Westminster Debate Israel-Palestine – Tory MP for Aberdeen South – Ross Thomson – seizes his chance to donate his own weird and wonderful interpretation of historical events
In yesterday’s General Debate on Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks, Conservative MP Ross Thomson said that his visit to Israel and the West Bank last year with CFI provided him with “the greatest insight possible into the issues” after “being able to speak to people on the ground, on both sides of the conflict”.
He described Israel as “a country that celebrates diversity”, where “you will find churches, mosques and synagogues standing almost side by side, and see Jews, Muslims and Christians living alongside each other in peaceful coexistence”.
He added that Israel is “truly is a beacon of democracy and hope in a troubled region”.
The MP for Aberdeen South expressed his deep concern over Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) protests in his constituency, where anti-Israel activists have tried to drive an Israeli cosmetics company out of business, displaying “poisonous and divisive banners stating: ‘Anti-Semitism is a crime, Anti-Zionism is a duty'”.
He joined Conservative parliamentarians in calling for the Home Secretary to proscribe Hezbollah in its entirety, stating that “Hezbollah cannot be forgiven for its criminal, terrorist, or militant pursuits simply because it engages in political or humanitarian ones”.
The Conservative MP outlined the main obstacles to the advancement of peace, which include “Hamas’s rearmament drive in Gaza and internal fighting between Hamas and Fatah”, but underlined that as we “proudly mark the centenary year of the Balfour Declaration, we are presented with a unique opportunity to renew the Middle East Peace Process”.
But, “he walks on water” Ross rarely gives voice in public, except to advance his own agenda, in this case protests by Aberdonian’s about trade links with Israel. His contribution to the debate distorts facts, to his benefit and his colleagues, pertaining to the Tory Party delegation working holiday to Israel. And I have added a correcting record of events below.
Tory MSP’s enjoy an all expenses paid trip to Israel
The Electoral Commission released figures detailing expenses totalling £12,000 paid to six Conservative MSPs by the lobby group, Conservatives for Israel (CFI).
Data confirmed that the MSPs were each given £2,000 by the group, financed through Jewish sources, who support the maintaining of business, social and security connections between the UK and Israel in the political arena.
The financial gift fully funded the working holiday to Israel by the MSPs.
The group included:
The director of the Scottish Conservatives, Mark McInnes
The Scottish Conservative chief whip, John Lamont.
The shadow justice secretary, Douglas Ross.
The shadow economy, jobs and fair work cabinet secretary, Dean Lockhart.
The shadow environment secretary, Maurice Golden.
The tourism and small businesses spokeswoman, Rachel Hamilton>
The community safety spokesman, Oliver Mundell.
The digital economy spokesman, Jamie Greene.
The further education, higher education and science spokesman, Ross Thompson
The welfare, reform and equalities spokeswoman, Annie Wells.
November 2016: High-Level, Scottish Tory Party pro-Israel lobby group visit to Golan Heights
The UN, in 1981, issued a resolution saying that Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights was illegal.
The strategic ridge was captured by Israel from Syria during the 1967 Six Day War and formally annexed in 1981.
Since then, every year the UN passes a General Assembly resolution titled “The Occupied Syrian Golan” which reaffirms the illegality of the Israeli occupation and annexation.
A high-powered group of ten Scottish Tories visited an Israeli settlement in the occupied Golan Heights.
Called ‘Building Bridges with Israel’, the group was recently set up in a bid by the Tory Party to oppose anti-Semitism and offer an ‘alternative viewpoint’ to what it says is a pro-Palestinian stance that has been dominant since the Scottish Parliament’s inception in 1999.
The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, (formally given the support of the Holyrood parliament) strongly opposed the Scottish Tory Party pro-Israel lobby group’s message.
Their spokesman said: “Israel doesn’t build any bridges, it demolishes homes, farms and is demolishing Palestine.”
Al-Marsad, the only human rights organisation operating in the Golan Heights, is at loggerheads with the group after raising concern about the visit to the Golan Heights winery in Katzrin.
They say the delegation did not contact Al-Marsad or other representatives of the Syrian community in the “occupied Syrian Golan” to get a “balanced view”.
And they say they have repeatedly failed to get an explanation for the visit to the territory or any condemnation of the illegal settlement.
Al-Marsad, described as an independent, not-for-profit international human rights organisation, said it was “highly concerned” that the visit sends the message that Scotland endorses the illegal activities of such settlements.
Response by Al-Marsad, the Arab Human Rights Centre in The Golan Heights
Al-Marsad, which has previously voiced concern over what it deems Israel’s “ethnic cleansing” of the Syrian Arab population in the Golan, say they have written two letters to Ms Davidson asking in particular about the visit of the Scottish parliamentary pro-Israel lobby group to “occupied Syrian Golan” but without response.
Dr Nizar Ayoub director, said “Given this lack of clarification, I am highly concerned that the Scottish pro-Israel lobby group (Scottish Conservative party) appears to condone the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements – illegal under international law – in the occupied Syrian Golan.”
He went on to say: “it is “highly concerning” if human rights issues, in particular, in the occupied territories should not be “not considered or trumped by business interests”.
Dr Nizar Ayoub told Ms Davidson in his letters: “As I imagine that you are aware, such settlements are illegal according to international law, and their construction and expansion at the expense of the native Syrian inhabitants have been repeatedly condemned by the international community.
I am highly concerned that the delegation has visited a winery in an illegal Israeli settlement without providing any explanation of the purpose of the visit.
In effect, this sends a message that the Scottish parliamentary pro-Israel lobby group (Scottish Conservative party) endorses the illegal activities of this settlement – built on land illegally appropriated from its original Syrian owners.
Even more worrying is the fact that the Scottish pro-Israel lobby group (Scottish Conservative party) has refused to answer questions about whether the delegation raised the broader issue of the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Syrian Golan during its visit.”
He was further concerned that, describing the visit, Mr Lamont said “on Israel’s northern border with Syria we witnessed first-hand the devastating civil war raging metres away from Israel”
Dr Ayoub reminded Ms Davidson that: “The only part of Syria that Israel borders is the occupied Syrian Golan. The fighting in Syria is not taking place metres away from Israel, it is taking place metres away from the occupied Syrian Golan.
From Mr Lamont’s comments, it appears that he considers that the occupied Syrian Golan is part of Israel, which it is not.”
He added: “I am highly disappointed that the delegation did not contact Al-Marsad or other representatives of the Syrian community in the occupied Syrian Golan in order to discuss the daily challenges faced by the remaining native Syrian population in the Syrian Golan due to Israel’s illegal occupation.
This would have ensured that the delegation obtained a more balanced view of the situation in the occupied Syrian Golan.” (http://golan-marsad.org/)