Latest update: February 26th, 2013
George Galloway, a member of the British government from the Respect Party, has made it clear that his abrupt departure from a debate at Oxford University last Wednesday, when he learned the person he was debating was Israeli, was not an impetuous move. Instead, Galloway’s bolt was based upon his firmly-held belief in boycotting anything and everything about Israel except anti-Israel Israelis.
Galloway posted a message on his Facebook page Monday, February 25, because he felt it necessary to clarify certain questions that arose after his departure from Christ Church College last week.
He made several points.
First: that no one is going to tell him what the parameters of BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions) against Israel are; he will boycott anyone and everyone who supports the “racist Apartheid creed of Zionism,” which he described as a “cancer at the heart of the middle-east.”
Here, Galloway was responding to a public statement issued the day after Galloway’s widely-publicized exit by the “Palestinian BDS National Committee” clarifying that the official position of the movement is to boycott Israel and anything that supports the “Occupation,” but it does not boycott individuals, whether Israeli or Zionist. Galloway’s supporters, such as Israeli Israel-hater Gilad Atzmon, turned on the BDS Movement for trying to distance itself from Galloway’s action by calling them suck-ups to their Evil Zionist Paylords, including “liberal Zionist George Soros.”
Second: What he will and does embrace are any Israelis or Jews who despise the state of Israel for the same reasons that he does. He provided an example: Israeli ex-pat now British prof. Ilan Pappe, whom he calls his comrade.
Pappe is well-known for his belief that Israel is guilty of the ethnic cleansing of Arabs in the 1948 war of independence, and his ardent support of their “right” of return. “What turned me into a great lover of the Palestinians is the will of many among them to share the land with us,” he explained in 2008, even people in Hamas.”
The third point Galloway made was to attack and ridicule the organizer of the Oxford debate, Mahmood Naji, a fourth year medical student at Oxford.
When Galloway walked out of the debate and in subsequent discussions about the incident, he repeatedly claimed Naji had “deceived” him because his debate opponent’s Israeli heritage was not made known to Galloway before the debate. Naji finally had enough of the slander and published an open letter to Galloway, calling him to task for his ridiculous claims.
In his letter, Naji wrote that Galloway never asked about his opponent’s nationality when the debate was set up. “As the organiser, am I to know about every one of your views? Should I let you know if your opponent is a vegetarian in case you have a policy of not debating vegetarians? Am I misleading you if I do not tell you your opponent’s shoe size?” Naji suggests that it would be at least highly irregular for someone to inquire about, and make a decision about whether to engage in a debate dependent upon an opponent’s nationality.
Incidentally, Galloway referred to Naji as an “Iraqi Muslim,” but, as Naji told The Jewish Press, “I find it somewhat ironic that he assumed from my name that I am a Muslim (I am in fact atheist) but was not able to use these same powers of inference to suspect Eylon [Aslan-Levy] may be Israeli.” Naji was born in Iraq but has lived in England for more than 15 years and is a permanent resident.
Naji’s responses to Galloway have all been logical, but he could have gone even a step farther: exactly whom did Galloway think was going to be taking the opposite position in a debate the topic for which was, “Israel should withdraw immediately from the West Bank”?
Here is Galloway, in his own words:
Me and the Palestinian cause: A number of questions have recently arisen I need to deal with. Firstly if people want to talk to the Palestinians they need to contact the Palestine Liberation Organisation. This is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and has been for many decades. Secondly, an organisation calling itself “BDS” does not own the words or the concept of boycott, divestment or sanctions. They are entitled to their own interpretation of these words but they don’t own or control me. I will make my own interpretation. And it is this – no purchase of Israeli goods or services, no normal contacts with individuals or organisations in Israel who support the existence of the racist Apartheid creed of Zionism. That’s what I mean by boycott. That’s what I do. Israelis who are outside of and against the system of Zionism are comrades of mine – like Prof Ilan Pappe. My opponent at Oxford University did not meet this test. The organiser of the event momentarily lionised by the liberal as well as the conservative establishment needs to know this, especially as he is a medical student. To compare Israeli Zionism to “Vegetarianism” is like a doctor not knowing the difference between a pimple and a tumor. Apartheid Israel is a cancer at the heart of the middle-east. Only it’s replacement by a bi-national democratic state from the Jordan River to the sea will cure this. That is what I am fighting for. George Galloway MP House of Commons London
After one of Galloway’s supporters insisted that Mahmood Naji must be a “secret Zionist,” Naji weighed in.
Naji wrote, “I am calling your ideology ridiculous if you share Galloway’s belief that the best way to promote the Palestinian cause is to walk out on a 20-year old student. If you have ‘lived the horror of the Arab-Israel conflict’ then I urge you not to make the mistakes of your forebears and choose dialogue and compromise over ignorance and hatred.”
Proof once again of the virtues of a calm demeanor and a non-hate-filled heart.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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