Scotland’s former justice secretary was booed by pro-Palestinian activists at a rally in Glasgow after saying Israel has a right to “defend itself against terrorism”.
Keith Brown, who served in the position under Nicola Sturgeon, spoke at the event on Saturday in front of a large crowd at the city’s Buchanan Street steps.
The rally – which also saw an emotional speech from an eight-year-old Palestinian girl – coincided with others in Scotland’s cities, including in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee, as well as a highly publicised march in London.
The first speaker during the rally, Mr Brown said he was speaking in a personal capacity, as opposed to as the SNP’s depute leader and a former minister.
“We need to be clear, collective punishment is a war crime, and it’s wrong that the Palestinian people are currently being collectively punished for the actions of a terrorist group,” he said.
“The only way that we’re going to end the perpetual cycle of violence in Israel and Palestine is by addressing the root cause.
“That’s why we stand for a two state solution, which recognises the sovereignty, the independence, the territorial integrity and the right to self determination of both Palestine and Israel.”
Following a good initial reception from the hundreds-strong crowd, boos began to ring out after the former minister said: “As I say, Israel has a right to defend itself against terrorism.”
Despite the response, Mr Brown continued: “But that response must be proportionate. The actions of the Israeli government in recent weeks have been anything but.”
Mr Brown continued his speech against the backdrop of boos which made his remarks difficult to hear.
The crowd was also addressed by eight-year-old Jeewan Wadi, who was born in Gaza in 2014.
Through tears and being held up by her father, Jeewan recounted how, while pregnant with her, her mother was forced to hide from bombs.
“Listen everybody, I only care about the children, babies, women and men that are getting bombed in their own homes,” she said.
Ending her remarks, Jeewan led the crowd in a chant of “ceasefire now”.
The demonstration, which was planned deliberately by marchers to avoid the nearby George Square to allow veterans and the public to commemorate Armistice Day, came against a background of political tension.
Comments from the Home Secretary and Prime Minister in relation to the London march sparked the ire of activists in Scotland, with Suella Braverman and Rishi Sunak invoked repeatedly by speakers at the rally.
Mrs Braverman accused the Metropolitan Police of political bias after they resisted pressure to cancel the march, while the Prime Minister urged those protesting to do so “respectfully and peacefully”.
Jonathon Shafi, who was representing the Stop the War Coalition but was also the leader of the Radical Independence Campaign north of the border, called for the resignation of both, as well as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer during his speech.
“(Suella Braverman) tried to stop us from marching, but in London today, I can report that the largest demonstration for Palestine in British political history is now taking place,” he said to one of the biggest cheers of the event.
Mr Shafi went on to call for a motion in Holyrood in support of a ceasefire.
The Scottish Greens have already submitted such a motion, while former SNP MSP Sandra White told the crowd on Saturday current member Ivan McKee would submit another one.
Reports have also suggested that the Alba Party, through newly defected MSP Ash Regan, plans to submit a motion as well.
“There must be a ceasefire motion put to Scottish MSPs to vote on, because if we do that we will isolate, we will expose the leadership of the UK, who can’t bring themselves even an ounce of compassion, of humanity for the disaster unfolding in Gaza at the hands of the Israeli state and backed by their American partners,” Mr Shafi added.
Despite a heavy police presence – with eight riot vans parked just yards from the demonstration and attendees forced to pass through lines of officers – the event was overwhelmingly peaceful.
Numerous times the crowds broke into chants of “ceasefire now”, “free Palestine” and the controversial phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.
17:1911 Nov 20231473 words
Counter-protesters arrested during pro-Palestinian demonstration
(adds par 26-34)
Dozens of counter-protesters have been arrested as hundreds of thousands of people took part in a pro-Palestinian demonstration in central London.
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