Galloway’s decision to walk out of a debate with an Israeli speaker was both principled and correct

George Galloway’s decision to walk out of a debate at Oxford University as soon as he realised that the opposing speaker was an Israeli was both principled and correct. It has been deemed controversial only because of the wilful and ongoing denial, prevalent within the British political, media, and cultural establishments, of the fact that Israel is an apartheid state.

The real controversy, and the only j’accuse vis-à-vis Israel that should be levelled, involves those whose cowardice prevents them from not only acknowledging this truth, but worse from acting to end what is by any reckoning the most sustained and systematic injustice inflicted on a people by a state in modern history.

George Galloway has spent his entire political life speaking and standing up for the rights of the Palestinians – who have and continue to be blamed by Israel and its apologists in the West for their own suffering. In the over three decades of Galloway’s unfailing support for the Palestinians, he has endured more calumniation, smears, attacks, and attempts at demonisation than any single political figure not only in Britain but the entire West. His supposed crime in daring to swim against an establishment tide of supine support and acquiescence of Israel’s crimes is in truth a badge of honour. Only in a corrupt and upside down world would he be reproached for taking such a stance. Sadly, it is precisely the kind of world in which we currently live.

The boycott of Israel – economic, cultural, academic, and sporting – stands on the shoulders of the international boycott campaign which played a key role in ending South African apartheid in 1990. It is a campaign called for and initiated by Palestinian civil society. Significantly, the great figures of the struggle against South African apartheid are today supporting the Palestinians. In 2010 Archbishop Desmond Tutu, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his role in fighting apartheid in South Africa, wrote:

“I have been to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid. I have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinian men, women, and children made to wait hours at Israeli military checkpoints routinely when trying to make the most basic of trips to visit relatives or attend school or college, and this humiliation is familiar to me and the many black South Africans who were corralled and regularly insulted by the security forces of the Apartheid government.

In South Africa, we could not have achieved our freedom and just peace without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the Apartheid regime.”

As Galloway wrote on his Facebook page after the incident:

“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 normalisation. 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.”

Israelis are able to enjoy the right to travel, study and speak freely around the world, while Palestinians are denied the same rights as a direct result of Israel’s illegal occupation, siege, and apartheid system. It is entirely correct, therefore, that those interested in justice should refuse to share platforms or debate with Israeli supporters of this apartheid state.

The cause of the Palestinian people – battered and bruised but as yet undefeated – is the cause of humanity in our time. George Galloway’s stance reflects this truth. Rather than condemned it is one that should be applauded.

93 comments on “Galloway’s decision to walk out of a debate with an Israeli speaker was both principled and correct

  1. The organisers were rude and unprincipled in trying to organise a meeting where the terms of the debate had not been clarified with the participants.

    It looks like someone trying to set up a trap for George.

  2. jim mclean on said:

    Of course the sad thing is GG’s debating skills are superb at times and we may have missed out on a classic. But cant have it all ways.

  3. Hats OFF! to George Galloway, John Wight, Andy Newperson and anyone who also comments in a positive way about George’s refusal to be set up by obnoxious petit bourgeois fools who think they are so clever.

  4. Solidarity activist on said:

    The Palestinian organisations that have called for a boycott of Israel urge boycotts of events at which representatives of official Israeli institutions involved in it’s apartheid system e.g. government bodies, the military, universities, etc.

    BDS Movement Position on Boycott of Individuals

    Posted on February 21, 2013 by Palestinian BDS National Committee

    The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition of Palestinian unions, mass organisations, refugee networks and NGOs that leads and and sets the guidelines for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, supports all principled action in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality that is in line with universal human rights and international law.

    In its 2005 BDS Call, Palestinian civil society has called for a boycott of Israel, its complicit institutions, international corporations that sustain its occupation, colonization and apartheid, and official representatives of the state of Israel and its complicit institutions. BDS does not call for a boycott of individuals because she or he happens to be Israeli or because they express certain views. Of course, any individual is free to decide who they do and do not engage with.

    The global BDS movement has consistently adopted a rights-based approach and an anti-racist platform that rejects all forms of racism, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

    These guidelines and the fact that BDS has been initiated and is led by Palestinian civil society are major reasons behind the rapid growth and success that the BDS movement has enjoyed around the world.

    http://www.bdsmovement.net/2013/bds-movement-position-on-boycott-of-individuals-10679

  5. Karl Stewart on said:

    I disagree with boycotting an individual because they are an Israeli.

    There are different stands of opinion among Israelis and there are Israelis who, like us, also support the goal of a viable Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel.

    So I think George Galloway was completely wrong on this occaision.

  6. George clearly says in the video that he doesn’t debate with Israelis. That is confirmed in a later tweet with Alon Or-bach. Not with Ilan Pappé, Israeli historian and author of The Ethnic Cleaning of Palestine about which George can be heard interviewing him here? Not with Israelis from human rights group B’Tselem or the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions? Not with over a million Palestinians who are Israeli citizens (“Israeli Arabs”) like Hanin Zuabi, a member of Israel’s parliament (Knesset) vilified and almost banned from participation in the recent Israeli elections?

    That would be an absurd position that contributed nothing to fighting for peace and justice for Palestinians. To refuse to debate with Jewish Israelis would of course be worse. Who exactly does George wish to refuse to debate and why? All he has succeeded in doing is making himself an easy target for the Zionist lobby.

    What sort of explanation is “the fact that Israel is an apartheid state.” When did we ever deny a platform to South Africans like Oliver Tambo? Or to white South Africans like Joe Slovo? Or Peter Hain?

    Boycotting goods made in the West Bank or companies that operate in the West Bank makes sense. Boycotting Israel individuals is plain daft which is no doubt why the Palestinian National Committee on BDS rejects it.

  7. Democratic Left on said:

    I am rather less enamoured of this walk-out and think there is a wrong-headedness in boycotting an individual due to their nationality.

    There are progressive elements within Israeli society and they should not be immediately condemned because of their place of birth.

    I am glad the B.D.S. committee are adopting a more reasonable line on this.

  8. Karl Stewart:
    I disagree with boycotting an individual because they are an Israeli.

    There are different stands of opinion among Israelis and there are Israelis who, like us, also support the goal of a viable Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel.

    So I think George Galloway was completely wrong on this occaision.

    Tentatively, I think I agree with Karl.

    Obviously the person was defending Israel, that’s the nature of a debate, so they likely weren’t from a progressive part of the Israeli spectrum. But that doesn’t change anything – George was evidently quite happy to debate someone supportive of Israel who wasn’t actually Israeli.

    Refusing to engage with the Israeli establishment, especially their media, academics, government spokespeople, prominent public figures etc. is perfectly acceptable. But walking out because someone happens to hold an Israeli passport seems a bit of an overreaction.

    That being said, the call of ‘racism’ is bollocks. It wasn’t racist, it was just rude and an over-reaction, probably on account of his being (as he says in the video) misled. If anything, Galloway should be criticised for wasting his time debating self-entitled posh tossers in the first place.

  9. So people who oppose imperialism should not debate with Galloway and John Wight because they’re British? Sorry, that position is daft to say the least.

  10. Jon Lansman:
    George clearly says in the video that he doesn’t debate with Israelis. That is confirmed in a later tweet with Alon Or-bach. Not with Ilan Pappé, Israeli historian and author of The Ethnic Cleaning of Palestine about which George can be heard interviewing him here? Not with Israelis from human rights group B’Tselem or the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions? Not with over a million Palestinians who are Israeli citizens (“Israeli Arabs”) like Hanin Zuabi, a member of Israel’s parliament (Knesset) vilified and almost banned from participation in the recent Israeli elections?

    That would be an absurd position that contributed nothing to fighting for peace and justice for Palestinians. To refuse to debate with Jewish Israelis would of course be worse. Who exactly does George wish to refuse to debate and why? All he has succeeded in doing is making himself an easy target for the Zionist lobby.

    What sort of explanation is “the fact that Israel is an apartheid state.” When did we ever deny a platform to South Africans like Oliver Tambo? Or to white South Africans like Joe Slovo? Or Peter Hain?

    Boycotting goods made in the West Bank or companies that operate in the West Bank makes sense. Boycotting Israel individuals is plain daft which is no doubt why the Palestinian National Committee on BDS rejects it.

    Excellent post.

  11. Howard Fuller on said:

    George Galloway was just pandering to his supposed constituency in order to regain the “credibility” he lost over the Julian Assange affair.

    As usual he acts in an opportunist fashion. No time at all for the man myself.

    Exactly how can you reach a peaceful solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict unless you actually are prepared to sit down and talk.

    No state is perfect, but at least Israel is a democracy which is more than can be said for any of the states that surround it. It means that there actually are Israelis that want to come to a mutually agreeable solution to this conflict.

    I sometimes wonder if parts of the left actually want peace,I certainly think the Galloway “fan club” is part of the problem.

    As for Israel being an “apartheid state”, absolute nonsense that doesn’t achieve anything.

    The worlds remaining apartheid sate is Saudi Arabia and its’ victims are women. The Coptic Christians in Egypt might also have something to say on their positon in society as would the Bahai in Iran and Christians across Iraq, Iran and now Libya.

    The Middle East is full of contradictions resulting in oppression.

    I for one (and I’m not ashamed to say I’m Jewish) want to see a Two-State solution with border compromises from both sides.

    So long as there are those of you who simply wish to destroy Israel it will be difficult to reach a compromise. Growing violence within the surrounding Muslim countries shows that there is a long way to go before an atmosphere of tolerance and mutual respect can lead to a fruitful debate on the future of two peoples.

  12. I think Galloway’s comments are problematic. Had he said – ‘I refuse to debate with a Zionist speaker, he would have my fullest sympathies. The problem is that 20% of the Israeli population are Arabs, and, I know, there are a significant number of Israeli Jews – scholars, activists and citizens more broadly, who reject the Zionist political project. By framing the things the way he has, Galloway admits a certain lack of political precision which is counter-productive to the struggle against Zionism.

  13. Juan: well, actually, it was. He didn’t say, “I don’t debate with people who defend Israeli policies” (that would be nonsensical, because if there was a motion it meant that someone was defending it. He said, “I don’t debate with people of X nationality”. That’s racism, “puro y duro” as we say in Spanish.

    True. However, and perhaps I’m being over-generous, I can’t help but thinking he simply over-reacted to a situation he didn’t expect and which had been sprung on him (surely he would ordinarily know who he is debating?), and attempted to rationalise it after making that initial, ill-thought-out decision.

    For instance, I wouldn’t imagine that Galloway would refuse to debate with any of the million and a half Israeli Arabs, or a supporter of Maki, or other non-Zionists? I think that, feeling pounced on, he probably just wanted out, and felt the need to explain it in political terms by invoking BDS.

    If he really does think that simply being Israeli alone is cause to walk, yes, that’s unacceptable.

    It’s also not something I particularly care to see crocodile tears from upset liberals over, either. A sense of bloody perspective is called for. Personally if he’d said “I don’t debate privileged shits with silly voices” I’d be all for it, but he didn’t. At the end of the day, so what. I don’t believe Galloway is a racist; I think he’s been one of the most important anti-racist voices in British politics over the last decade.

    The united front of the British media salivating over the prospect of another anti-Galloway offensive is predictable, and good luck to them making it stick. They are on the ‘other side’, after all. I’m just surprised there are leftists, even those who disagree with his actions, who would feel he’s anything but a fundamentally positive voice when it comes to anti-racism and anti-imperialism.

    On the other hand, consider Howard Fuller above. Hackneyed “at least Israel is a democracy” whitewashing of state terrorism, invoking of the “growing violence of the surrounding Muslim countries”, the Saudi Arabian whataboutery, the slights on the left’s motivations etc. I mean honestly. If it’s that apologist nonsense or Galloway offending some toff, I’ll take the latter any day, thanks all the same.

  14. Andy Newman on said:

    Jon Lansman,
    Of course Jon, you are right. There are many honourable Israeli citizens, and broad diversity of political opinion, and it would be stupid to refuse debate under all circumstances.
    Moreover, at some point a negotiated settlement with Israel will have to be made.

    Correct me if I am wrong though, thus is a different case, where Galloway was being bounced into an unprepared

  15. Jon Lansman: George clearly says in the video that he doesn’t debate with Israelis. That is confirmed in a later tweet with Alon Or-bach. Not with Ilan Pappé, Israeli historian and author of The Ethnic Cleaning of Palestine about which George can be heard interviewing him here? Not with Israelis from human rights group B’Tselem or the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions? Not with over a million Palestinians who are Israeli citizens (“Israeli Arabs”) like Hanin Zuabi, a member of Israel’s parliament (Knesset) vilified and almost banned from participation in the recent Israeli elections?

    Well, Jon, as with most things in life context is all. And the context here is an Israeli speaking in support of the state of Israel, which in essence means speaking in support of Israel’s apartheid policies towards the Palestinians and those whom you refer to as Israeli Arabs.

    So this is a asinine point you’re making here.

    Jon Lansman: What sort of explanation is “the fact that Israel is an apartheid state.” When did we ever deny a platform to South Africans like Oliver Tambo? Or to white South Africans like Joe Slovo? Or Peter Hain?

    Here you’ve gone and done it again – completely and it seems to me wilfully leaving out the context to this incident. See my reply above.

    Jon Lansman: Boycotting goods made in the West Bank or companies that operate in the West Bank makes sense. Boycotting Israel individuals is plain daft which is no doubt why the Palestinian National Committee on BDS rejects it.

    Well, this approach certainly makes it easier to express solidarity with the Palestinians without going ‘too far’ and inviting hostility from polite society for doing so.

    The subtle but no less crucial distinction this completely negates is the fact that Israel is not an apartheid state because of its brutal occupation of Palestinian land, Israel is engaged in a brutal occupation of Palestinian land because it IS an apartheid state.

    Its character is apartheid. Apartheid is the fulcrum of its existence. You are dealing with the symptoms and ignoring the cause.

    But, again, it is the path of least resistance, the safe way to salve your conscience without taking the flak that comes with putting your head above the parapet.

  16. Andy Newman on said:

    Jon Lansman,

    Whoops, posted before ready. The student union were attempting to bounce GG into a debate with a supporter of Israel that he was not prepared for, and which he had not agreed to.
    There is also a problem that people over analyse every syllable the poor bloke says. It is a huge pressure – he is only human.

  17. Karl Stewart: I disagree with boycotting an individual because they are an Israeli.

    Even if they are defending apartheid and attempting to normalise and legitimate it?

    Karl Stewart: There are different stands of opinion among Israelis and there are Israelis who, like us, also support the goal of a viable Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel.

    But this is completely dishonest on your part, Karl, when it is clear from the youtube that this Israeli was speaking in defence and support of Israel. There is no doubt of that, so why the obfuscation?

    And when you say, ‘like us’, does that include the Palestinians? Because if I didn’t know and respect you, I could be mistaken for taking this comment and its tone as the worst sort of paternalism.

    Surely not.

  18. David Rosenberg on said:

    I agree with Jon Lansman’s points. who did GG think he was going to be debating with last night? He was rightly supporting the motion that Israel should immediately withdraw from the Occupied Territories and the convincing case for such immediate withdrawal would not have been difficult to make – it was a fine opportunity. He knew his opponent would take the opposite view or it would not have been a debate. What difference does an accident of birth make? Would a British supporter of continued occupation, for example, have been more acceptable to debate with, despite Britain’s colonial history (no apology for Amritsar yesterday)? The BDS movement “does not call for a boycott of individuals because she or he happens to be Israeli or because they express certain views” while adding “any individual is free to decide who they do and do not engage with.” The first part of that statement makes sense – and we can surely expect grown-up socialists to distinguish between people and governments. The second part unfortunately, is likely to give rise to own goals like the one scored by GG last night. It was a free gift for the Israeli right wing that I’m sure they have accepted with satisfaction.

  19. John: Even if they are defending apartheid and attempting to normalise and legitimate it?

    But this is completely dishonest on your part, Karl, when it is clear from the youtube that this Israeli was speaking in defence and support of Israel. There is no doubt of that, so why the obfuscation?

    And when you say, ‘like us’, does that include the Palestinians? Because if I didn’t know and respect you, I could be mistaken for taking this comment and its tone as the worst sort of paternalism.

    Surely not.

    Why is it acceptable to debate a non-Israeli speaking in defence and support of Israel, defending apartheid and attempting to normalise and legitimate it, but not an Israeli?

  20. Democratic Left on said:

    #20 ‘Karl Stewart: I disagree with boycotting an individual because they are an Israeli.

    Even if they are defending apartheid and attempting to normalise and legitimate it?’

    You are missing the point. In this instance you are boycotting the person because they are defending apartheid.

    Not because they are Israeli.

    People are disagreeing with boycotting somebody because they are Israeli. And for no other reason.

    This is what Galloway seemed to say. He may have made a mistake in his anger as this is a pretty unreasonable stance.

  21. Manzil: Why is it acceptable to debate a non-Israeli speaking in defence and support of Israel, defending apartheid and attempting to normalise and legitimate it, but not an Israeli?

    Because an Israeli citizen’s rights to travel and speak freely around the world in defence of Israel are rights denied to the Palestinians suffering under the system of apartheid and occupation being defended.

  22. Democratic Left: People are disagreeing with boycotting somebody because they are Israeli. And for no other reason.

    This is what Galloway seemed to say. He may have made a mistake in his anger as this is a pretty unreasonable stance.

    This is the point that is clear – the context here is everything. It is revelatory to me how people are quick to jump on a pedantic formulation when the context is self evident.

  23. Jellytot on said:

    @7So I think George Galloway was completely wrong on this occaision.

    IMO George was completely right on this occasion and I feel sympathy for him.

    This was obviously a set-up and an ambush and GG seems to have been lured to that meeting under false pretences.

    George can choose to debate with whoever he wants to.

  24. Democratic Left on said:

    #24 ‘This is the point that is clear – the context here is everything.’

    Context does not change what Galloway said.

    Galloway said he would not debate with Israeli’s. That is what people are reacting to.

    I would give him the benefit of the doubt and say it was something said in anger, rather than a thought-out position.

    He has been perfectly willing to debate with fanatical neo-con defenders of Israel, so I do not see why he would bring nationality into it.

  25. Jara Handala on said:

    “I don’t debate with Israelis, I’ve been misled . . . I don’t debate with Israelis”

    Those were George Galloway’s words. I know he was angry but that’s what he said. Is it what he meant? No doubt his office will clarify.

    So just a Q: does it mean he won’t debate with Akiva Orr, or Michel Warschawski, or Azmi Bishara, all Israeli citizens (not even dual-citizens)?

  26. Democratic Left: Context does not change what Galloway said.

    Of course it does.

    He was attending a debate on the Palestinian question, at which he knew he would be debating a pro-Israeli speaker. What he clearly did not know was that he would be debating an Israeli supporter of Israel, which is an apartheid state.

    As I commented earlier in reply to Manzil, an Israeli citizen’s rights to travel and live overseas while retaining their Israeli citizenship are rights denied to Palestinians living under Israeli apartheid and occupation.

    He didn’t just decide to walk out because he was debating an Israeli. He walked out because he’d been misled into a debate with an Israeli supporter of Israel.

    He makes this clear in his FB statement.

    You’re being pedantic.

  27. Jara Handala on said:

    Jara Handala: Akiva Orr

    Damn, in more senses than one.

    Just seen wiki says Cde. Orr died this month. The English just says Feb; the Hebrew says 9 Feb; the French wiki says his death was announced on the 9th.

    Sorry.

  28. #23. Actually, I accept that, it’s a fair point.

    Howard Fuller: So Manzil why is it that apartheid against women in Saudi Arabia and the growing persecution of Christians in the Muslim world is “apologist nonsense”.

    Because the effect of your old, “no, look over there” tactic is to take absolutely justified and legitimate pressure off Israel, as though there’s only a finite amount of justice in the world and it should only be doled out to the most deserving. Not to mention your whitewashing of Israel as a “democracy”.

    Now you propose a non-existent parity between the positions of Israel and the Palestinians; you suggest it is a (presumably justified?) defensive “siege mentality”, rather than the fundamentally discriminatory, exploitative – and, yes, apartheid – bedrock of the Israeli state, that is Israel’s main flaw; essentialising nonsense about those darn’ quarrelsome Muslims who “can’t even accept each other”.

    You are an apologist for Israel’s crimes, don’t be under any illusions of that.

  29. Ross Bradshaw on said:

    This from Gaza Youth Break Out: George Galawy is an idiot for not debating with the israeli student.. It was a great chance to tell the mislead british students of oxford about the truth.. You want to discuss peace, lets speak about justice first.. Lets see what israel has done since the nakba until today..
    I am ready to debate any Israeli anywhere in the world.. Israelies would never win a debate because they’ve got nothing in favor of their side..

    Israel is the one that is killing, blockading, arresting, destroying, torturing nd spreading hate while palestinians are just resisting and showing steadfastness infront of the israeli terrorism machines..

    For this I must say that George Galway doesn’t care about palestine and spreading the truth as much as he cares about his look and reputation!!

  30. David Rosenberg on said:

    I don’t rule out an attempt at ambush but it is also hard to buy it. GG is a very experienced debater. If there was any attempt at ambush he could have made it backfire by demolishing the arguments against ending the occupation. How hard is it to argue against the occupation whether the opponent was from Britain, Israel or Mars? I can see an argument if the person he was debating with revealed themselves as an Israeli politician, but a third year philosophy student with dual British-Israeli nationality?
    A seasoned and tough campaigner who stood up fearlessly in a session with American warmongers seems to have acted with less courage and less intelligence last night, and I think we should be honest about that rather than excuse it. GG could have given a platform to powerful arguments in support of Palestinian rights last night. I think his ill-thought out response base on a poor argument has given oppressors of the Palestinians a temporary boost.

  31. David Rosenberg: A seasoned and tough campaigner who stood up fearlessly in a session with American warmongers seems to have acted with less courage and less intelligence last night,

    This of course is your opinion, to which you are obviously entitled. I disagree, as I’m sure do many others.

    David Rosenberg: I think his ill-thought out response base on a poor argument has given oppressors of the Palestinians a temporary boost.

    I can’t take this assertion in the least bit seriously. What boost can oppressors possibly enjoy? How and what way does GG refusing to debate an Israeli supporter of Israeli apartheid boost the oppressors of the Palestinian people?

    Honestly, this is such a ludicrous point it is laughable. Are you actually saying that Israeli soldiers manning checkpoints in the West Bank tonight are in any way more boosted in their oppressive role than they were last night because Galloway refused to debate one of their supporters at Oxford Uni?

    Are you saying that the IDF has been boosted by it, the Israeli cabinet, the settler movement?

    This is silly in the extreme.

  32. Democratic Left on said:

    # 28 ‘He was attending a debate on the Palestinian question, at which he knew he would be debating a pro-Israeli speaker. What he clearly did not know was that he would be debating an Israeli supporter of Israel, which is an apartheid state.’

    So he would debate a pro-Israeli speaker but not an pro-Israeli speaker of Israeli nationality.

    So he is refusing to debate somebody because of their Israeli nationality.

    The point is whether you agree with that or not.

  33. Democratic Left: So he would debate a pro-Israeli speaker but not an pro-Israeli speaker of Israeli nationality.

    So he is refusing to debate somebody because of their Israeli nationality.

    The point is whether you agree with that or not.

    Well this all depends on whether he would actually debate an Israeli who was not a defender of Israel – which his comment implies he wouldn’t, but which I would strongly doubt.

    If he would, then it’s not just a question of their nationality.

  34. Ross Bradshaw on said:

    GG is completely clear on his facebook site, saying “I never debate with Israelis nor speak to their media.” His own words, no nuance. Here’s a group of Israelis he won’t debate with http://en.daam.org.il/, or talk to their media.

  35. Manzil: Well this all depends on whether he would actually debate an Israeli who was not a defender of Israel – which his comment implies he wouldn’t, but which I would strongly doubt.

    Galloway has shared platforms with Ilan Pappe, an Israeli citizen. He’s also had him on his Talksport radio show as a guest, so it is entirely spurious for anyone to try to allege that the context to this particular event isn’t relevant.

    As I said earlier, it is appropriate to refuse to debate an Israeli supporter and defender of Israel given that the right to travel and speak freely in defence of an apartheid state are rights denied the victims of that apartheid.

    It is basic solidarity.

  36. Ross Bradshaw: GG is completely clear on his facebook site, saying “I never debate with Israelis nor speak to their media.”

    You have purposely copied and pasted once sentence from his FB statement to suit a distorted view of what he said.

    For those interested in an honest discussion, here is the full statement:

    “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 normalisation. 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.”

  37. Democratic Left on said:

    It is not about context.

    Rather it is about Galloway saying something which, according to you, he does nt mean.

    I am glad that he doesnt agree with boycotting all Israelis.

    The man made a mistake in a fit of rage. Why venerate it?

  38. Jara Handala on said:

    Jara Handala: Akiva Orr

    Here is a short obituary of Cde. Akiva Orr, co-founder of Matzpen & former member of Solidarity. I’m glad it includes part of his wonderful talk in Israel to International Solidarity Movement activists on his birthday, 17 June 2008:
    http://www.bikyanews.com/85255/radical-israeli-leftist-akiva-orr-dies

    His position argued in this vid is simple. I’m not pro or anti Israeli or Palestinian: I’m against oppression. Nationality or ethnic loyalty is irrelevant: one judges behaviour, that’s the kind of identity that matters. It has a relevance for the politics of boycott.

    He knew comrades in London IS/SWP for many years, living there 1964-90. People like Smith aren’t even pygmies in comparison. Watch this 3mins vid & feel the sort of revolutionary socialist Akiva Orr was – and feel how much the SWP has degenerated.

    Seeing Orr in this vid can you imagine how he’d have behaved if he had been a member of the Disputes Cttee.?

  39. Karl Stewart on said:

    John: Even if they are defending apartheid and attempting to normalise and legitimate it?But this is completely dishonest on your part, Karl, when it is clear from the youtube that this Israeli was speaking in defence and support of Israel. There is no doubt of that, so why the obfuscation?
    And when you say, ‘like us’, does that include the Palestinians? Because if I didn’t know and respect you, I could be mistaken for taking this comment and its tone as the worst sort of paternalism.
    Surely not.

    Well, to your first question, I’d answer Yes, because the appalling treatment of Palestinian people by the Israeli state needs to be highlighted as often as possible and the defenders of that appalling treatment need to be put on the spot and under pressure publicly – so in that respect, this was an opportunity missed.

    To your second point, I’m sorry, but the clip doesn’t work for me, so I’m just going by the words in your article.

    I don’t get your “paternalism” point John. My view is there should be a full independent contiguous Palestinian state alongside Israel and UN military action to enforce it.

  40. But Karl that is not Galloway’s position. He does not support a two-state “solution”. He supports the right of return of all Palestinians to their land, wherever it is in Palestine. He supports a single democratic state from the river to the sea where Jews Muslims and Christians live as equal citizens under the law. One man one woman one vote. He calls it a state calls Israel-Palestine. Thus you and he are in fundamental disagreement

  41. Democratic Left: So he would debate a pro-Israeli speaker but not an pro-Israeli speaker of Israeli nationality.

    So he is refusing to debate somebody because of their Israeli nationality.

    The point is whether you agree with that or not.

    Well clearly it’s not purely about nationality. George Galloway obviously would discuss with an Israeli national who is part of the pro-Palestinian movement.

    I can’t see what your issue is with Galloway refusing to engage in debate with an Israeli who is an advocate of Israeli apartheid.

    That was his interpretation of the boycott and, irrespective of whether or not you would hold to such a position, it seems to be a perfectly reasonable one.

    So what exactly is your problem? Are you against the boycott of Israel, or do you just not understand the reasons why Galloway interpreted it in that way on this occasion?

  42. Good on you George.

    All attempts to normalise the Israeli state in its current form must be resisted. They’ve got Mark Regev et al dressing up as democrats in suits trying to justify apartheid at every turn. The more attention given to highlighting the whackoid nature of the oppressive zionist state the better.

    Great to see the ‘university of the haves’ indirectly organising an event which has had a positive wider political impact on public consciousness.

  43. Agree that context is important here. It’s higly unlikely there would be a “debate” between GG and an Israeli critic of the state currently known as Israel, isn’t it? George does not wish to normalise or encourage acceptance of ISRAELI defenders of their brutal state, who enjoy their citizenship and privileges at the expense of Palestinian lives.

  44. jock mctrousers on said:

    Yes, strictly speaking George might be in the wrong, but as someone above noted, look at the little tosser.. Would anyone else here give him the time of day?

  45. Andy Newman on said:

    Karl Stewart,

    Karl, a two state solution is completely utopian given the intransigent opposition to it by Israel, and the impediments they impose, the annexation of East Jerusalem, the Apartheid wall, the massive settler communities in the West Bank, the integration of the West Bank settlements with Israel via east west road links that disrupt the natural north south axis of the Palestinian economy.
    To dismantle the social and economic infrastructure of the occupation, and for Israel to absorb back into itself the settlers would destroy the viability of Israel economically and in terms of social and political cohesion.

  46. Hm, this was a bit of a cock-up in response to a deceptive stunt, a reasonable tactic to walk out but the explanation is not a model of clarity. Better to have refused the formal debate invitation in the first place – why agree to debate whether or not Israel should get out of the West Bank? Even the formal position of Israel’s imperialist allies is that they should (though of course this is a hypocritical lie on their part).

    Better to say something like: “I made a mistake in coming here: I’m not debating with an Israeli government spokesman”. But hindsight is easy i suppose.

    Galloway is being set up, quite pathetically, by these rancid propagandists. Not a big deal, most decent people will see right through their crap.

    He made a mistake, however, in siding with Nick Clegg and the other Zionist stooges in that party over fairly innocuous remarks made by his neighbouring Lib Dem MP condemning Israeli crimes against the Palestinians in the context of Holocaust day. David Ward is facing a purge in his own party, and while he is probably politically distant in some ways, there was nothing remotely anti-semitic about his remarks any more than there is about anything George himself has said.

    That was a much more serious mistake than this minor tactical faux-pas.

  47. Andy Newman on said:

    John,

    Let’s not fetishise the right of return though. It is an important principle not to unilaterally abandon the aspiration outside of a negotiated settlement, but it is up to the Palestinians to decide the terms of the eventual peace deal, and what compromises they may accept.

  48. Andy Newman on said:

    We

    Omar:
    Agree that context is important here. It’s higly unlikely there would be a “debate” between GG and an Israeli critic of the state currently known as Israel, isn’t it? George does not wish to normalise or encourage acceptance of ISRAELI defenders of their brutal state, who enjoy their citizenship and privileges at the expense of Palestinian lives.

    Yes thats right

    Omar,

  49. Andy Newman: Let’s not fetishise the right of return though.

    How on earth do you come to the conclusion that I am ‘fetishing’ the right of return?

    The last time I checked the right of return was a popular Palestinian demand.

    Am I wrong?

  50. Andy Newman: To dismantle the social and economic infrastructure of the occupation, and for Israel to absorb back into itself the settlers would destroy the viability of Israel economically and in terms of social and political cohesion.

    Well quite possibly so. It would certainly be a crushing blow to the principle of the Israeli state, ie Zionism.

    But why should any of the above indicate that people should not demand the withdrawal of Israel to its 1967 borders?

  51. Karl Stewart:
    John,

    I think there should be a separate Palestinian state and a separate state of Israel John.

    Even if, as Andy rightly states, it is an unworkable concept given the facts on the ground?

    And, again, I have to ask you – do the Palestinians have a say in this at all?

  52. John: The last time I checked the right of return was a popular Palestinian demand.

    Am I wrong?

    No you are correct, and despite various compromises the right of return is still PLO policy.

    Among some Western supporters of the Palestinians, too much is made of counterposing various sets of demands against each other.

    Support for the boycott campaign against Israel does not depend on adherence to a 1 or 2 state ‘solution’ etc.

  53. Andy Newman on said:

    John,

    Perhaps fetishising is the wrong word, all I mean is that in real political terms the right to return is rhetoric rather than an actually promoted policy. Or at least that is my perception.

    Perhaps I just think too much like a trade unionist always, looking for what is your initial bargaining gambit but knowing you’ll settle for whatever the members will accept.

  54. Andy Newman on said:

    Noah,

    Israel should certainly withdraw to its 1967 borders, and there can be no peace without the settlements being evacuated and East Jerusalem restored to Palestinian rule. This is the bottom line because without those two things the Palestinian economy is not viable

    My

  55. Andy Newman on said:

    Noah,

    Bloody phone. My point is that Palestinians I have spoken with think both a 2 state and 1 state solution are equally utopian unless there is a major shift in Israeli attitude. Equally, the impression I get is Palestinians are open minded about the form of an eventual solution, as long as it brings peace and justice. Which means some sort of guarantees of prosperity and security for all the peoples of the lands of Israel / Pales tine.

  56. It’s difficult not to conclude that GG doesn’t like Jews very much, considering the vast majority support the right of Israel to exist (as does the PLO) and/or are Israeli citizens.

    As for Andy Newman’s comment that two-states is a utopian demand, have a think about a one-state solution for a moment.

  57. John: I have to ask you – do the Palestinians have a say in this at all?

    Well, for the Palestinians, to have their own state on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital would be a great step forward.

    The Israelis have deliberately been creating facts on the ground, eg the settlements, to make this ‘unworkable’.

    But, the ’1 state solution’ does not look any more practicable (indeed, looks utterly utopian) if seen from the point of view of the current power structures and the ideological hold of Zionism among the majority Jewish population in Israel.

    However. That intransigence is dependent on the ongoing sponsorship of Israel by the West. If we can help to break that (and BDS is key in trying to achieve this) then just solutions become much more possible.

  58. Karl Stewart on said:

    John,

    The immediate priority must be UN military action to enforce Israel’s removal behind its pre-1967 borders.

    Then there would need to be negotiations over appropriate land swaps to ensure viability and contugity of territory.

    Ultimately the resolution lies in a fully independent, viable and territorially integeral Palesttinian state separate from and alongside the state of Israel.

  59. Andy Newman,

    Andy Newman,

    Sure I agree, & indeed I typed and posted my quite similar remarks at #63 before I saw your comments.

    I do have to admit a close personal connection to this issue, in that my girlfriend is a ’1948 Palestinian’, ie she is a member of the ‘Arab minority’ in Israel.

    When talking with her and her friends, both those more and less politically involved, I don’t note much connection with the issues of either / or 1 state, 2 states etc which seem to absorb intellectual energy among some in the Western left.

  60. Karl Stewart: The immediate priority must be UN military action to enforce Israel’s removal behind its pre-1967 borders.

    OK. But for a start, how about members of the UNSC and EU cease providing Israel with the weapons to impose its occupation?

  61. John: Well, Jon, as with most things in life context is all. And the context here is an Israeli speaking in support of the state of Israel, which in essence means speaking in support of Israel’s apartheid policies towards the Palestinians and those whom you refer to as Israeli Arabs.

    John: Context really isn’t all. Firstly what is “an Israeli speaking in support of the state of Israel”? Would that include an “Israeli Arab” who advocates a two state solution which is, I believe, still the policy of the Palestinian government? And by the way I used the term “Israeli Arab” to denote that it is not my term. As I have met many Israelis who define themselves as “Jewish Palestinians”, talking about Israeli Palestinians or something similar would have been ambiguous.

    The point at issue here is what George said – namely that he won’t debate Israelis. And, Andy, he didn’t just say that in the heat of the moment, but repeated it in a text and on his own website. And he didn’t retract it or apologise for it, not that he is known for such things even when his party is collapsing around him.

    To press the South African analogy: what if we were talking about debating with Lennox Sebe, President of the South African “Bantustan” Ciskei. It would, of course be perfectly in order to refuse to share a platform with him on the grounds that he was a supporter of apartheid. It would also be perfectly in order to refuse to share a platform with him on the especially relevant grounds here that he established a Ciskei trade office in Tel Aviv that was run by two Israelis with ties to the Gush Emunim Israeli settler movement, or that he established a twinning agreement between his capital, Bisho, and the settlement of Ariel in the West Bank. What would not have been OK, I trust you will agree, is to refuse to debate with him on the grounds that he was black.

  62. Pmg: GG doesn’t like Jews very much, considering the vast majority support the right of Israel to exist

    What utter shite.

    To take a couple of examples, you didn’t have to specifically dislike Germans, or white South Africans, to be opposed to certain vile racial policies.

  63. Jon Lansman: “What would not have been OK, I trust you will agree, is to refuse to debate with him on the grounds that he was black”.

    Excuse me, but what on planet Earth are you are on about?

    If Galloway had refused to debate with an Arab Palestinian, with whatever views, your comment might have something of relevance.

    But that is not the case. As far as I can see, your remarks are utterly ridiculous.

  64. On the one state/two state issue, I don’t think it’s very relevant here. I was an advocate of two states from the early 1970s until last summer when I went on a delegation to the West Bank. I now cannot see how a two state solution is viable, but nor can I see how a one state is achievable. Both would require such a seismic shift in Israeli, American and world attitudes/actions that who knows? But I think that the Palestinian solidarity movement can live without agreeing on this – I tend to agree with Andy.

    As for George and the Jews – I don’t think he’s an antisemite for a moment. Indeed it wasn’t an antisemitic remark as I define the word, though it was certainly ill judged, wrong & very counter-productive.

  65. Noah: If Galloway had refused to debate with an Arab Palestinian, with whatever views, your comment might have something of relevance.

    My point is that to have refused to debate with a black south african and to say it was because they were black would have been unacceptable whatever the “context”. Just as here, to refuse to debate with an israeli and to say it was because they were israeli is unacceptable whatever the “context”. Being Israeli, like being black, is (or at least often is) a matter of accident rather than choice, and unrelated to the rights and wrongs of the state in which they live.

  66. Jon Lansman: My point is that to have refused to debate with a black south african and to say it was because they were black would have been unacceptable whatever the “context”

    You seem to have it upside down.

    Jon Lansman: Being Israeli, like being black, is (or at least often is) a matter of accident rather than choice, and unrelated to the rights and wrongs of the state in which they live.

    Your analogy is absurdly skewed. If anything, the Jewish Israelis can be compared to the white South Africans.

  67. Nadia Chern on said:

    How is being Israeli a matter of accident? After all, it is not about where you are born but where you or your parents chose to settle and dispossess another people of their land.

    How is referring to yourself as an Israeli a matter of accident given the last 60 years? How is being an Israeli who seeks to build a political career out of defending the state of Israel a matter of accident?

    The defence of Israel is premised on Zionism, a politically supremacist doctrine. Why should this entitle you to be given time to debate when Palestinians are denied land, peace, economic survival, water, liberty and even life?

    The black analogy is one of the most politically illiterate things I have read in recent years.

  68. saothar on said:

    I fully support Galloway in his actions here. During the anti-apartheid struggle, no-one on the Left would have shared a platform with those white South Africans who wanted to defend their racist state. This is no different, fundamentally. As Norman Finkelstein has pointed out, one of the great triumphs of the Zionists in recent decades has been to have this ‘conflict’ framed as one that is intractable, complex and too difficult to resolve–unless of course the Palestinians give up their rightful claims. In fact, it is none of those things, but a case of a racist, imperialist state oppressing a virtually defenceless people. Galloway by his actions shows that Israel is beyond the pale–I only wish that more people would follow his example.

  69. Ross Bradshaw on said:

    The issue is, I think, has GG helped any Palestinian by walking out of a debate, not with someone from the Israeli government, but some snot-nosed bumptious student, described usefully in # 47 as a tosser. However people try to dress this up, GG repeats on his facebook site that he will not debate with Israelis. He could have had the student for breakfast, but chose to make himself look like an idiot. The statement I posted at #32 which is entirely from Gaza Youth Break Out indicates one Palestinian view.
    I’m with Jon Landsman at #70 that “As for George and the Jews – I don’t think he’s an antisemite for a moment. Indeed it wasn’t an antisemitic remark as I define the word, though it was certainly ill judged, wrong & very counter-productive.”

  70. Pmg: As for Andy Newman’s comment that two-states is a utopian demand, have a think about a one-state solution for a moment.

    Agreed. Both a 2 state and a 1 state solution are equaly utopian solutions without a paradigm shift in Israeli attitides and intransigence.

    That is why elevating a debate about the two options to any significance is a mistake – because neither is currently an option.

    The task of the solidarity movement is not to take sides among different strategic options among the Palestinians, but to unconditionally promote their general cause.

  71. saothar: As Norman Finkelstein has pointed out, one of the great triumphs of the Zionists in recent decades has been to have this ‘conflict’ framed as one that is intractable, complex and too difficult to resolve–unless of course the Palestinians give up their rightful claims.

    It is acurate that the ‘conflict’ is intractable, complex and too difficult to resolve– but the solution is for pressure to be placed on Israel to shift its own untenable position

  72. Jon Lansman: I now cannot see how a two state solution is viable, but nor can I see how a one state is achievable. Both would require such a seismic shift in Israeli, American and world attitudes/actions that who knows? But I think that the Palestinian solidarity movement can live without agreeing on this – I tend to agree with Andy.

    Good to hear, looking forwards to seeing you tomorrow at CLPD confernece.

  73. Noah: That intransigence is dependent on the ongoing sponsorship of Israel by the West.

    And the West’s unconditional support for Israel is predicated upon the continued willingness of Arab states to tacitly support the status quo. Even a threat of oil sanctions against the USA, for example, would scare the White HOuse witless

  74. Walking out of debates rarely looks good. The reasoning behind it doesn’t convince me either. I think GG has erred here.

  75. David Rosenberg on said:

    Various people here have rightly commented on the difficulties of making gains towards justice for Palestinians in current circumstances but one factor in the equation will be a deepening of conflicts and contradictions within Israeli society. That is likely to require more engagement with progressive Israelis in the coming years, not less. Many Palestinians have known this for a long time and channels of communication exist. But some of their supporters outside have not caught up on this.
    BTW re Nadia Chern’s comments denying accidents of birth and blaming people for their parent’s choices. I didn’t think socialists went in for “original sin”. Do you talk to Americans? Their history re inhabitants of the land is not so pleasant

  76. Nadia Chern: How is being Israeli a matter of accident? After all, it is not about where you are born but where you or your parents chose to settle and dispossess another people of their land.

    Nadia: Your parents’ choice is not your choice. Being born Israeli, as 70% of Israel Jews are these days, is what I’d call an accident of birth. Just like being black. Which is why I think the analogy is valid.

  77. Noah: Your analogy is absurdly skewed. If anything, the Jewish Israelis can be compared to the white South Africans.

    Noah: Obviously analogies could be drawn between Jewish Israelis and white South Africans. I choose to draw an analogy between Israelis and Black south africans because being Israel is in most cases an accident of birth as I explain above, just as is being black. Refusing to debate with someone because of an accident of their birth (as opposed for example to their political opinions) is in my view discriminatory and unacceptable.

  78. Jon Lansman: I choose to draw an analogy between Israelis and Black south africans because being Israel is in most cases an accident of birth as I explain above, just as is being black. Refusing to debate with someone because of an accident of their birth (as opposed for example to their political opinions) is in my view discriminatory and unacceptable.

    As someone already said, this is the most politically illiterate analysis of this question that I have ever read.

  79. An Israeli who supports any of the central pillars of the Israeli state’s oppression of the Palestinian people, particularly given that Israel is a self-proclaimed parliamentary democracy, is as responsible for that oppression as the Israeli government.

    Presumably this particular Israeli was arguing against withdrawal from the West Bank, in which case it is totally consistent to refuse to engage with them as much as to support the boycott.

  80. James Smith on said:

    “Israeli Arabs” is a misnomer. They are Palestinians. Galloway would of course debate with them.

  81. saothar on said:

    Anyone who read the Palestine Papers book, based on the wikileaks revelations, would have even more shocking and glaring proof of the racist and utterly intransigent nature of the Israeli political elite. The horrible reality, is that Israel will never move willingly to any type of accommodation with Palestinians, no matter how many concessions the weak Palestinian leadership makes.

    My own view is for a 1-state solution, but I agree with those who have pointed out there will be no solution of any kind, unless Israel is pressurised into it–and there is no chance of that happening anytime soon. I do think though, that Galloway, by refusing to debate with Israelis does help to undermine the popular, media-driven narratives that many people accept of this conflict, as one where both sides are to blame and have to compromise etc. Actions like this can play a part in challenging these biased representations, and get people thinking about why he won’t debate with them, which is a good thing.

  82. Dan Factor on said:

    Galloway has not made it clear whether he refuses to talk to Israelis who support the occupation or whether he believes boycotting Israel means refusing to speak to it’s citizens and nationals at all.

  83. Just an interesting addendum to this:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2013/feb/23/oxford-union-boycott-israel

    The “Israeli” concerned was born and brought up in Britain. So someone who went to the fee-paying University College School in Hampstead and straight on to Brasenose, who used all his privilege to defend oppression, enjoys all the rights that millions of people actually born in Palestine are denied.

    But no, he’s definitely the victim here.

  84. Why would other UAF members be expected to justify it?

    I don’t mean it in a discipline sense, I mean that it ends up being the only subject permitted in conversation, and allows the right a fantastic avenue of attack. You end up either agreeing with the right about how bad the lead guy in UAF is, or you have to defend it. And in those circumstances, defending it is what you should do. It’s like when AWL people suddenly want to talk to SWP members about George Galloway :-)