Clinton faces anger from Palestinian support over Jewish charity dinner

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The Independent Online

Protests expected in Glasgow tonight when the former US president Bill Clinton attends a dinner in support of a Jewish charity established to buy land in the Middle East.

Mr Clinton is visiting Britain to speak at three charity dinners for the Jewish National Fund, which was set up in 1901 to buy land to work towards the foundation of a Jewish state. His appearances in Glasgow, Manchester and London are in support of a fund-raising drive to build a reservoir in the Negev region of Israel, but pro-Palestinian campaigners say he should have cancelled the tour because of the intifada, which began 15 months ago. Hundreds of people, mostly Palestinian, have been killed.

About 750 guests at the first of the £125-a-head dinners at Hilton Hotel in Glasgow will hear Mr Clinton speak and take questions. The Labour MP George Galloway and the MSP Tommy Sheridan have attacked Mr Clinton's association with the charity. Mr Galloway condemned the Scottish Executive for sending a representative to the Glasgow event. He said: "Many members of the Scottish Parliament built their careers in Labour politics on support for the Palestinian cause and it's a disgrace that the executive has decided to be officially represented by Patricia Ferguson at the dinner."

Mr Sheridan, leader of the Scottish Socialist Party, said: "Israel deserves recognition and security as a nation state but this is only possible in a peaceful sense when they recognise the existence of a viable Palestinian state."

Stanley Lovatt, the Jewish National Fund's vice-president, defended the tour, saying Mr Clinton was invited long before the latest outbreak of violence between Israel and the Palestinians. "The money we are raising is going towards the building of a reservoir in the Negev region, in the name of Bill Clinton," he said.

"The invitation to Mr Clinton was made back in March, way before the recent events in the Middle East, and has nothing to do with buying land in Palestine. The Israeli problem is only going to form a small part of Mr Clinton's speech, the rest will be taken up with thoughts about US and British relations and his thoughts as a former world leader."

Organisers said security at the dinners would be no more strict than normal for a visit by a former American president.