A Scottish sheriff has ruled that targeting Israeli citizens for protest is not anti-Semitic or illegal. The ruling was handed down in a case involving the disruption of a Jerusalem String Quartet concert.
The quartet was interrupted during the Edinburgh Festival concert in 2008 by a small group of protesters screaming “They're Israeli army musicians! End genocide in Gaza, boycott Israel!” Prosecutors argued that the disruption was “racially aggravated” because it targeted private Israeli citizens and not representatives of the state.
However, Sheriff James Scott ruled that charging the protesters with racial bias because they specified that they were targeting Israel could lead to a situation in which those protesting a state or its army were unable to name the state, for fear of being charged with hate crimes. Defense attorney Aamer Anwar had made a similar argument, warning that the case could set “a dangerous precedent.”
The protest was organized by the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, a group that compares Israel to apartheid South Africa, and states as its mission, “We oppose a Jewish supremacist state in Israel/Palestine as others opposed a White supremacist state in South Africa or Alabama.”
Similar protests followed, including one in March of this year, when the Quartet was interrupted as it played in Wigmore hall. Following that incident, the Jerusalem Quartet released a statement criticizing the disruption of its concert as “mistaken” and “inconsiderate.” The Quartet does not represent the government of Israel any more than its audience represented the government of the United Kingdom, the statement argued.
Members of the Quartet also played up their own pacifist credentials. “As it happens, none of us was in a combat unit [during IDF service]. We served our conscription as musicians,” they wrote. In addition, they said, two members of the group are also members of the joint Israeli-Arab Divan Orchestra, led by composer Daniel Barenboim.
"It is destructive of our attempts to foster Israel-Arab relations for us to be the subject of demonstrations of the kind we suffered the other day,” they said.