Israel-Hamas war: SNP MSP told to apologise for 'appalling anti-Semitic' comment in Scottish Parliament ceasefire debate

John Mason MSP has been told his comments have ‘no place’ in mainstream Scottish politics

An SNP MSP has been told to apologise for making an “appalling anti-Semitic” comment during a parliamentary debate on a ceasefire in Israel and Gaza.

During the debate, John Mason said even though Israel was “the land God gave his chosen people”, “it does not mean we cannot criticise the Jews”.

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The Scottish Conservatives are now calling for the Glasgow Shettleston MSP to “apologise immediately for the gross offence”, and for First Minister Humza Yousaf to discipline him.

SNP MSP John Mason. Picture: PASNP MSP John Mason. Picture: PA
SNP MSP John Mason. Picture: PA

Speaking at the debate, which was tabled by fellow SNP MSP Ivan McKee, Mr Mason said: “Clearly, anti-Semitism is not the same as valid criticism of Israel, but neither are the two completely distinct and unconnected.

“Most of the Jews I know in Scotland, and in England as well, have family and friends in Israel. It is the only Jewish state in the world and, according to the Bible, is the land which God gave his chosen people.

“Now, having said that, it does not mean that we cannot criticise the Jews or Israel. God himself is hugely critical of his people in much of the scriptures, not least when he punished them by exiling them to Babylon and elsewhere.

“So, it is not anti-Semitic for some to say that the present Israeli offensive has been over the top and has possibly crossed the line from defence to revenge.”

The Scottish Conservatives have said Mr Mason’s comments have no place in Scottish politics. Conservative party chairman Craig Hoy said: “This is an appalling anti-Semitic comment from an SNP MSP that has no place in a mainstream political party.

“John Mason’s slur could not be more explicit – or ignorant. He must apologise immediately for the gross offence he has caused and Humza Yousaf must take action against his colleague.”

This is not the first time Mr Mason has come in for criticism over his comments. In 2022, the SNP disciplined the MSP for taking part in an anti-abortion protest outside a clinic.

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Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon also had to apologise to the families of three IRA murder victims in Scotland after Mr Mason compared the terrorist group to freedom fighters.

It also comes the day after the House of Commons descended into chaos over a vote on a ceasefire in the region.

Wednesday was opposition day, meaning the SNP were able to take control of the House of Commons agenda, using the window to table a motion for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza.

Labour put forward an amendment calling for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” and the Government put forward an amendment for a “humanitarian pause” to the fighting.

However, in a highly unusual move, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle allowed the Labour amendment to be voted on. This move has led SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn to call for Sir Lindsay’s resignation.

Conservative and SNP MPs walked out of the debating chamber in protest at the decision, although the SNP did vote on the Labour amendment afterwards.

The SNP has been approached for comment.

A statement from the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities said: “While John Mason is right to say that not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, sadly much of it is. We are troubled that some of the language used echoes familiar anti-Semitic themes, and concerned that that gives succour to the abusers rather than support to the abused.

"At a time when there has been a massive spike in anti-Semitic incidents in Scotland and elsewhere following the pogrom on October 7, that is the wrong message to send. We hope he can clarify his intentions.”



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