Published — Tuesday 26 February 2013
Last update 26 February 2013 3:56 am
THE fiery British MP George Galloway who never ceases to be embroiled in controversies is once again in hot water over a debate that was cut prematurely short. The Respect Party lawmaker for Bradford West and Press TV talk show host is currently being cast as “a racist” after storming out of a debate on the motion “Israel should withdraw immediately from the West Bank” held at Christ Church College Oxford.
While his opponent was in full swing expounding his anti-peace agenda, Galloway stopped him short after hearing philosophy, economics and politics student Eylon Aslan-Levy use the word “we” in relation to Israel. “We wanted peace, we got war. We mustn’t make the same mistake again,” he said.
“You said ‘we’. Are you an Israel” Galloway asked?
“I am, yes,” replied the student.
Galloway didn’t hesitate. He stood up, folded his coat over his arm and headed for the exit explaining, “I don’t debate with Israelis. I’ve been misled, sorry.” Aslan-Levy called after him “What for… racism?” “I don’t recognize Israel and I don’t debate with Israelis” were Galloway’s parting words.
The student later characterized Galloway’s behavior as “racist,” saying: “I am appalled that an MP would storm out of a debate with me for no reason other than my heritage. To refuse to talk to someone just because of their nationality is pure racism and totally unacceptable for a member of parliament.” He told the Daily Mail that he was certain that Galloway would have debated with an Israeli Arab. “He didn’t want to talk to me because I am an Israeli Jew.”
Galloway answered in clear terms on his Facebook page. “I refused this evening at Oxford University to debate with an Israeli, a supporter of the apartheid state of Israel. The reason is simple: No recognition, no normalization. Just boycott, divestment and sanctions until the apartheid state is defeated. I never debate with Israelis nor speak to their media. If they want to speak about Palestine — the address is the PLO.” On Twitter, he added that he would “engage with any Israeli who is against the racist apartheid state of Israel” and he posted a note to Israel supporters “People in Britain are becoming tired of being accused of anti-Semitism because they oppose Israel’s crimes.”
Galloway’s walk-out wasn’t politically correct and was certainly discourteous but it cannot be characterized as “racist” because the term “Israeli” implies nationality, not race — and indeed, racially-speaking Jews and Arabs are both Semites — a fact that’s escaped the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign whose spokesman was quick to say his movement rejects “all forms of racism, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.”
That statement made on behalf of “a wide coalition of the largest Palestinian organizations, trade unions, networks and NGOs” is nothing short of cowardly and shameful when Galloway devotes his life to the Palestinian cause and has harmed his political career in so doing. Moreover, if BDS views Galloway as a racist for wishing to have nothing to do with Zionists, as is implied in its statement, then its own boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign could be tarred with the exact same brush.
“What part of the word boycott don’t do some not understand?” says Galloway on Twitter. “No recognition, no normalization, no student jape debates, no Israeli products.”
In any event, attaching a racist slur to George Galloway is wholly false when he regularly attacks callers to his show whose rants are tainted by anti-Semitism. He is often downright rude to anti-Jewish callers, as opposed to anti-Zionists, and usually cuts their calls. And he has often interviewed fair-minded Israelis like Israeli historian Ilan Pappe and activist Hedy Epstein, able to see both sides of the argument. Actually, Aslan-Levy should count himself lucky because if Galloway had continued with the debate, he would have wiped the floor with his opponent as he did with a Senate Committee that, in 2005, accused him taking bribes from Saddam Hussein. Galloway effectively turned the tables on the panel of senators using the occasion as a platform to expound his views on America’s “illegal” invasion of Iraq.
Galloway’s a politician who speaks from the heart, says what he means and means what he says and is afraid of no one; they’re a rare species. Most politicians parrot on message speeches even when that message may conflict with their personal views, not Galloway who refuses to let anyone put words in his mouth. I don’t always agree with him but I admire him for his courage and commitment to the causes he believes in, causes which are fundamentally just. For instance, he was one of very few British MPs who stood up in Parliament to expose the lies that took his nation to war with Iraq and for years he has been working tirelessly alongside the Viva Palestina movement that organizes aid conveys attempting to break the siege of Gaza.
It seems to me that Galloway’s latest walkout is yet another example of the strength of his convictions, which the BDS head honchos and other pro-Palestinians putting a distance between themselves and the MP, appear to lack. Poor rejected Aslan-Levy should get over himself and enjoy his 15 minutes of fame while it lasts. Galloway will still be shooting from the hip when that latest Israeli self-ascribed “victim” is long forgotten.