(Hatem Ali/AP Photo)
In recent weeks the situation in Israel and Palestine has captured the world's attention once again. The actions of Hamas are unequivocally condemned by all of us in the Scottish National Party.
The killing of innocent civilians is wrong wherever and whenever it takes place. However, to respond to that act with a further breach of international law as Israel has done by blockading Gaza and prohibiting medical aid, food and water into those who so desperately need it is also to be fully condemned.
The UN General Secretary was right to say that for Israel to respond with the collective punishment of the Palestinian people is a breach of international law. There has been nothing but deep alarm in most quarters around the
world at the proportionality of Israel’s response and at the aerial bombardment and complete and total siege of Gaza.
I say most parts, because once again we are being let down by our so-called Political leaders in the UK. Both the Tories and The Labour Party at Westminster are again missing in action and largely out of touch with public opinion, particularly here in Scotland. Foreign Affairs is a wholly reserved matter and so Scotland must look south for leadership at times such as this, increasingly in vain. So, I will take this opportunity to reinforce that we in the Scottish National Party are calling on both Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer to join with the appeal already being made by SNP Westminster leader
Stephen Flynn MP, in calling for a Humanitarian Ceasefire to be brokered. Once again, Stephen and the SNP stand alone in Westminster and stand alone on the right side of public opinion in Scotland.
The threat of Genocide of the Palestinians is very real, many would say it began some time ago. Scotland, and I am sure the rest of the UK, watched on with incredulity as Sir Keir Starmer told us why he believed Isreal had the right to break
international law and commit war crimes in the name of self-defence. We then of-course witnessed his inevitable attempted row-back, even then, it took a whole 8 days for him to attempt and qualify his awful comments. The former international human rights lawyer and Director of Public Prosecutions in England, no less.
Here in Scotland, we know well that the siege of Gaza did not begin on the 7th of October 2023, the barefaced reality is that the Palestinian people have had their lands taken from them, bit by bit, settlement by settlement for many many years.
We often hear it said that the people of Gaza live in an open-air prison, and while I can see why that inference is made, the reality is worse yet. Those who are incarcerated in prisons all over the world will have access to clean drinking water and sanitation tonight. Prisoners will have 3 square meals a day. Prisoners will have electricity and will go to a bed in a safe cell tonight fairly certain they will wake up tomorrow. Palestinians, in their own lands, do not, will not, cannot.
It is not a prison at all, they are living in a modern-day War Camp. The principle of self-determination is a fundamental human right recognised by international law. It affirms the right of people to choose their political status, to determine their economic, social, and cultural development, and to live in freedom and dignity.
Palestinians, like any other group of people, deserve the opportunity to exercise this right. Advocating for Palestinian self-determination is not a denial of Israel's right to exist either, as it is often now pitched to be. It is no more than a simple plea for a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that respects the rights and aspirations of both.
Peace in the region can only be achieved through dialogue, negotiation, and a commitment to justice on all sides.
Progression to the recognised solution is now imperative - towards the formation of the recognised State of Palestine.
Children in Gaza grow up surrounded by conflict, which leaves a lasting impact on their physical and emotional well-being. It's our moral duty to stand in solidarity with these innocent lives and work towards a brighter future for all of those children.
So, we must continue to do to all that we can to raise awareness, and encourage, in fact, demand, that the UK Government do more right now, to call for an immediate ceasefire, to further support the humanitarian efforts, and to engage with their so-called allies and encourage them to take a path to peace for all the inhabitants in this holiest of lands.
And another thing
My adoration for Celtic Football Club is well known, I have made no attempts to be anything other than proud of that despite it causing me a fair bit of grief on the social network platforms over the time since my first election in 2015.
I have been going to the park consistently and completely in awe of the world famous green and white jersey since my big cousin Andrew took me to my first game at around 7 years old and quite simply, I have never stopped going to support them since. I have a great passion for both Celtic and Politics and no matter what the custodians of the club have to say, they cannot employ double standards when imploring fans to keep political messages away from the minds or the hearts of our socially conscious and politically engaged support, or our ground, for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, it is a bit rich of those who don the blazers at the club to say, ‘keep politics out of football’ when they invite former Politicians to sit in the boardroom at Celtic Park, as they did in the past with the likes of the ‘Baron of Cardowan’, Dr John Reid and others.
The Former Defence and Health Secretary in Tony Blair’s Government, who himself in my view has questions to answer in relation to respect for international law. While it is only right that I point out that at the time of the invasion of Iraq
in 2003 Reid held the health brief, not defence which he held between 2005-2006, he did however vote against a motion that the case had not yet been made for war against Iraq, and he also voted for the declaration of war against Iraq.
These days having vacated the position of Celtic FC Chairman he can be found draped in ermine in the House of Lords, of course. Secondly, Celtic was created in Glasgow’s east end for political reasons, to feed the impoverished children, mainly from Ireland – or in the words of Brother Walfrid himself; "A football club will be formed for the
maintenance of dinner tables for the children and unemployed."
The reason I am saying all of this is that on the day of the recent home match versus Atletico Madrid in the UEFA showpiece tournament the Champions League, Celtic issued a statement via text message to all season ticket holders asking that flags relating to the conflict not be displayed in the ground. On the night, the Celtic fans responded, as only they can, and I could not have been prouder of them or indeed to be seated among them.
It would do the board well to remember that just like football itself, Celtic FC without the fans is nothing.