Scotland’s Opposition leader has staunchly defended Israel ahead of her keynote speech at the Board of Deputies, but admitted she may have missed the boat when it comes to Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride festival – since she’s about to be married.
Ruth Davidson, who announced her engagement to partner Jen Wilson last year, spoke to Jewish News this week about the Jewish community’s concern for refugees, the line between anti-Semitism and anti-Israel criticism and about how she is yet to visit the Jewish state.
Last year Davidson’s Conservatives became Scotland’s second largest party, winning 31 seats in the Scottish Parliament and, earlier this year, she stunned analysts by winning 13 Conservative seats in the 2017 General Election.
Ahead of the Board’s annual dinner next week, she said she was “sympathetic” to Jewish concerns about the safety of refugees fleeing war in the Middle East, but denied that the government had not done enough. She said: “If anything, they’re not given enough credit.”
Asked whether she agreed that it was now anti-Semitic to call Israel a “racist state”, as implied by the government’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition, she refused to be drawn.
“I’m not sure I’ve got a yes-no answer,” she said. “Contextually, you’ve got to look at who’s saying what and why. Is it racist? I’ve never thought to categorise it like that.”
On concerns that modern day anti-Semitism masquerades as criticism of Israel, she said: “Some of the projections that are put on the State of Israel, the confusion between being Israeli and practising Judaism, that’s a distinction that gets blurred, sometimes wilfully, by people who are anti-Semitic. It’s quite a complex position we’re in here.”
She defended the country she is yet to visit, saying: “For me, Israel is a pluralistic society, a democratic country surrounded by countries that are not.
“It offers rights to lots of minority communities, including – and this is of interest to me – the LGBT community, which is not offered to others.”
She continued: “It has people operating at all levels within the state apparatus, whether that’s the military or politics or whatever, from all different ethnic, cultural, national and religious backgrounds, so I just don’t think I would characterise it as racist.”
Davidson, 38, said she was the only member of her family yet to visit the country, and that she’d go “when I’ve finished doing this job”, including to Tel Aviv’s famous Pride event.
“Who knows, maybe one day, although I’m a happily soon-to-be-married woman, so Pride’s not what it used to be!”