Boycotting Israel Galloway-style

A big fuss blew up last week when British MP George Galloway, invited to Oxford University to debate the motion “Israel should withdraw immediately from the West Bank”, walked out of the chamber when he heard that the student opposing the motion was an Israeli.

American readers may remember Galloway, who came over in 2005 and delivered a master-class in how to give a Senate Inquisition sub-committee a good spanking.

At Oxford, something Eylon Aslan-Levy said prompted Galloway to ask, “Are you an Israeli?”

“Yes,” came the reply.

“I don’t debate with Israelis. I have been misled, sorry,” said Galloway putting on his coat. “I don’t recognise Israel and I don’t debate with Israelis,” he added and left.

The following message then appeared on Galloway’s Facebook: “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.”

The PLO, of course, is recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

Galloway’s point was that BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions), in his terms, means “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…   My opponent at Oxford University did not meet this test.”

Aslan-Levy is reported to have told The Guardian that Israel’s withdrawal should not be immediate but “in the context of a negotiated peace treaty, which would recognise both Israeli and Palestinian states”. According to the Daily Mail he also said: ‘”To refuse to talk to someone just because of their nationality is pure racism, and totally unacceptable for a Member of Parliament.”

A lot of people have criticised Galloway for his behaviour in this matter. However, anyone arguing against an immediate end to the brutal and illegal 65 year-old occupation and offering silly excuses for prolonging the misery – like more lopsided ‘negotiations’ when international law and UN resolutions have already spoken – deserves to feel the cold blast of boycott, Galloway-style.

The attacks on Galloway seem to come mainly from people in the BDS movement itself who are supposedly on the same side.  Press reports mention cries of “racism”. But notice that Galloway said he doesn’t debate with Israelis, not Jews. Others may not wish to debate with North Koreans or Afghan tribesmen. Our own foreign secretary apparently has no intention of chatting with his Iranian opposite number while turning the sanctions screw on the Iranian people. Obama when he visits the Holy Land to pay homage to Netanyahu won’t drop in on Haniyeh in Gaza to discuss football.

And it is pretty rich for a national of a racist state to call anyone else a racist.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), which claims to set the guidelines for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, says it does not call for a boycott of individuals because she or he happens to be Israeli or because they express certain views, but adds: “Of course, any individual is free to decide who they do and do not engage with.”

OK, so why is Galloway getting flak?

Stuart Littlewood’s book Radio Free Palestine, with Foreword by Jeff Halper, can now be read on the internet by visiting Read other articles by Stuart.