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Haaretz - Pro-Palestinian activists in Scotland to press appeal over anti-Israel hate crime ruling

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    Haaretz - Wednesday, 02 May 2012 Published 14:14 02.05.12Latest update 14:14 02.05.12 Pro-Palestinian activists in Scotland to press appeal over anti-Israel
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2, 2012
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      Haaretz - Wednesday, 02 May 2012
      Published 14:14 02.05.12Latest update 14:14 02.05.12

      Pro-Palestinian activists in Scotland to press appeal over anti-Israel
      hate crime ruling

      Scottish High Court upholds previous ruling that an attack on a Yeshiva
      University student's room at St. Andrews University last year was
      racially motivated.

      By Anshel Pfeffer

      http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/pro-palestinian-activists-in-scotland-to-press-appeal-over-anti-israel-hate-crime-ruling-1.427756


      Pro-Palestinian activists are planning to take a year-long legal battle
      which has brought into question the connection between anti-Israel
      protest and anti-Semitism to the European Court of Human Rights. The
      Scottish High Court refused to take into account the situation in Israel
      and the Palestinian territories when upholding on Tuesday a previous
      ruling that an attack on a Jewish student's room last year was
      racially-motivated.

      The appeal was over the case of an American exchange student from
      Yeshiva University, Chanan Reitblat, who was studying for one term at St
      Andrews University in eastern Scotland. Last March, two fellow students
      entered Reitblat's room to visit a friend of theirs who had shared the
      room and passed out drunk. They noticed a large flag of Israel that
      Reitblat had on his wall, and one of them, opened his trouser, rubbed
      his hands over his genitals and then rubbed them over the flag. Reitblat
      claimed that they had called him a terrorist and one of them urinated in
      the sink.

      Five months later, a local Sheriff's Court convicted one of the
      students, Paul Donnachie, of a racist "breach of the peace" and
      sentenced him to a 300 pound fine and 150 hours of community service.
      Following the sentence, St Andrews expelled Donnachie from the
      university. But Donnachie did not accept the Sheriff's ruling saying,
      "This is a ridiculous conviction. I'm a member of anti-racism campaigns,
      and I am devastated that as someone who was fought against racism I have
      been tarnished in this way." Scottish pro-Palestinian activists who
      attended the case booed Reitblat as he left the court.

      Supported by the local Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) of
      which he is a member, Donnachie appealed to the Scottish High Court of
      Criminal Appeal, claiming that while his behavior towards Reitblat was
      personally unacceptable, his conduct had not been racist or
      anti-Semitic, but rather a legitimate political protest against Israeli
      policies. They claimed that there had been a miscarriage of justice when
      the Sheriff refused to hear in court SPSC members on the conditions in
      Israel and the Occupied Territories. On Tuesday, the three judges of the
      High Court in Edinburgh refused to overturn the verdict and sentence,
      ruling there had been no miscarriage of justice.

      The ruling has been hailed by Jewish organizations in Britain. Nicola
      Livingston, chairman of Scottish University Jewish Chaplaincy, said that
      “The Jewish Community and Jewish Student Community welcome today’s
      definitive court ruling that abusing a Jewish student due to his
      identification with Israel is criminal and racialist in nature. Interest
      in or identification with Israel and support for its legitimate welfare
      and right to exist is an integral part of Jewish identity of the
      mainstream Jewish community.” She noted that there has been an increase
      of attacks on Jewish students "motivated by anti-Israel sentiment" in
      Scotland over the last three years.

      The head of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Mick Napier, said
      following the High Court ruling that "we will continue to pursue this
      case through every possible legal avenue, including the European Court
      of Human Rights. The initial conviction was absurd, all the hostilities
      by Donnachie were against Israeli state symbol."

      Napier insisted there was nothing anti-Semitic about the attack. "We
      have a record of not tolerating any species of racism and anti-Semitism"
      he said. "We work very hard to distinguish between them and it is our
      opponents who seek to conflate the two issues. A national flag is a
      political symbol and an Israeli flag is provocation to people who see it
      as a symbol of a terrorist state."

      The Israeli Embassy in London said following the ruling that "it means
      that a man who rubs his genitals and waves them around cannot be
      considered taking part in political protest. It is doubtful that the
      Palestine Solidarity Campaign can conform to this new level of political
      discourse."
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