Scotland and Jews

Jewish-Scottish scholar David Daiches stated in his 1956 autobiography entitled Two Worlds: An Edinburgh Jewish Childhood, that one can assert that Scotland is the only European country which has no history of state persecution of Jews.  Scots have long believed themselves to have a biblical connection to the Jewish people.  And unlike their English contemporaries, Scottish students were not required to take a religious oath.  The first Jewish congregation in Edinburgh was founded in 1816 and in Glasgow in 1823.  The Scottish Council of Jewish Communities ( produced a guide entitled Scotland's Jews by Dr. Kenneth E. Collins in June 2008 where the Rt. Hon Alex Salmond, MSP, First Minister of Scotland wrote "I am confident that Scottish Jews will continue to build on the foundations of this impressive legacy of which they, and our nation, can be rightly proud."

This rosy picture, however, has changed in the last few years as the Jewish community in Scotland has experienced a steep decline.  Jewish graves at Glenduffhill Cemetery in Glasgow have been desecrated.  And "slogans sprayed on walls around the cemetery and on the headstones themselves pledge support for Hamas...."  In sheer numbers the antisemitic incidents in Scotland are relatively small but they are increasing.

An April 2010 report entitled "Scotland's Jews: Community and Political Challenges" by Kenneth Collins and Ephraim Borowski underscores the following:

  • In the 1950s, the Jewish Scottish community numbered 18,000 but has now shrunk to around 10,000.
  • In 1999 the Jewish community established the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC), as a democratic representative body to speak on the Jewish community's behalf.
  • The SCoJeC has successfully worked with the Scottish government on matters of mutual concern.
  • Historically there has been little antisemitism in Scotland, but the increase in antisemitic activity has been "associated with events in the Middle East.  Specifically, the Scottish trade union movement has pursued a policy of boycotting Israel despite a dialogue with the Jewish community aimed at understanding both sides of the conflict."

Recently several districts in southwest Scotland have expanded the boycott on Israeli products, and are now barring stores from carrying English translations of Israeli books.  Shortly after Operation Cast Lead, the West Dunbartonshire Regional Council, located west of Glasgow, approved a bill that called to boycott goods produced in Israel.   After the raid on the Turkish Flotilla to Gaza, the boycott included "a ban on the purchase of English translations of Israeli books and the distribution of these books in public libraries throughout the council's jurisdiction."  The Scottish city of Dundee also joined the West Dunbartonshire by distributing "posters...calling on some 150,000 residents to refrain from buying Israeli goods."  Israeli products will also have a special mark placed on them to make them more identifiable.  No other country's books are being boycotted.

It is expected that "ten more Scottish councils may join the boycott."

As Giulio Meotti has written, "it is impossible to make an exhaustive list of the economic actions against Israel, with radical anti-Jewish venom spreading through the West" and as Caroline Glick has written, "what did [Israel ever] do to the Scots?"

The Scottish decision is the first time that a European region has actually "cleansed the presence of Israeli books."  It is reminiscent of all the evil associated with the Holocaust -- from marking the books to denying people the ability to read and think for themselves.

Meotti, author of A New Shoah: the Untold Story of Israel's Victims of Terrorism poignantly calls for "European intellectuals to stand for truth because the worst of all anti-Jewish persecutions, that of Hitler, almost marked the end of European history.  Now it may happen again."

This despicable Scottish decision to ban Israeli books "is eerily reminiscent of darker times" and demonstrates how far "respectable antisemitism has come."  Anti-Zionism is the new name for antisemitism and "a place that boycotts books is not far from a place that burns them."

Eileen can be reached at