“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Boycotting Israelis, Playing The Victim And West Dunbartonshire Council.

with 11 comments

West Dunbartonshire Council and the man, that made a critical amendment of the motion to boycott all Israeli goods, has now released a video on the matter.

Why the deputy leader of West Dunbartonshire Council, Councillor Jonathan McColl, decided to make this video is a mystery to me.

I would have thought that Cllr McColl and West Dunbartonshire Council might have learnt the expression, when in a hole stop digging, but alas, no.

I suppose, being charitable, that Cllr McColl wants to get his point across, but from my brief viewing it doesn’t do them any favours.

The tone and content of the video suggest that West Dunbartonshire Council and Cllr McColl didn’t understand or appreciate the sensitivity of the term “boycott” when applied to Israelis or Jews. Moreover, there is an attempt within the video to play the victim, to gain pity and say that people have said terrible things to them.

It is quite possible that members of the public vented their understandable anger at Cllr McColl or West Dunbartonshire Council, presumably the lesson to learn is, don’t go posturing about issues that you barely understand and sensitivities that you couldn’t.

The sight of politicians whining about how people have said nasty things to them, in this instance, is unedifying. They might do well to remember that Israelis and Jews have faced far, far worse things than a bit of name-calling.

I think that they could have spent their time more profitably by reading, thinking and understanding that Europeans posturing about the Middle East is both condescending and decidedly unnecessary, it achieves little and potentially aggravates many.

I would suggest that the councillors of West Dunbartonshire Council make an effort to read up on antisemitism, in depth, and the history of Poland and Germany in the 1920s/1930s in particular. If the libraries in West Dunbartonshire Council don’t have books on the topics I am happy to provide a reading list for said councillors.

Any way, please do view the video and let me have your comments. I have taken the liberty of posting Cllr McColl’s full comments as a public record:

“Israeli Goods Boycott
Posted by CllrJMcColl at 9:04 pm, May 30th 2011.
Council Motion & Statements

An official Council statement can be found at

An earlier statement including a copy of the original motion can be found at

Personal Statement

The following is intended to answer a number of questions that have been asked and assertions made in emails etc…

This boycott was not made at the request, suggestion or upon reading a pamphlet from any Anti-Israeli or Pro-Palestinian group.

This boycott was in response to and in support of international media coverage two years ago by the BBC, AP, CNN, SKY, REUTERS which showed Israeli forced murdering innocent women and children and firing rockets at civilian targets.

I have never seen, read or heard any material from Pro-Palestinian or Anti-Israeli groups and I would put little stock in either. I get my information from reputable, recognised sources.

Hamas’ use of hospitals and other civilian buildings (and indeed civilians themselves) as human shields is utterly despicable, but that does not give the Israeli Government the right to kill those unfortunate enough to be used by this terrorist organisation.

West Dunbartonshire Council remains committed to our boycott of Israeli goods and our resolve has only been strengthened by the torrent of vile abuse threats of violence against our families that has come from people who claim to be peace loving people.

This is not an anti-Semitic act.

I don’t care whether you are Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Agnostic or any other such label you might want to give someone. We are all members of the human race and we should all stand together in asking the Israeli Government to think again about their methods.

I agree that the Israel Government has the right and responsibility to defend their people, but I do not agree that this should come at such a high cost. They need to think again.

That assumption on your part says more about you than it does about me. To quote a Jewish woman from Glasgow who telephoned me on this issue,

“We are brought up in a culture of ‘poor wee us’, automatically thinking that the world is against us and perhaps we should take stock of that before we draw conclusions about other people’s motivations.”

The reason the Council discussed this matter was because it was raised by an individual Councillor as a private member’s motion.

You’d have to ask Cllr Jim Bollan what his personal motivations were for bringing this forward, but I do not believe him to be racist. I have never found him to talk down or discriminate against anyone.

It is not normal for issues of International significance to be brought before Council my individual members. Our main function is to govern our small local area and provide Education and Social Care services as well at things like refuse collection and recycling.

We do on occasions hear motions from members of this type, although never before a boycott. For example, the Council has condemned the actions of China, Burmha and various other places and has twice since 2007 been successful in aiding Amnesty Internation to free political prisoners from such countries.

All I ask is that when you read this and other responses you might get from our Councillors, that you look at this issue objectively and try to see this from our point of view.

My Great Grandfather fought in WWII and was awarded the highest decoration an enlisted man can get in the British Army for his bravery on the battlefield in the fight against Hitler’s Nazis and being compared to such evil people is not only extremely hurtful, but the first time I read one of these emails, I was physically sick.

If you are one of the many many people who have been sending vile emails, please…I urge you to take a step back and consider your position from our point of view.

Any further threatening email received will be forwarded to the police.”

Update 1:

Just noticed that Cllr McColl left out the actual minutes of the meeting. Reading them you will notice that he effectively amended the motion to extend the boycott to all councils in Scotland. Some omission.

This is the link to them as a Word document. I have highlighted the parts concerning the boycott of Israeli goods, as a public record.


At the Meeting of West Dunbartonshire Council held in the Council Chambers, Garshake Road, Dumbarton on Wednesday, 28 January 2009 at 7.00 p.m.

Present: Provost Denis Agnew and Councillors George Black, James Bollan, Margaret Bootland, Jim Brown, Geoff Calvert, Gail Casey, Jim Finn, William Hendrie, Douglas McAllister, David McBride, Jonathan McColl, Ronnie McColl, Jim McElhill, Patrick McGlinchey, Craig McLaughlin, Willie McLaughlin, Marie McNair, John Millar, Iain Robertson, Martin Rooney and May Smillie.

Attending: David McMillan, Chief Executive; Bill Clark, Executive Director of Social Work and Health; Elaine Melrose, Executive Director of Housing, Environmental and Economic Development; Terry Lanagan, Executive Director of Educational Services; Joyce White, Executive Director of Corporate Services; Tricia O’Neill, Head of Human Resources and Organisational Development; Liz Cochrane, Head of Service, Policy and Performance; William Gibson, Section Head of Estates; Andrew Fraser, Head of Legal, Administrative and Regulatory Services and Craig Stewart, Committee Officer.

Provost Denis Agnew in the Chair


Prior to the meeting commencing, Provost Agnew sought advice from the Head of Legal, Administrative and Regulatory Services concerning the issue of banners/placards being carried by members of the public and on display in the public gallery area and the possible health and safety implications thereto. Having heard the Legal Officer’s advice, Provost Agnew ruled that given the dimensions of the banners/placards that they be allowed in the Chamber.


(A) Motion by Councillor Jim Bollan – Proposed Boycott of Israeli Goods

This Council deplores the loss of life in Palestine which now numbers well over 1,000. This Council also recognises the disproportionate force used by the IDF in Palestine and agrees to boycott all Israeli goods as a consequence. Officers should immediately cease the purchase of any goods we currently source, which were made or grown in Israel. Officers should also ensure we procure no new goods or produce from Israel until this boycott is formally lifted by WDC.

Councillor Bollan was heard in support of the above motion.

After hearing Councillor J. McColl, Councillor Bollan agreed to accept the undernoted wording as an addendum to his motion:-

That the Chief Executive be instructed to write to all other Councils in Scotland with regard to seeking their endorsement of the motion.

Councillor McGlinchey asked Councillor Bollan to accept a further addendum to his motion. After hearing the Head of Legal, Administrative and Regulatory Services, Provost Agnew ruled that this addendum did not arise directly out of the motion. However he would accept it as a separate motion in light of urgency. Thereafter, Councillor McGlinchey seconded the motion.

The Council unanimously agreed to approve the above motion, as amended.

Councillor McGlinchey, seconded by Councillor Calvert, moved:-

That the Chief Executive be instructed to prepare a letter to be signed by the Leaders of the Council and Opposition to the Director General of the BBC and the Chief Executive of Sky News requesting that they reconsider their decision not to screen the Disasters Emergency Appeal concerning humanitarian aid to Gaza.

The Council unanimously agreed to approve the motion. “

Update 2:

These are the videos of Cllr McColl’s statement. I feel his words deserve a wider audience and are available on my YouTube channel, as a matter of public record:

1 of 2

2 of 2

Update 3: It seems that some of West Dunbartonshire’s councillors are going on the offensive, or at least that how’s it seems here:

“You will recall I posted about some correspondence I had with one of the councillors of Scotland’s West Dunbartonshire Council, which has banned books from Israel. The councillor in question, Lawrence O’Neill, promised to bring up the issue at a council meeting last week, but despite my repeated emails to him asking for an update, I have received no response from him.”

11 Responses

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  1. The man is a bit… slow, could I use that word?


    31/05/2011 at 08:15

  2. Snoopy,

    You might think that I couldn’t possibly comment.

    But I do find the whole aspect of victimhood, as seen in the video, to be a bit strange.

    I had never imagined that Scots (the majority) would break down and cry if someone said something slightly harsh to them, that’s not my experience of Scots, they’d laugh it off..or do something else…

    I suppose Councillors at West Dunbartonshire Council must be particularly sensitive, gentle types, not use to the rough and tumble of politics?

    I do hope they learn from these events.


    31/05/2011 at 14:15

  3. Twenty minutes of waffle. I have no problem with problem with criticising certain actions taken by the Israeli government (eg the idiotic overreaction to the Gaza aid flotilla a while back) but West Dunbartonshire Council were foolish to go ahead with this pointless boycott.

    THe gesture might have been a little more … (gah I can’t think of the right word!) had they also taken action against Gaza products in response to the criminal acts of the Hamas government.

    jams o donnell

    31/05/2011 at 17:41

  4. Of course, Jams, there are plenty of reasons to criticise the Israeli government, political reasons, most people would acknowledge that.

    However, it becomes much more serious when you decide you’re going to boycott a whole country, or the products of that country.

    My bet is that the councillors thought they were doing this with the best of intentions, but couldn’t think it through or realise how offensive it would be to Israelis, etc and everyone else

    I am not surprised at that instigator of this motion, SSP councillor Jim Bollan, it was probably his party policy, and he was looking for an opportunity to bring it up.

    The SSP has an excuse, it is on the fringes of Scottish politics, but that does not apply to the SNP councillors, they should have known better.

    If they wish to extricate themselves from this matter, they should apologised for any offence, say they probably overstepped the mark and didn’t realise the issues involved, etc


    31/05/2011 at 18:28

  5. “This is not an anti-Semitic act.” Here is a man who is clueless about the definition: where a party singles out Israel for actions ignored when done by others, it constitutes antisemitism according to the UN definition of the same. Had he boycotted the PA and Gaza at the same time, then we’re talking people-of-conscience, but not when the council censors ONLY Israel, which was responding to years of Hamas rocket attacks on our civilians.

    “This boycott was in response to and in support of international media coverage two years ago by the BBC, AP, CNN, SKY, REUTERS which showed Israeli forced murdering innocent women and children and firing rockets at civilian targets.” No, you utter twit–we were firing at Hamas military targets. Hamas chose to fire from school yards, store munitions in private homes and mosques, and build bunkers for their commanders but not build one single shelter for their civilian population–leading to the Palestinian joke of the time: “What does HAMAS stand for? Hides Amidst Mosques and Schools.”

    Nor did we “murder” innocent civilians–we are probably more heartsick than Hamas at civilian deaths (because we don’t count them as a propaganda coup as Hamas does). We did kill over 700 COMBATANTS–a figure Hamas agrees with. If Hamas chooses to launch their missiles from civilian neighborhoods, we have two choices: allow our civilians to be killed, or try to knock out the rocket launchers and commanders. Like the council, we, too, deplore the loss of civilian life ON BOTH SIDES.

    It was a British commander who said “During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”

    And just where was this sanctimonious council during the several years of Hamas’s bombardment of our towns, schools, and villages full of civilians?

    Sarah Netofi

    31/05/2011 at 18:37

  6. “I suppose, being charitable, that Cllr McColl wants to get his point across, but from my brief viewing it doesn’t do them any favours.”

    It certainly doesn’t. If I were WDC I’d get this down quick sharp.

    I haven’t time or space right now to pick up on every issue so I’ll just mention two statements that I found troubling and which I’ll post separately. I trust the councillor –should he read the posts – will see them as constructive criticism from one who has done the job herself.

    In my opinion the following statement is very unfortunate:

    “West Dunbartonshire Council remains committed to our boycott of Israeli goods and our resolve has only been strengthened by the torrent of vile abuse threats of violence against our families that has come from people who claim to be peace loving people.”

    So, what has actually been said here?

    There is no mention of Israel having exacerbated the situation that existed in 2009. Yet the council’s resolve has been strengthened. Why? According to Cllr McColl this is because the councillors have experienced a very negative reaction from some members of the public.

    What a very bizarre way to approach policy!

    Has the Councillor considered how this might be interpreted by residents in Dunbarton? Because what this position seems to be saying is that a) if the council votes on a contentious issue and that vote causes public protest, outrage and threats and b) this public reaction then results in councillors becoming hurt or otherwise emotionally distressed then c) those councillors will not only stick with their original decision but will strengthen their resolve to do so! This isn’t professional and it isn’t very democratic either.

    A councillor is most unlikely to complete his/her term without some form of public disapproval. I certainly didn’t! But if a decision creates such outrage – and I daresay distress – then shouldn’t the councillors first course of action be to listen to the people, undertake a proper and professional review of the issue and do all that is necessary to maintain the good name of their council rather than viewing it only through a prism of self-defence and acting on that alone?

    Reading the motion and listening to the video has not convinced me that there has been an honest and in-depth appraisal of the situation with further research undertaken. One would have thought that before strengthening resolve some consideration might have been given to Judge Goldstone’s retraction – which weakens the original case.

    Given that this issue has been discussed on several blogs in the UK and has reached American sites, I would have thought that the best way forward would be to convene a meeting between the council and an organisation able to represent the Israeli perspectives. At least that way some academic information might surface and the council could be seen to be doing its best to understand both the issues and the outrage.

    Furthermore, if councillors are receiving abuse/threats then such a move would go a long way to stopping that. Which is an awful lot better than going on the attack, sending out warnings and mentioning the police straight away. These types of actions are not the best way to shape the public’s view of a council and although the police take threats seriously, personally, I think it might be better to instigate other measures first in order to support police resources.


    01/06/2011 at 15:42

  7. In the motion itself there are couple of issues that could do with a review.

    “This Council also recognises the disproportionate force used by the IDF in Palestine….”

    I’m not altogether sure that it does recognise what is meant by ‘disproportionate force’

    It seems to me that if a council is going to boycott a country as a result of its use of disproportionate force, and that accusation is going to be in the public domain, then there must surely be some responsibility on the part of the council to a) understand the military meaning of ‘disproportionate force’ b) understand how it is described according to international law and c) await the results of an official inquiry to provide the verdict.

    As mentioned in an earlier post, given the date of this motion and the lack of evidence arising from an inquiry I find it difficult to see how WDC has arrived at its conclusion that the IDF used ‘disproportionate force’.

    This term was being bandied about during Operation Cast Lead and seemed – erroneously – to be a bit of a numbers game at times.

    What does ‘proportionate’ look like if you don’t fully understand the military meaning of the term? If Hamas fired 4,000 rockets then logically, for Israel to take a proportionate response it should fire 4,000 back. In the preceding years when Hamas was launching thousands of rockets into Israel they weren’t concerned about aim. Given their range, Hamas rockets were clearly targeting civilians and not military installations. The logical proportionate response would be for Israel to do likewise.

    Another common mistake is to take the number of dead and injured as the sole measure of proportionality. If that really was military and international law it would make for some very unethical strategies since civilians could end up being the focus for force rather than military targets.

    Secondly, as far as I’m aware that hasn’t been an internationally recognised country called Palestine since 1948. Palestinian territories maybe.If there was such a country then there would be no need for the current actions of the PA and Hamas who have joined forces in order to seek support for their proposed declaration of an independent state of Palestine this coming September.

    I haven’t time to write much more now but the Councillor should take on board the speech mentioned by Sarah (above). Colonel Kemp – Commander of the British Forces in Afghanistan – repeated his statement just a few weeks ago and I’ve provided a link to a video of that part of his speech.

    He clearly says that the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a war zone than any other army in the history of warfare. Perhaps WDC should research exactly how the IDF achieved that. They might be surprised by an army that makes phone calls and drops leaflets in enemy territory to let them know when it’s coming.

    Link to Col, Richard Kemp’s speech on 15th May 2011


    01/06/2011 at 16:11

  8. “Colonel Kemp – Commander of the British Forces in Afghanistan”

    Apologies – that should read ‘one-time Commander of the British Forces in Afghanistan’.


    01/06/2011 at 16:44

  9. […] of my readers, Penny, has some excellent questions for West Dunbartonshire Council: “I haven’t time or space […]

  10. But… isn’t it a violation of UK religious statutes, to be banning the Bible (full of Israeli authors, regardless of the version you use) from the local libraries?


    02/06/2011 at 04:39

  11. suburbanbanshee,

    Possibly so, but if you follow what the councillor are saying, they haven’t done anything.

    It was a symbolic (and rather offensive) gesture.

    West Dunbartonshire Council doesn’t want to *do* anything, if they truly boycotted the Israeli products, then they’d have to stopped using the lot of technical equipment and they won’t inconvenience themselves.

    So really they’re not doing anything, they are making a fuss, being offensive and indulging in gesture politics. Which is why it is so annoying.


    02/06/2011 at 12:44

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