Glasgow progresses its mission for dialogue
Sammy Stein engages in dialogue with a passer-by at the city centre stall run by the Friends of Israel group
GLASGOW FRIENDS of Israel has been influencing opinion since setting up its street stall in the city centre in the summer.
The group has campaigned every Saturday since July and arranged meetings with politicians including SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon.
It is the third of seven pro-Israel groups set up by Christian activist Nigel Goodrich and the Glasgow group co-founder, Sammy Stein, said it was bringing much-needed balance to the Middle East debate.
“We’ve had a great reaction from people overjoyed to see the other side of the story,” he said. “We’ve become a fixture on the street. We tend to have long discussions with visitors, even those who disagree with us. Unlike the pro-Palestinians, who only want to speak to agreeable people, we encourage people who disagree with us to come and talk.”
One visitor had refused to believe what he was told about the 1979 EgyptIsrael peace treaty, in which Sinai was given up by Israel. “We told him to go look it up and come back the following week. He actually did come back, wrapped in a Palestinian flag, with his friends, and said: ‘Sorry, you were right.’ We talked about it and ended by shaking hands.”
The multi-denominational group wants to encourage more Christians, Muslims and Sikhs to join its ranks and has a second Glasgow conference planned for early next year.
Mr Stein said a highlight of the group’s activity had been a farewell reception for Israel’s first Bedouin diplomat, Ishmael Khaldi.
“We gave him a specially made skean dhu [traditional Scottish knife] made of Damascus steel with a ram’s horn handle. He was overwhelmed by that.”
He added that Mr Khaldi had done “incredible work. He didn’t want to go back to Israel because he felt so useful in the UK. We want him to stay because with all the accusations of apartheid that Israel receives, he’s a symbol that it’s not true.”