Richard MatherRichard Mather writes and edits for Israel News Online. He has also written for the Jewish Media Agency, Poetica Magazine, Drash Pit, Voices Israel and Chabad Lubavitch’s Holiday Times Magazine. He lives in Manchester, England.
British parliamentarian George Galloway, the MP for Bradford West and founding member of the left-wing Respect Party, has been shown up for the bigot and buffoon that he really is.
Camera footage of an Oxford university debate on Wednesday evening shows Galloway walking out of the room after realizing a fellow speaker is a citizen of the Jewish state.
The debate, held at Christ Church College, was about whether Israel should withdraw to the 1967 armistice line. Ten minutes into the debate, a well-dressed Israeli politics student named Eylon Aslan-Levy took to the podium to deliver his speech. But Galloway refused to be in the same room as him.
“I don't debate with Israelis,” said the MP. “I don't recognize Israel and I don't debate with Israelis.” That was it. Galloway put on his coat and left the building.
Later that evening, Galloway used his Facebook account to explain his walkout: “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.”
Galloway’s attitude, if not his behavior, is typical. This is the man who believes he is the victim of “the Zionist movement and the newspapers and news media which are controlled by Zionism.” He has called for the dismantling of the Israeli state and the outlawing of dual British-Israeli citizenship. At the same time, he speaks in glowing terms of Hamas and Hizbullah, which are ideologically committed to killing as many Jews as possible. And his political party, a coalition of far-left and Muslim radicals, includes members who are openly anti-Semitic.
Racism aside, Galloway’s sudden exit from the building was a rare display of cowardice on his part. Galloway usually loves a good fight, especially if there is an audience. And surely the purpose of a university debate is to air conflicting viewpoints? The fact that he is unable to engage with anyone other than his own acolytes speaks volumes about the character of the man. I can only surmise that his deep-seated prejudice against Israeli Jews far outweighs his love for public speaking.
If Galloway’s prejudice renders him incapable of sensible debate, then he is a spent force in UK politics. British politicians are expected to engage with their political opponents. And they are usually very good at it. Prime Minister’s Question Time, for example, is brimming with healthy debate, good humor, and incisive queries and answers. No politician would flounce out of the debating chamber because he didn’t like the political viewpoint (or ethnicity) of a fellow speaker. But Galloway seems to have lost both his nerve and his manners.
In contrast, Mr Aslan-Levy (who studies Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Brasenose College) is to be commended. It takes courage to speak in front of an audience and even more courage to take on a firebrand like Galloway. The fact that Galloway didn’t even have the courtesy to listen to Mr Aslan-Levy’s speech highlights the stark difference between the two men.
Following the debate, Mr Aslan-Levy said he was “appalled that an MP would storm out of a debate with me for no reason other than my heritage.” He added: “To refuse to talk to someone just because of their nationality is pure racism, and totally unacceptable for a Member of Parliament.”
I agree with Mr Aslan-Levy on both these points. Galloway’s behavior in Oxford has left him vulnerable to accusations of racism and anti-Semitism. His poor conduct also signifies a man who is incapable of withstanding the dissonance of disagreement. Even some of his supporters have expressed their disappointment. When a seasoned British politician can no longer hold his own in a relatively straightforward university debate, it is time to retire.