Earlier this week, George Galloway made a dramatic exit from a debate he had been taking part in at Christ Church College, Oxford, speaking for the motion that "Israel should withdraw immediately from the West Bank." When he discovered that the person he was debating was in fact Israeli, he stormed out, stating he had been misinformed and that "he doesn't talk to Israelis" and he "doesn't recognize Israel."
For readers who may not know, George Galloway is the sole Member of Parliament for the Respect Party in the U.K. His behavior is not that much of a shock for those who have followed Galloway's political antics. Had a member of one of the three major political parties in the U.K. behaved in a similar fashion, there is no doubt that hackles would be raised much more than they have been by Galloway's behavior. One only has to look at the brouhaha surrounding MP David Ward's statements about "Jewish" treatment of Palestinians given their own experiences in the Holocaust. But David Ward is a Liberal Democrat and the Liberal Democrats are part of the British government.
It is slightly different with George.
George Galloway is a man who has explained why a suicide bomb attack on Tony Blair would be morally justified and who is a supporter of Ahmadinijad's regime in Iran. He believes that boycotts of individuals are an acceptable way in which to express your personal politics. So if you so happen to be born in a country that Galloway does not like, do not expect him to talk to you or acknowledge your existence for that matter. The Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) Movement felt compelled yesterday to release a statement making it clear they did not promote personal boycotts, distancing themselves from Galloway's remarks.
But if personal boycotts are really Galloway's chosen method of "political resistance," one would expect them at the very least to start with those that dictate a government's policy and then trickle down to members of civil society. It would therefore not be unreasonable to consider it somewhat odd that Galloway cannot debate Eylon Aslan-Levy, a third year student at Oxford who holds dual Israeli-British citizenship, but he can praise the likes of Bashar al-Assad and Saddam Hussein who have lorded over dictatorial murderous regimes.
So a conclusion must be drawn: that there is one set of rules for the "Zionists" and another rule for everyone else. And one can't help thinking that sniffs of anti-Semitism. In his words:
I am still a member of parliament and was re-elected five times. On the last occasion I was re-elected despite all the efforts made by the British government, the Zionist movement and the newspapers and news media which are controlled by Zionism.
It sounds almost like he copied and pasted out of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Galloway (as is every person) is well within his right to take issues with policies that he does not agree with—whether they are British government policies or those of the Israeli government. And he has a right to call for the use of boycott, divestment and sanctions as a tactic. As I have argued elsewhere on Open Zion, supporting boycotts does not put you instantaneously into a camp of those that have a set of nefarious motives buried within their criticism of the Jewish state. However, boycotting an individual on the basis of where they were born, and jumping through a set of moral and intellectual hoops to arrive at a conclusion that Saddam Hussein or Bashar Al-Assad are somehow worthy of not just attention but praise, and believing a third year student at Oxford who happens to have dual citizenship of Israel and Britain cannot be debated certainly does parachute you straight into that camp.
In fact, it raises a very big question as to what Galloway's motives are. His behavior takes him and the campaign he purports to support into the sphere of the ridiculous. And if Galloway really believes in his cause then he would do everything in his power to keep it in the realm of the mainstream. But he has failed miserably at that, and therefore one can only conclude he is more interested in those he is speaking against than those he is speaking for.
UPDATE: This article originally included two references to Galloway calling Israel a "Hitler state," in reference to an interview Galloway gave to American radio personality Alex Jones. Jones's website made the claim about "Hitler state." But Mark Gardner, writing for the website of a UK group opposed to anti-Semitism, listened to the actual tape and found that, "in the actual radio recording, Galloway can be clearly heard saying 'settler' rather than 'Hitler'." We regret the error.