I had always thought the George Galloway was a skilful, if devious and often nauseating, politician, but a recent video clip suggests he is none too smart, when caught on the spur of the moment.
Galloway can be seen storming out of a students’ debate saying “I don’t debate with Israelis” and more:
I wonder what the reaction would have been if he’d been a fringe UKIPer saying “I don’t debate with the French”? Hmm.
Update 1: Oxford Student covers it too:
“Mahmood Naji, who runs Oxford Debates and selected Galloway to speak, said before the event: “I chose Galloway because he is probably the most vocal and well-known voice on this issue.
“Oxford is an establishment that should prize free speech and open dialogue more than any other. This is the kind of institution that will put extreme or controversial views up to academic scrutiny and then shoot them down accordingly.”
Galloway has been consistently outspoken in his views on the Israel-Palestine conflict, and in 2009 received a Palestinian passport from Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Hamas are considered a terrorist organisation by the US and the EU.
This was the second time this academic year that Galloway has visited Oxford. In October the former ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ contestant spoke at the Oxford Union, where he was met with protests by members of Oxford Feminist Network. These came after Galloway described allegations of rape facing Wikileaks leader Julian Assange as constituting “bad sexual etiquette”, but added “not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion”. These comments led to the NUS passing a motion adopting a ‘no platform’ policy towards the MP.”
Update 2: Liberal Conspiracy has a thread on it, which I imagine will soon be overflowing with toxic comments.
Update 3: Galloway’s employer, Press TV, is more than happy to promote neo-Nazi views.
“And as for the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion and its Protocol Number 7, its statement that, “the press, which with a few exceptions that may be disregarded, is already entirely in our hands,” is only partially true.
Yes, Press TV of Iran is one of the “few exceptions” to The Lobby’s control of global print and electronically transmitted news and analysis. “
Update 4: The Guardian has picked it up, although I doubt they will investigate the racist content at Press TV and the wider implications.
Update 5: Matt Hill says: “I’m not sure there’s an awful lot to say about George Galloway’s astonishingly stupid decision…” but seems to miss the point completely.
I am surprised. Hill is usually an intelligent critic, but fails to examine Galloway’s motives.
Galloway has been associated with numerous dictators in the Middle East. Anti-Israeli dictators. Hamas have applauded Galloway on numerous occasions. Press TV, with its antisemitic output, employ George Galloway and so on.
Are we supposed to believe that none of these factors came into play? That it is all down to Galloway’s stupidity? Unlikely.
Even Galloway’s fiercest critics acknowledge he has a degree of political skill and guile which is rare today. Anyone, with a degree of objectivity, who saw his performance in front of a Senate committee would have to admit he bested them, several times over.
Galloway is not a fool.
Galloway joined Labour at an early age and became youngest chair of the Scottish Labour Party, a notoriously difficult job, after a stint as a full-time organiser. He was MP for Glasgow Hillhead, all that and much more.
So to conclude that his actions were merely the result of stupidity seems to miss the wider context, and that is leaving aside the whole BDS issue.
Update 6: The Torygraph has picked it up and, rather intelligently, argues:
“Are Galloway and the anti-Israeli Left that he speaks for anti-Semitic? Probably not; the movement contains many Jewish activists and it’s perfectly possible to despair of Israel as a state while loving the Israelis as a people. But they have a habit of reducing their politics to ideological imperative – even who they talk to. As an attitude, it’s far from conducive to rational democratic debate.
Explaining his decision to walk, Galloway said of Israel, “No recognition, No normalisation. Just Boycott, divestment and sanctions, until the Apartheid state is defeated.” This isn’t an argument: it’s a random slogan generator. It’s also a fruitless position – without the backing of the international community, who cares that George and his friends refuse to buy Israeli olives?
But these empty slogans are not meant to serve any practical purpose. They are the clichés of a Left that would shut down debate in an effort to will their opponents out of existence. The party line is that Israel is bad, so the party line is that we won’t talk to Israel until it stops being Israel. ” [My emphasis.]
Update 7: Huff Post’s better than expected coverage.
Update 8: The Staggers blog, I would warn readers to be careful of the comments boxes. They can get fairly rancid at the New Statesmen whenever the word “Israeli” is mentioned.
Update 10: The Indy has it too.
Update 11: Whenever Israelis are attacked directly or indirectly, by words or deeds there are always some idiots, bigots or extremists that will condone it. So it is with Galloway’s ridiculous behaviour.
John Wight, who has a chequered history, approves of Galloway’s actions. Jon Lansman in the comments box argues against the boycott of Israelis, but is treated with derision and his arguments dismissed.
Lansman’s blog, Left Futures, reposts the mildest criticism of Galloway’s actions amongst half hero worship.
Update 12: Engage documented this process some seven years back, Discrimination against Israeli Jews has started.
Older readers will remember Mona Baker’s actions in 2002 dismissing two contributors because they were Israelis. At the time, some supported Ms. Baker’s actions, so all of this is not an isolated incident.
Update 13: We shouldn’t forget the case of Dr. Oren Yiftachel:
“Over the next eight years, with his open-necked shirt and his open, inquisitive face, Yiftachel became a familiar irritant to Israeli rightwingers. He made a point of working with Palestinians whenever possible. He published books and articles about his government’s illicit appetite for Palestinian land. He told Israeli newspapers that, “Israel is almost the most segregated society in the world.” He set up an Arab-Israeli journal that so enraged some Israeli conservatives that they campaigned to have it banned.
Given these radical credentials, Yiftachel did not anticipate any problems when, last spring, he submitted a paper to a left-leaning periodical called Political Geography. He had written for the respected British journal before.
Yet when Yiftachel heard back from Political Geography, he got a shock. The precise details of what happened are disputed but, according to Yiftachel, the paper was returned unopened. An explanatory note had been attached, he says, stating that Political Geography could not accept a submission from Israel. “
Update 14: Carl Packman at LFF is typically good, George Galloway does debate with some Israelis.
Update 15: Labour List wonders if Galloway will boycott some of his, Hebrew speaking, constituents? I doubt it, but some of George’s radical supporters are less subtle.
Update 16: There are few intelligent critiques of Galloway’s conduct and its implications, but Rachel Shabi has a stab at it:
“When westerners use the anti-normalisation card, it just seems like bad politics by proxy. How could the occupation be entrenched by a British person meeting with an individual Israeli? Is it that this meeting, by taking place at all, will cause the Israeli to think that the occupation is OK? What if you meet the Israeli and tell them that the occupation is in fact illegal and must end? And if Galloway’s guiding principle is that he doesn’t recognise Israel, this makes him more inflexible than Hamas, which has implicitly recognised Israel. Again, not helpful. “
Galloway’s guiding principle is to ensure he has an income stream, from his media work and strong relations with dubious characters in the Middle East.
So his actions had little to do with any principle other than not upsetting his employer, Press TV, and guarding his future earnings. The rest of his justification is pure waffle.
Update 17: University of Bristol students get straight to the point, Racism on Campus: The George Galloway Scandal. Good cartoon, originally from The Times.
Update 18: Ben Goldstein makes a persuasive case:
“Underpinning Galloway’s actions lie crass, generalising assumptions. One is that all Israelis are Zionists, when 20% of the population are not Jewish and non-Zionist parties currently hold 11 of the 120 seats in the Israeli Parliament. Another is that all Zionists support the status quo in the West Bank, despite the fact that two of the three largest Zionist parties in Israel actively disavow it and urgently seek a two-state solution.
Ultimately, reducing someone to their nationality, and refusing to engage with them on that basis alone, is racist. It is a great shame that Oxford was deprived of hearing an important, extraordinarily complex debate about the situation in the West Bank. Galloway, a man who on his website claims to want a ‘fairer, more equal and just society’, ought be ashamed of himself. “
Update 19: Miriam Shaviv asks the question, what is it like to be Israeli on a British university campus.
Over at the TES:
“A National Union of Students online survey of 9,229 students between October 2010 and February 2011 found that 31 per cent of Jewish respondents said they had been victims of a religiously motivated “hate incident” while studying, a much higher proportion than for any other religious group.“