Shameful stain on city's reputation
KEVIN WILLIAMSON Comment
[The Herald, UK, 28 October]:
"It was that churlishly brilliant Mancunian fall guy, Mark E Smith, who once put tongue in cheek and sang: "I'm an Edinburgh man, myself." I know what he was getting at. Having arrived in the Scottish capital 23 ago from the northern hinterlands, and having been swallowed by the city's allure, my own Edinburgh chauvinism I sometimes find hard to keep in check. So writing what follows comes hard. Then doubly hard again.
There is something special about Glasgow. There's an intangible feeling you get about the place that weaves its magic the moment you get off the train at Queen Street and spill out on to the proletarian red carpet that is George Square. There's no place like Glasgow. The people aren't just gallus; they're barry.
Glasgow's appeal as a city goes much further than the unique architecture, the artists and writers who have graced its pavements, and the humour of the shipyards and football terracing. The foundation stones of Glasgow's enviable reputation are undoubtedly its radical traditions and history.
Last century, it grew in size and reputation after wave upon wave of refugees from the Highland Clearances were pushed off their land and headed south. They mingled with the exodus of Irish immigrants seeking work. These were people whose terrible experiences nurtured a natural rebellious streak that continues to permeate the lifeblood of the city to this day.
Glasgow has an enviable reputation for officially honouring its radicals and its thinkers, its reformers and revolutionaries alike. You can turn out of Nelson Mandela Square and within minutes be faced with an imposing statue of old Donald Dewar, glasses mangled, but still keeping an eye on things best as he can.
It should be remembered, too, that in 1981 Glasgow became the first city in the world to officially honour Nelson Mandela when it awarded him the Freedom of the City. Seven years later, the UN Security Council was still passing resolutions condemning the ANC as one of the world's leading terrorist organisations.
Glasgow's radical traditions stretch back in time through the rent strikes of 1915; the revolutionary upheavals that led to British tanks rolling into George Square to quell the Red Clydesiders in 1919; and more recently with the popular uprising against the poll tax and the election of the country's only openly Marxist MSP. Even last week, the city hosted the biggest anti-war demonstration Scotland has seen in generations.
With this kind of history and traditions burned deep into the Glaswegian psyche, it is with a deep sense of shame and even disbelief that I saw with my own two eyes Glasgow play host on Saturday night to one of the world's most notorious terrorists and mass murderers, General Shaul Mofaz, the appropriately named butcher of Jenin, who has been responsible for some of the worst terror atrocities to take place anywhere on this planet in recent years. This is a man who makes Osama bin Laden look like Wolfie Smith and whose actions make al Qaeda look like the Trumpton fire brigade.
General Mofaz is the Israeli military leader who has personally organised the occupation of Palestinian land which has left the world numb in disbelief as hundreds of unarmed women and children have been killed indiscriminately in the recent intifada by helicopter gunfire, sophisticated machine-guns, and a relentless tank bombardment - all under Mofaz's command until he resigned in June to make a bid for a political career. God help the Palestinians if it gets off the ground.
Terrorism is terrorism, whether committed by the state, political extremists or desperate individuals. Apologists for terrorism - and as a pacifist I am sick of them all - will try to exonerate Mofaz, but this was a man in command of troops who in April even attempted to murder a sitting Scottish MSP, Lloyd Quinan, who had gone to Jenin in a peaceful deputation of international observers.
General Mofaz's arrival for a dinner in Glasgow's Hilton hotel - organised by the United Jewish Israel Appeal - could not have been more provocative. It is little wonder more than 500 protesters felt enraged enough to seal off all entrances to the Hilton for more than two hours.
It is strange, too, that a single naked Scots woman in China can make the front pages of the Scottish press, while more than 50 - and I counted - supposedly submissive Muslim women in traditional dress joining an angry protest in the heart of Glasgow gets nary a mention anywhere. Why? Are these women not as glamorous as a naked white woman? Do their voices, so often silenced in the past, not deserve to be heard, too?
I cannot understand why Glasgow City Council allowed this individual to arrive here without as much has a chirpy cheep of protest when the likes of Mike Tyson coming to the city - who to my knowledge has never killed anyone - became a cause celebre. I can only shake my head in disbelief that Glasgow, that brilliant, radical, engaging city teeming with multicultural and radical traditions, and which exemplifies so much that is good about Scotland, sat back and allowed its reputation to dragged through the gutter by the welcome it extended to such an obnoxious and dangerous war criminal.