potentially genocidal nature are taking place, and it is this current conflict our government at Westminster supported for so long.

Attempting to undermine the councillors by conflating their names with antisemitism is unacceptable and disrespectful. I also believe that undermining fellow councillors in this way may constitute a breach of the Code of Conduct for Councillors.

I once again ask, in light of my emails and responses to councillor Morton that he changes his letter to reflect the work that we are doing to ensure antisemitism remains unacceptable in Shetland, apologises for the false narrative that named individuals and those who attend the Palestinian Solidarity Shetland Peace Gatherings are linked to a rise in antisemitic hate attacks, and removes my name personally, as I have explained in depth to him my personal situation.

Leanne Goodlad
Palestinian Solidarity Shetland

Collusion in antisemitism?



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