Holyrood vote a step forward for Palestine solidarity movement

by Heckle reporter

Palestine solidarity campaigners chalked up a major win on Tuesday as the Scottish Parliament overwhelmingly backed international calls for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, just hours before the announcement of the first temporary truce since the six-week war began — but both the Scottish and UK governments face further demands as Israel’s genocidal campaign continues.

Despite a phoney war over the weekend, when it was reported that the SNP would resist Labour attempts to “water down” its ceasefire motion, both the SNP and Greens ultimately accepted a Labour amendment on the basis it left intact the critical call for an “immediate ceasefire” while adding that both Israel and Hamas should be investigated by International Criminal Court.

Earlier in the day, more than 150 protesters gathered outside Holyrood for a rally organised by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC), which made clear that the UK’s complicity in Israeli war crimes would continue to be challenged within and outwith the chamber.

Pictured: Labour MSP Katy Clark addresses the SPSC rally outside Holyrood.

Arms trade under spotlight

Addressing the SPSC rally, Katy Clark, a Labour MSP for West Scotland and a prominent figure on the Scottish Labour left, highlighted the role of the UK arms industry in the war, calling on the UK government to suspend arms export licences allowing for the sale of weaponry to the Israeli government. “It has [been done] before and it is perfectly possible to do it again,” she said, referring to the UK’s revocation of some arms exports licences during the 2009 war.

She also challenged the Scottish Government to end public subsidies for arms companies, drawing attention to research by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and investigative journalists showing that millions of pounds of public money has gone to firms producing arms for the likes of Israel and Saudi Arabia through agencies under Scottish ministers’ oversight.

Clark added that she was “very disappointed that the UK parliament didn’t vote for an immediate ceasefire”. Amid cries of “shame!” and “shame on Starmer!” from the crowd, she said she was “very disappointed that many Labour MPs did not vote for that ceasefire”.

Two arms factories — Thales’ factory in Glasgow and Leonardo’s factory in Edinburgh — have become focal points for protests by Palestine solidarity activists in recent years. Three activists who occupied and sabotaged the Thales factory last year are this week on trial in Glasgow.

Willie Black, an Edinburgh-based trade union activist and member of socialist group rs21, told the rally of efforts to reach out to Leonardo workers to encourage them to refuse to do work which could be linked to Israeli war crimes. “We’re saying to workers, if you resist, if you no longer wish to do it, and the manager tries to discipline you, we’re saying we’ll be there in our thousands,” he said.

A ceasefire and beyond

The UK opposes an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and instead promotes so-called ‘humanitarian pauses’ which would allow brief windows of time for aid to enter the besieged strip before Israeli bombing — which has already led to the deaths of 14,000 Palestinians, a figure comprised mostly of civilians, including more than 5,500 children — is allowed to resume.

This position makes the UK and a number of other European countries international outliers, with more than 120 countries backing an immediate ceasefire in the UN General Assembly last month, a point stressed by SNP MP Tommy Sheppard in a short speech to the SPSC demo.

After Tuesday’s vote, the Scottish Parliament has become only the fourth parliament in western Europe to call for an immediate ceasefire, following Ireland’s Dáil, the Welsh Senedd and the Catalan Parliament — though a number of western European governments, in particular Belgium and Spain, have also made statements in support of this position.

By Tuesday evening, news began to emerge of an agreement, mediated by Qatar, providing for a temporary four-day truce between Israel and Hamas as well as a prisoner exchange. First Minister Humza Yousaf has rightly said that “every ounce of diplomatic effort” should be focused on turning this temporary reprieve into “a permanent end to the violence”.

However, Palestinians have emphasised that a ceasefire can only be a stepping stone on the road to a permanent settlement which dismantles Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism.

Dr Issam Hijjawi, a prominent Scottish-Palestinian community activist, told Heckle: “Just imagine a family leaving their home with nothing — no food, no water, no electricity — and just going. People are very welcoming in the south of Gaza, but the bombardment has reached there, so there is not an inch in Gaza which is safe. They just wait to be murdered, to be killed.

“No school is safe, no hospital is safe, no street is safe, no home is safe — so yes, I agree that a ceasefire is an immediate and urgent call for now. But against this background, we shouldn’t forget for a second: what is the root of the problem? The root of the problem is the denial of our people of our internationally-recognised rights.”

He added: “We don’t want the public, when the events are ended — and there will be a ceasefire — to go home and to forget about the issue without dealing with the roots of the problem.”



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