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A Scottish Fishing Village Becomes a Flashpoint of the Arab-israeli Conflict

March 25, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Until very recently Dundee was best known as a fishing port in eastern Scotland famous for its fruit cake and its football team.

But it has now acquired unlikely significance as a cockpit of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Some 400 Jews, and Gentile friends of Israel from all over Scotland, attended a stormy meeting at Dundee University Sunday to protest against the town’s decision to “twin” itself with Nablus as a gesture of solidarity with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

If Ernie Ross, the town’s pro-Arab Labor MP, had thought that this “twinning” arrangement could go through smoothly, he was gravely mistaken. The meeting attracted not only local Jews, but Gentile friends of Israel, such as Scottish nationalist leader Winifred Ewing, and the Board of Deputies of British Jews led by its president, Greville Janner MP, who flew to Dundee from London for the day with fellow honorary officers. The national press, radio and television were also on hand.

What attracted them to Dundee was not merely the gesture to the PLO, symbolized by the display of its flag in Dundee’s Council chamber, but the fact that it coincided with unprecedented displays of anti-Jewish prejudice in Dundee.

There are only about 20 Jewish families in Dundee and there is no previous record of anti-Semitic outbreaks since the community was founded over a century ago.

The fact that the “twinning” did not go unopposed was initially due to the leader of Dundee’s tiny community, Dr. Albert Jacob. His outspoken and single-handed protests were “rewarded” three weeks ago by the appearance of anti-Semitic daubings on the home of his 81-year-old father.


The shock was redoubled last weekend when more Nazi symbols appeared on Dundee’s synagogue. The perpetrators, however, performed an unwitting service to the Jewish and Israeli cause. On landing in Dundee, Janner asked his pro-Arab colleague, Ross, as well as James Gowans, the Lord Provost, to inspect the daubings.

It was a graphic illustration of Janner’s arguments about the affinities between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Directly attributing the outbreak to the link with the PLO, Janner told the protest meeting: “When you twin a city with an organization of terror and hang up its flag you are creating a climate of hatred.” An abashed Lord Provost promised to ask the Civic Council to have the flag removed.

Council members still remain committed to visiting Nablus in exchange for a visit by the Arab town’s mayor, Bassam Shaka, who was himself the victim of a terrorist attack last June widely attributed to Jewish extremists. Under the influence of the weekend’s uproar, however, Council members are considering extending their visit to an Israel Kibbutz. Perhaps they will find that Israel is just as attractive as Nablus.

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