Latest update: December 30th, 2013
SEE UPDATE AT END OF ARTICLE
Remember when that virulently anti-Israel British politician, George Galloway…well there are so many ways to end that sentence, but this article refers to Galloway’s storming out of a debate at Oxford University because, as he so diplomatically announced before flouncing out of the room last February, “I don’t debate Israelis!”
Well Galloway was just had by a young Jew from Oxford who made his own dramatic exit after brandishing an Israeli flag, intoning: “I don’t debate racists!”
First the background.
The topic for debate of the world famous Oxford University debating society, the Oxford Union, on February 21 was: “Israel Should Withdraw Immediately From the West Bank.”
After Galloway, a member of Parliament representing England’s far northern district of West Bradford, completed his presentation of the “pro” side of that question, the person chosen to represent the “anti” position, Oxford University student Eylon Aslan-Levy, rose to present.
As it happens, Aslan-Levy favors what he calls “an end to the ‘Occupation.’” But his problem was with the timing desired: Immediately. He began his talk by referring to the failure, prior to the 2005 Disengagement, of guaranteeing Israeli security as a condition of handing over territory. He barely got the following words out before Galloway’s dramatic exit:
This is the lesson from the disengagement from Gaza in 2005, which I supported – out of the same misguided faith that the cards were in Israel’s hands. Israel uprooted over 8,000 settlers and evacuated the military – but without a pledge from the Palestinians not to fire rockets at Israeli towns over the very border to which Israel had just withdrawn. We wanted peace: we got war. We mustn’t make the same mistake again. [emphasis added]
Aslan-Levy barely closed his mouth around those syllables, when Galloway ejaculated: “You said we! Are you Israeli?”
When Aslan-Levy acknowledged that he was indeed Israeli, Galloway flung his coat over his shoulder, and bellowed over it: “I’ve been misled, sorry. I don’t recognize Israel and I don’t debate with Israelis,” and then flounced out of the room, followed by his wife.
Fast-forward to Monday evening, October 14. The setting is again Oxford University and the forum again is provided by the Oxford Union. This time there was no debate, it was just a talk by Galloway.
According to those who were present, Galloway spoke for over an hour, mainly maligning other British politicians, telling the student audience, “you couldn’t split the difference between the left [expletive implied] cheek and the right cheek.”
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was the prime recipient of Galloway’s verbal lacerations, but the usual far left bugaboos of “occupation,” “colonialism” and “bankers” all score poorly in Galloway’s book and starred in his talk. Taxation, on the other hand, is a dearly beloved concept. When Galloway completed his talk, the floor was opened for questions.
After three questioners had their turn, Jonathan Hunter, an Oxford student, was selected as the fourth questioner. Hunter rose from the audience, gesticulating, and speaking in fluent Hebrew.
As Hunter approached the table behind which Galloway was sitting, the politician warned, “Don’t come any closer to me. What’s that up your jumper?” Galloway pointed at a bulge beneath Hunter’s sweater. Hunter told The Jewish Press, “Galloway’s hands were shaking.”
With Galloway’s fears voiced, Hunter reached under his sweater and brandished what he had placed there, knowing he would not have been called on had it been publicly displayed before this moment:
“This is an Israeli flag, I’m an Israeli, Mr. Galloway.”
“You speak for fascists in Beirut [Hezbollah], you interviewed [former Iranian president] Ahmadinejad for Press TV,” but here Hunter was interrupted by Galloway who intoned, “you’re doing yourself a lot of harm here, son.”
Hunter again refused to be cowed, and responded to Galloway, “I think you did a lot of harm by not speaking to my friend Eylon [Aslan-Levy, referring to the February debate], and not having a constructive dialogue with him, and sir, I don’t have a question for you, as you can see, because I don’t debate with rascists. Thank you, sir.”
With that, Hunter opened the Israeli flag, hoisted it up over his head, holding it aloft and streaming behind him, he strode, stiff-necked, from the room.
Never one to leave a small disaster without turning it into a larger one, Galloway responded to Hunter’s display by telling the room that the Israeli flag has become the icon for England’s fascist front, after stating the last time he saw an Israeli flag was at a demonstration by the highly controversial English Defense League, on Saturday.
“When I learned Galloway was coming back to Oxford,” Hunter, a second year history student of Brasenose College, Oxford University, told The Jewish Press the day after the event, “I knew he should not get a clean ride after what happened last time.”
Hunter and other pro-Israel Oxford students discussed what should be done. Some wanted to interrupt Galloway’s speech, but Hunter said that would only diminish the message he was hoping to send.
“I unfurled the Israeli flag to show I exist, to proudly display my national identity,” Hunter explained.
Although Hunter was born in England, his mother is Israeli, and therefore he has Israeli citizenship.. She was born in Beer Sheva. And although Hunter’s father is not Israeli, the rest of his father’s family has moved to Israel.
In an email from England, Eylon Aslan-Levy, the Oxford student who inspired Hunter’s dramatic – yet dignified – display of nationalism, responded to our request for comment with this: “I’m tremendously proud of Jonathan for having the courage to stand up to that odious racist, especially when other students gave him an undeservedly warm welcome back to Oxford.”
Jonathan Hunter was told that Galloway referred to the Israeli flag as a fascist icon after his own walkout. When asked for his response, Hunter said, “I know, he was essentially saying that all Israelis are fascists. He equates Zionism with Fascism.”
“You know, there is a part of Galloway’s speech that was not captured on video,” Hunter confided to The Jewish Press, “it was later, after I left. Galloway described the Israeli presence beyond the 1949 Armistice Line as equivalent to a Nazi occupation of Great Britain.”
Oh, and in other news from Monday night’s event, the news Galloway surely hoped would be the big takeaway: Galloway announced he is running for mayor of London in 2016, according to the Oxford Student Liveblog of the event.
Maybe that’s Galloway’s real beef with Israel. It isn’t that the Israelis have “stolen” anyone’s land, it’s that the Israelis keep stealing Galloway’s headlines. Well, here’s one more.
Again, according to the Oxford Student Liveblog, after Galloway threw in his hat for the London mayor’s race during his talk, Eylon Aslan-Levy (@Eylon_AL) tweeted a response to the announcement: “In which case, I’m considering a run too, if only to knock him out of the mayoral debates.”
Gotta love those proud Zionist Oxford men! But shame on those Oxford students for applauding Galloway’s description of the Israeli flag as a fascist symbol.
UPDATE: After a call for correction to the Oxford Union was made by The Jewish Press, the president of the Oxford debating society agreed to correct the inaccurate description provided for the posted YouTube video of Israeli student Jonathan Hunter’s exchange with Galloway. The description falsely states that “George Galloway is accused of being a racist as an Israeli student interrupts his speech.” In fact, as The Jewish Press pointed out on the site,
The description of this video is INCORRECT. Why did the Oxford Union claim the Israeli student interrupted Galloway’s speech? Surely they knew, as did everyone in the room, that Galloway had finished speaking and the Israeli student, Jonathan Hunter, made his statement during the Question and Answer portion.
We’ll have to check to see if the description of the video is corrected, as promised, on Wednesday morning, October 17.
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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