LONDON – British MP and veteran anti-Israel activist George Galloway stormed out
of a debate at Oxford University on Wednesday night after learning that he was
debating a student with Israeli citizenship.
The Respect Party MP for
Bradford West, who is a longstanding supporter of Hezbollah and Hamas, had
spoken in favor of the motion “Israel should withdraw immediately from the West
Bank,” when Eylon Aslan- Levy stood up to speak against the motion.
minutes into his speech, Galloway interrupted the third-year politics,
philosophy and economics student and asked if he was Israeli.
yes,” he was told and the controversial MP brazenly stormed out the hall
claiming to have been misled.
“I don’t debate with Israelis, I have been
misled,” he said to gasps from the audience.
“I don’t recognize Israel
and I don’t debate with Israelis.”
A video clip of the incident shows the
mixed audience of students shocked by Galloway’s action. Some students called
him a “racist,” another, referring to the student, shouted, “he’s a human
In a statement on Wednesday evening Galloway said: “I refused
this evening to debate with an Israeli, a supporter of the apartheid State of
“The reason is simple: no recognition, no normalization. Just
boycott, divestment and sanctions until the apartheid state is defeated,” he
Aslan-Levy, 21, who grew up in Finchley in north London and has
Israeli citizenship as both his parents are Israeli, accused Galloway of “pure”
“I am appalled that an MP would storm out of a debate with me for
no reason other than my heritage,” he said.
“To refuse to talk to someone
just because of their nationality is pure racism, and totally unacceptable for a
member of parliament he said.”
Aslan-Levy said that had he been able to
speak, [it would have been clear that] he was calling for a withdrawal from the
West Bank as part of a negotiated settlement that would recognize both an
Israeli and Palestinian state.
Mahmood Naji, the organizer of the event
and a fourth-year medical student at Oxford, condemned Galloway’s decision to
walk out on a debate because of his opponent’s nationality.
“At no point
during my email exchange with Mr. Galloway was Eylon’s nationality ever brought
up or mentioned, nor do I expect to have to tell the speaker what his opponent’s
nationality is,” Naji told Oxford University student newspaper
Last year at another Oxford debate Galloway chastised a student
for calling Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez an oppressor of dissent in his
“Chavez has won more free and fair elections than any other
politician on the earth. He is one of the great leaders of the third world and
you should be identifying with him,” he said.
Galloway, who famously met
with Saddam Hussein in 1994, was expelled from the Labor Party in 2003 for
calling Tony Blair a liar. He has paid homage to Hassan Nasrallah and “the
resistance;” supported Syrian President Bashar Assad and donated money and
vehicles to Hamas.
Meanwhile Israel’s deputy ambassador to the UK, Alon
Roth-Snir, was forced to flee an event at the University of Essex after a group
of radical students disrupted a talk hosted by the university’s department of
When the disruption intensified, security officials decided
to evacuate the deputy ambassador for his own safety.
student union president, Nathan Bolton, an ardent anti-Israel activist, said the
deputy ambassador should not have been invited to take part in a discussion
because of “Israel’s apartheid policies.”
Calling himself a
“revolutionary socialist,” Bolton, who won the election for the student union’s
president last year on a platform of “mass involvement, democracy and
representing all students,” claimed victory for students of the
“We sent the [deputy] ambassador running,” he said on
The university said on Thursday that the visit had been hosted
by the department as “a unique opportunity for its students studying Middle
Eastern politics and international relations to take part in discussion with the
deputy Israeli ambassador.”
A spokesman said there were around 80
protesters outside, mainly non-students, and confirmed that the main event had
to be shut down because of the disruption. However the deputy ambassador did
manage to address a smaller group for an hour.
“The event did not follow
the original program because of disruption caused by students protesting within
the lecture theater, which meant that it had to be moved to an adjoining room.
As a consequence, not all of the students who had wished to participate in a
dialogue with the deputy ambassador were able to do so. However, a number of our
students did get the chance of a close discussion with him about current events
in the Middle East,” the spokesman.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews
said: “British universities are rightly cherished as places where debate and
discussion can thrive. Yet it would seem that those intent on demonizing the
State of Israel would rather crush freedom of speech in pursuit of their own
agenda of blind hatred.”
Board vice president Jonathan Arkush added: “All
right-minded people should condemn these acts against free speech and all
universities should take steps to ensure that people are safe and secure to
visit our campuses, irrespective of their race, faith or nationality.”