SCoJeC was delighted to be able to arrange for a delegation of Scottish National Party MPs who were visiting Israel to hold an informal meeting with a cross-section of young Scots who now live there.
On the last day of their week-long trip, the MPs – Angus Robertson, recently elected Deputy Leader of the SNP, Kirsten Oswald, who represents East Renfrewshire, the constituency with the largest Jewish community in Scotland, and Dr Paul Monahan – met a group of young Israelis who were born in Scotland. The group, who ranged in age from 18 to 30, told the MPs about their upbringing in Scotland and life in Israel, and discussed their views on a range of topics including antisemitism, Scottish independence, leaving the EU, and Jewish life in Scotland.
The MPs spoke about how important their trip was for them. They had paid their respects to Holocaust victims at Yad Vashem, visited the Knesset, and met a range of both Israeli and Palestinian public figures. They said they had been surprised to learn about Israel's diversity, and felt that the country's world leading work in fields like technology and higher education were an example that Scotland could learn from.
With regard to the Middle East, the MPs said that they favour a two-state solution: as a political party that is built upon the concept of national self-determination, they empathise with the Jewish people's desire for a homeland and also that of the Palestinians, and feel that Scotland, as another small country with a strong sense of identity, could help to facilitate peace negotiations. They are keen to strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries, and are unequivocally opposed to cultural and commercial boycotts.
They were interested in how Israel makes an effort to connect with Jews in the diaspora. Whereas Israel has formal programs for this, Scotland’s diaspora outreach is very ad hoc – not much more than the odd Burns Supper. Describing expatriates as the country's best export, Angus Roberson said Scotland could do more to connect with its diaspora, as it is important that, even if Scots leave Scotland, they should feel connected and that they always have a home there.
All the MPs made it clear that they value an inclusive, diverse Scotland, and that no form of racism, including antisemitism, is ever acceptable. They said that the SNP is working hard to combat antisemitism in Scotland.
Oliver Worth, originally from Glasgow, whose flat in Tel Aviv was the venue for the meeting, commented, “I can’t recall another political party making a point of arranging a meeting with young immigrants. It was touching, and to me said a great deal about the SNP’s outlook. They stayed long beyond the time they had scheduled, and were happy to discuss Scotland, its relationship with Israel and the region, and Scotland’s Jewish Community.”
Angus Robertson MP said: "I enjoyed spending the morning with this group of young Scots-Israelis to hear about their experience living and working in Israel. Their evident talent and enthusiasm and their engagement with both countries was first rate. Having lived abroad for ten years myself, I am aware of the enriching experience that immersing yourself in a new nation can be, and I wish them the best of luck.
"There is much that Scotland can learn from Israel with regard to engagement with the diaspora to ensure that we continue our links with Scots expats around the world
"I am grateful for the assistance of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities in setting up the meeting, and to the young people, many of whom had travelled a great distance to join us on the day."