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Saturday, 27 August 2011

Is Sheriff Charles MacNair a Bigot or a Fool or Both?

Outrageous Decision to Convict Scottish Student Paul Donnachie of Racially Aggravate Conduct for Defacing Israeli Flag

Clear Threat to Freedom of Speech for Palestine Supporters

It is difficult to decide whether Sheriff Charles MacNair is just a malevolent old fool or a plain ignoramus. Clearly he is not the intellectual of the Scottish bench (one hopes!).

The statement that ‘Saying that a state is terrorist says that everyone within the state is terrorist." should take first prize for judicial stupidity 2011. This is the fascist ideology in a nutshell. People are there to serve the state, . Indeed they identical with the state.

As you can read in Wikipedia

Nazi Germany cultivated the Führerprinzip (leader principle) and Hitler was generally known as just der Führer ("the Leader"). One of the Nazis' most-repeated political slogans was Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer — "One People, One Nation, One Leader".
Clearly Sheriff MacNair subscribes to the same beliefs that got UKIP MP, Godfrey Bloom, expelled from the European Parliament.

A state is literally, in Engel’s well-known description, a ‘body of armed men.’ It is an organisation which, stripped away, is a mechanism of coercion. To confuse a state with those who live in it is to subscribe to the fascist notion that there is complete identity between the nation state and those who live in it. So when George Bush described Iran as a terrorist state, was he saying that all Iranians are terrorists? If that is what Sheriff MacNair believes then he is a racist, abusing his position on the bench and he should be stripped of office.

He associates every person living in a state with the actions of that state. No one I know suggests that all Israelis are terrorists or terrorist supporters yet the state itself is clearly a terrorist one. Many of its supporters, including non-citizens like the complainant Reitblat, clearly are supporters of that terrorism. But that is a conclusion based on his evidence in court, not because he was Jewish. We called Bush a terrorist but that didn't mean all Americans were.

Leaving aside the question of evidence and whether Paul Donnachie actually said what is alleged ‘You’re a terrorist’ to his fellow student, Chanan Reitblat, the suggestion that Reitblat was ‘‘member of Israel’ is even more bizarre. There is no ‘Israel’ unless one is referring to one of 12 ancient tribes that allegedly existed a few thousand years ago. If the reference is to the Israeli state then Reitblat isn't a 'member' (presumably citizen) since he is an American citizen. The idea that one’s Jewishness and support for the Israeli state are one and the same thing is not only nonsense but a Zionist nostrum. A politically contested idea. Zionism, a political creed, does hold that all Jews, wherever they belong, are responsible for the actions of Israel. That is why the Zionist movement was historically seen by Jews as the creation of anti-Semitism.

Far from having convicted Donnachie, Sheriff MacNair should have convicted himself of racism. Because what he ruled was that a political statement about Israel is a racist offense per se as it strikes at the identity of all Jews. MacNair is entitled to his stupidity, he is not entitled to convict or jail someone because of his own stupidity. MacNair refused to admit expert witnesses because there was nothing they could teach him that common sense could not. A judicial Alf Garnett minus the humour. This demonstrates that his mind was so made up he couldn't even be bothered to go through the routine of listening to evidence.

The Decision of St Andrews University to Expel Donnachie Without a Hearing is an Outrageous Surrending of Academic Freedom

The decision, which is likely to be overturned on appeal, [the Scottish judiciary is known for both its stupidity and supiness, but even they have limits] is of course an open threat to free speech and civil liberties. That is why the decision of St. Andrew’s University to expel Paul Donnachie, within one hour of his conviction, and their decision to suspend his fellow Sam Colchester, is also so scandalous. Do they not have disciplinary procedures at St Andrews? Is this why the monarchy loves them? This is as clear a breach of natural justice as it is possible to find. St. Andrews should have been upholding the rights of their students to express their opinions. That is what universities are supposed to be about, not acting as the academic arm of a local judicial bigot.

It is noteworthy that even the Daily Mail, not noted in the past as a supporter of the Palestinians, has come out against this scandalous decision.

Tony Greenstein

Cupar Sheriff convicts anti-racist of “racism”; Appeal underway.

Sheriff Charles MacNair: "Saying that a state is terrorist says that everyone within the state is terrorist."

In what justified shouts of "scandal" from the public gallery, Sheriff Charles MacNair found Paul Donnachie guilty of racially aggravated conduct today. Even the Daily Mailwas shocked.

Sign the open letter of support and read previous reports here. SPSC statement here

The case centred on testimony from Paul's former friend, Jewish fellow student, Chanan Reitblat. Reitblat told the court that both Paul and his co-accused, Sam, had soiled his Israeli flag, following up with comments that "This flag is a terrorist symbol; Israel is a terrorist state; you are a terrorist". No other witness corroborated this statement by Reitblat.

Reitblatt stated in court his firm opposition to international law, his belief that there was no Israeli occupation of any part of Palestine, and his political commitment to Zionist Jews' right to control the entirety of Israel and Palestine, as well as parts of Syria and Egypt.

It's worth repeating - No other witness corroborated Reitblat's assertions.

When asked by Procurator Fiscal Brian Robertson "do you see yourself as affiliated to Israel?", Reitblat replied, "Of course. Israel is a Jewish state... You cannot separate Israel from Jewishness... Israel is a state I feel affiliated to by religion."

Explaining that although he had never been to Israel, he believed "Israel is a land for Jews... The Jewish people have a right to self-determination. That is part of my religious belief."

The prosecution led 8 witnesses, only one of whom, Reitblat's room-mate Matt, provided any information pertinent to the racially aggravated conduct charge. He was the only person present in the room other than Reitblat, Paul and Sam.

Matt testified that what happened was boisterous but good natured; nothing that was said or done was malicious, and that nothing was directed or targeted at Reitblat as an individual. This testimony stands directly against Reitblat's assertion that they both said, "you are a terrorist".

Matt said that Reitblat was irritated by the incident but said that his level of annoyance seems to have increased over time. Reitblat had told him that he was annoyed that Sam had peed in his sink, and that Paul had soiled his flag. Reitblat denied in court that he had discussed this with Matt.

Reitblat also told the warden at the student halls of residence that Sam had done nothing. She said so when interviewed by police, and again in court on Monday.

Later, in his summing up later, the solicitor for Paul's co-accussed, Sam Colchester, explained that Reitblat's evidence had been "unreliable and incredible". He went through a range of clear inconsistencies between what Reitblat had said in previous statements and what he now says. This went unchallenged. The sheriff declared a "NOT PROVEN" verdict in relation to Sam.

After the prosecution case had been made, Paul's lawyer argued that there was no case to answer; that the evidence led did not constitute a crime. He argued that soiling the Israeli flag, which Paul has openly admitted all along, was not a crime, and that there was no corroboration of Reitblat's accusation that they had said, "you are a terrorist", which was the only accusation pertinent to the racially aggravated conduct charge.

The sheriff seemed to ignore these arguments completely, stating that "his conduct had been directed toward the complainer purely because of his membership of a racial group".

The sheriff argued that it had been alleged by the complainer, Chanan Reitblat, that Paul had said, "This flag is a terrorist symbol; Israel is a terrorist state; you are a terrorist". He went on, "even if we assume that he didn't call him a terrorist, the other comments were directed at him because he is Jewish and has a link to Israel."

So the sheriff decided that there was a case to answer, so the defence case would have to be made.

Giving testimony, Paul explained that the defacing of flags was a time-honoured method of showing disaffection to the state, and explained that he had never called Reitbalt a terrorist, but that he had said Israel was a terrorist state.

"I'm not contending that my action toward the flag was commendable or dignified, but it was a political expression."

The sheriff made a very confused attempt to clarify what Paul meant when he referred to a state, and tried to conflate criticism of a state with criticism of the people within it. Paul made a clear distinction. He told the sheriff that "the citizens of a country cannot be held responsible for the actions of a state".

Sheriff MacNair explained that,"The state of Israel is the land and its borders and the people in it", and continued, "Saying that a state is terrorist says that everyone within the state is terrorist." He considered that what Paul did was "done because he [Reitblat] was a Jew and because of his association with Israel."

The sheriff then refused to allow Paul's lawyer to call the three expert witnesses to appear. Liz Elkind and Sarah Glynn, both leading members of of Scottish Jews for a Just Peace, and SPSC chair Mick Napier were going discuss the dangers of conflating Judaism with Zionism and Israel, the history of Zionist attempts to do so, and the concepts of Israel and Israeli nationality. The sheriff considered this irrelevant because there was nothing they could teach him that common sense wouldn't provide.

So the prosecution called 8 witnesses, and Paul's lawyer was only permitted to call Paul...

In his summing up, Paul's solicitor reminded the sheriff that there had been "no corroboration of the accusation that Paul had called Reitblat a terrorist". The sheriff had already explained to the court that Scots law requires corroboration; one witness is not enough.

Paul's lawyer explained that the defacing of the flag was an "act of political expression, as protected by article 10, which included physical acts. He discussed proportionality of the charge: "the Napier [SPSC5] case discussed the stigmatisation attached to the charge".

He said that "an affront to the flag, criticising the state of Israel, is not a criminal act in terms of Section 50A."

The sheriff responded: "Saying that a state is terrorist says that everyone within the state is terrorist. He doesn't distinguish between the state and the people."

The sheriff continued, "Mr Donnachie doesn't distinguish between the government of Israel and the state."

The expert witnesses may have been able to teach the sheriff something after all. Pity it was too late.

The sheriff then took less than 5 minutes to come to a decision.

In relation to Paul, he said that there was "only one issue of fact between them" [the statement, "you are a terrorist"].

"I hold that you said, that's a terrorist flag, Israel is a terrorist state, and you are a terrorist.

"Section 50A requires malice or ill will towards a person based on their membership of an ethnic group; which includes nationality and association with that group.

"It was malice and ill will because of his presumed membership of Israel."

The sheriff found Paul guilty of racially aggravated conduct, and deferred sentence until Sep 13th.

Paul, although shocked at the clear injustice, composed himself before facing the media. According to STV, 'Outside the court, Donnachie said he would appeal. He said: "This is a ridiculous conviction. I'm a member of anti-racism campaigns, and I am devastated that as someone who has fought against racism I have been tarnished in this way."'

It should be highlighted that Paul has been convicted on the uncorroborated evidence of one person. That person is an ultra-zionist, who in court refused to accept that Israel occupies the West Bank.

On top of this, grounds for appeal include (but are not restricted to) the sheriff's refusal to receive the devolution minute at the last diet (legal challenge over the competency of the charge); and his refusal to exercise discretion in allowing the defence to call witnesses this afternoon - witnesses who according to Paul's lawyer were clearly "cogent to the determination of the case."

Within the hour, St Andrews university had expelled Paul and suspended Sam for one year.

According to the Daily Mail:

"The judge had earlier refused defence solicitor Patrick Campbell to allow evidence from academic experts on whether the actions of Donnachie constituted an attack on the Israeli state as opposed to racism.

"Due to be called was Jewish politics lecturer Sarah Glynn who was close to tears as she left court and told Reitblat's family their actions were 'scandalous.'

"She said: 'As Jews you should be ashamed. This is devastating.'"

Paul, although shocked at the clear injustice, composed himself before facing the media. According to STV, 'Outside the court, Donnachie said he would appeal. He said: "This is a ridiculous conviction. I'm a member of anti-racism campaigns, and I am devastated that as someone who has fought against racism I have been tarnished in this way."'

He will win!

This account of trial is supplemented by an; an official SPSC statement

http://tinyurl.com/43l2epu

Scottish PSC Statement: call to supporters of Palestinian rights, anti-racists, and supporters of free speech

SPSC statement on Cupar trial
24 August 2011

"Reitblatt stated in court his opposition to international law, his belief that there was no Israeli occupation of any part of Palestine, and his political commitment to Zionist Jews' right to control the entirety of Israel and Palestine, as well as parts of Syria and Egypt...Paul Donnachie, in his moving and principled evidence to the court, explained that his hostility to the Israeli flag was based on his anti-racist convictions, and anger at Israeli terrorism against the Palestinian people. Donnachie explained to Sheriff MacNair in simple language his position that 'the citizens of a country cannot be held responsible for the actions of a state'. When he had finished, Sheriff MacNair gave his own ludicrous opinion that, 'The state of Israel is the land and its borders and the people in it...Saying that a state is terrorist says that everyone within the state is terrorist.'"

Student Paul Donnachie was found guilty on Tuesday in Cupar Sheriff Court of ‘racially aggravated conduct’ after showing contempt for an Israeli flag on the wall of a two-bed student residence shared by his friend and an American Zionist ultra. The Sheriff took five minutes after the closing submissions to hand down his guilty verdict and called for a social enquiry report, often a signal to all concerned to expect a harsh, or even a custodial, sentence. Within the hour, Paul Donnachie received a letter of expulsion from St Andrews University. He will appear at Cupar Sheriff Court on Tuesday September 13th for sentencing.

A clear message at Cupar - not racism, but a moral imperativeTo reach his politically-driven verdict, Sheriff Charles MacNair violated every canon of fairness and balance, and ended by making a brief but incomprehensible argument, basing his guilty verdict partly on his characterisation of US citizen Reitblatt as a ‘member of Israel’. Such bizarre formulations in open court were not the only signs that MacNair is unfit to dispense justice; he also overturned his own previous decision, delivered in open court, to hear the evidence of three expert witnesses called by the defence who could shed light on the origins, regularity, and frequent embarrassing failure of politically-motivated accusations of racism in Scotland against supporters of Palestinian rights. They would also have highlighted the dangers for Jews everywhere of the Court accepting Reitblatt’s claim that his religion, ‘Jewishness’ and Israel were inseparable. The outcome was that the defence was unable to call any witnesses other than the accused.

Academic witnesses including two leading members of Scottish Jews for a Just Peace and the chair of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign were left in the witness room while Sheriff MacNair exhibited a glaring ignorance of the subjects the witnesses would have illuminated.

Reitblatt stated in court his opposition to international law, his belief that there was no Israeli occupation of any part of Palestine, and his political commitment to Zionist Jews' right to control the entirety of Israel and Palestine, as well as parts of Syria and Egypt. Reitblatt also claimed that the insult to the Israeli flag, a gift from his brother while serving in Israel's Occupation Forces, an army notorious for its human rights violations, had made him unable to sleep or eat for some days. Paul Donnachie, in his moving and principled evidence to the court, explained that his hostility to the Israeli flag was based on his anti-racist convictions, and anger at Israeli terrorism against the Palestinian people. Donnachie explained to Sheriff MacNair in simple language his position that "the citizens of a country cannot be held responsible for the actions of a state". When he had finished, Sheriff MacNair gave his own opinion that "The state of Israel is the land and its borders and the people in it...Saying that a state is terrorist says that everyone within the state is terrorist."

Sheriff MacNair claimed he "took no position on the rights and wrongs of the Israel-Palestine conflict", but stressed that he "was impressed by Reitblatt’s testimony". MacNair rejected, and seemed not to understand, Donnachie’s clear exposition of the difference between a state and a population. His description of Reitblatt, a Lithuanian-born American citizen who has never visited Israel/Palestine, as a "member of Israel" seemed to be a key part of his case in convicting Donnachie on a charge of racism towards the Lithuanian-born American.

MacNair dismissed the relevance of the legal precedent of the ‘SPSC 5’ trial in front of Sheriff Scott in Edinburgh Sheriff Court in 2010 which distinguished between hostility to the State of Israel and racism, on the grounds that the ‘offence’ was racist because it took place in a ‘private space’ rather than in public. The logic of Sheriff MacNair’s ruling would be that criticism of the State of Israel will be inhibited on numerous occasions within earshot of Zionist Jewish supporters of Israeli ethnic cleansing and apartheid on the grounds that they are ‘members of Israel’.

We call on supporters of Palestinian rights, anti-racists, and supporters of free speech to assemble outside Cupar Sheriff court on Tuesday September 13th at 9am to support Paul Donnachie. An injury to one is an injury to all.

Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Report of Cupar trial: Cupar Sheriff convicts anti-racist of 'racism'; Appeal underway.

Daily Mail gets it right

'I've fought racism all my life': Desperate plea of St Andrews student who defiled Israeli flag

By Chris Slack

24th August 2011

Paul Donnachie was found to have acted in a racially aggravated manner when he defiled an Israeli flag in a supposed political protest

A judge has ruled that a St Andrews University student who defiled an Israeli flag in a supposed political protest was acting in a racially aggravated manner.

Paul Donnachie, 19, put his hands down his trousers and touched the flag belonging to Jewish exchange student Chanan Reitblat in what he claimed was a 'political statement'.

Donnachie's co-accused Samuel Colchester, 20, was found not proven by Sheriff Charles Macnair following a two-day trial at Cupar Sheriff Court.

Donnachie, who will lose his place at St Andrews with immediate effect, said he was 'devastated' by the decision.

He said he would appeal the conviction and added: 'I'm depressed. I have fought racism all my life.'

During his evidence, Donnachie had insisted that he had not meant to cause offence and said he found racism 'abhorrent'.

And he strongly denied calling Mr Reitblat a terrorist.

But the sheriff, who was booed loudly by pro-Palestine supporters, upheld the complaints, telling Donnachie: 'I consider this to have been an act of malice against Mr Reitblat for his membership of Israel.'

The judge had earlier refused defence solicitor Patrick Campbell to allow evidence from academic experts on whether the actions of Donnachie constituted an attack on the Israeli state as opposed to racism.

Due to be called was Jewish politics lecturer Sarah Glynn who was close to tears as she left court and told Reitblat's family their actions were 'scandalous.'

She said: 'As Jews you should be ashamed. This is devastating.'

In earlier evidence, Mr Reitblat told how he felt he had no option bit to 'get out of St Andrews' following the alleged incident.

Under examination from fiscal depute Brian Robertson, he spoke of how he felt 'violated' by the actions of his peers.

He added that Facebook comments made by Donnachie in the wake of the disturbance prompted him to flee to Glasgow as they made reference to Palestinian organisations linked to terrorist atrocities.

He said: 'I did not know who Paul's friends were, or who they knew.'

Today's verdict comes after an Edinburgh sheriff ruled criticism of Israel was not racist after members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign disrupted a performance of the Jerusalem String Quartet in the capital.

Sheriff James Scott threw out charges which suggested the conduct was racially aggravated, saying that a conviction would render human rights legislation worthless.

Mick Napier, one of the accused in that case and chair of the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, said yesterday's decision was 'scandalous.'

Read more:

5 comments:

Brian Robinson said...

I've signed, Tony. "I am appalled by the Sheriff's verdict in this case and almost equally shocked at the subsequent action of the university. The verdict must be overturned and the student Paul allowed to return to resume his studies."

Anonymous said...

There is one other point seemingly overlooked in the natural outrage that has followed this appalling conviction. I have been wondering why the Crown Office, the prosecutors in Scotland, considered this such an important case that they produced 8 witnesses, and even brought the plaintiff over from the United States at huge cost to the Scottish Exchequer.
This has to be put in context that the previous day, the police in Scotland had to apologise to a Chinese family, whose breadwinner, the owner of a takeaway, had been murdered by a group of men who had previously racially taunted him and who shouted racial abuse as they killed him. They had not been charged with racially aggravated conduct and had therefore received a lower tariff than would have been normally expected had the racial aggravation been considered. What is scandalous is that while the police apologised, the Crown office were unrepentant. I am now rather concerned about the make up of this particular department within the Scottish judicial system.

Anonymous said...

Sorry. I meant "there" not "their".

Anonymous said...

I hope the verdict is affirmed.

I would also support a conviction if the roles were reversed and a student of Palestinian descent had been called a terrorist and if his tormentor had ruined a Palestinian flag or some other object expressing that student's Palestinian cultural affiliation.

Ruth Tenne said...

"He associates every person living in a state with the actions of that state. No one I know suggests that all Israelis are terrorists or terrorist supporters yet the state itself is clearly a terrorist one. Many of its supporters, including non-citizens like the complainant Reitblat, clearly are supporters of that terrorism." (Tony Greenstein's blog).

Sheriff MacNair clearly associates the action of a member of the state with the actions of his/her state . It seems that he is happy to adopt Israel's concept and strategy of "collective punishment " whereby the whole family of insurgents is found to be responsible for their action , and their house deserves to be blown up

The inhuman and illegal act of "collective punishment" is fully in force by the State of Israel which regards the 1.5 million population of Gaza as responsible for for electing the the Hamas party that was declared by the Israeli state (and Britain) as a terrorist organisation - thus justifying a a total blockade on Gaza and onslaught of innocent Gazans with impunity.

Perhaps the Scottish Magistrate on the case approves the official statement made by the previous Prime Minister of Israel (see below), but I have no doubt that the Scottish law will prove him wrong and the case would be won on appeal.
(BBC News,19 September 2007)

"Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said his security cabinet had approved the "hostile entity" classification on Wednesday morning.

"Additional restrictions will be imposed on the Hamas regime, limiting the transfer of goods to the Gaza Strip, cutting back fuel and electricity, and restricting the movement of people," a statement said.