Paul Donnachie, an 18-year-old studying at St Andrews University, was found guilty by a Scottish court on Tuesday, following a complaint by a Jewish-American student at the campus.
Chanan Reitblat said his privacy had been invaded when Donnachie and fellow student Samuel Colchester entered his room, rubbed his hand first on his genitals and then on an Israeli flag.
“Paul put his hands down his pants, pulled off a pubic hair and rubbed it over my flag. Sam did the same thing,” Reitblat said. The flag had been given to him by his brother, who had served with the Israeli defence forces.
Donnachie also told him Israel was a terrorist state and the flag was a terrorist symbol.
After finding Donnachie guilty, Sheriff Charlie Macnair said the student had racial motivations for his actions.
“I consider your behaviour did evince malice towards Mr Reitblat because of his presumed membership of Israel. I’m satisfied you said Israel was a terrorist state and the flag was a terrorist symbol and I also hold that you said that Mr Reitblat was a terrorist,” Macnair told the court.
The decision was a landmark ruling as the judge decided that attacking someone’s Jewish identity based on their identification with Israel was racist.
Donnachie has defended his actions as “not malicious” and intends to appeal his conviction.
“I’m not contending that my action toward the flag was commendable or dignified, but it was a political expression,” he said during his testimony.
Following the verdict 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.”
The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) said Tuesday’s judgement was one of “profound ignorance” and attacked the prosecution for attempting to “conflate legitimate political criticism of the State of Israel with racism.”
Upon hearing the verdict members of the SPSC are reported to have shouted “scandal” from the public gallery.
Reitblat was studying for one term at St Andrews University as part of his university degree at Yeshiva University in New York.
He had fled as a child with his family to the US in an attempt to escape the then-severe Jewish oppression in Lithuania.
Donnachie has been expelled from St Andrews. The case against the second student, Colchester, was found not proven but he has been suspended from the university for his part in the incident.
Meanwhile in a second incident, the head of the Waltham Forest PSC branch accused Israel of being behind the massacre of youth at a camp in Norway. The massacre was carried out by Norwegian man Anders Breivik.
PSC activist Ellie Merton, who has led boycotts of Israel and has taken part in pro-Hamas trips to Gaza, claimed on her Facebook page that the massacre was “an Israeli government sponsored operation.” When challenged, she repeated her views in further detail. “Mossad would want to capitalise on this kind of convenient, sympathetic to them terrorist activity,” she said.
The Palestinian Solidarity Campaign later said that Merton’s views did not reflect those of the PSC, but declined to remove her as a PSC chairman.
The support for Donnachie and Colchester’s abuse led to harsh criticism from the Board of Deputies of British Jews. The PSC’s anti-Israel activity is “infused with anti-Semitism,” said the board.