WATCH: British MP refuses to debate with Israelis

George Galloway storms out of a debate at Oxford University saying "I don't debate with Israelis;" students accuse him of racism.

By JONNY PAUL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
February 21, 2013 11:52
4 minute read.
British MP George Galloway with Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh, March 11, 2009.

British MP George Galloway with Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohammed al-Ostaz/Handout)

 
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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.



Two minutes into his speech, Galloway interrupted the third-year politics, philosophy and economics student and asked if he was Israeli.

“I am, 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 being.”

In a statement on Wednesday evening Galloway said: “I refused this evening 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,” he said.

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” racism.

“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 Cherwell.

Last year at another Oxford debate Galloway chastised a student for calling Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez an oppressor of dissent in his country.

“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 government.

When the disruption intensified, security officials decided to evacuate the deputy ambassador for his own safety.

The university’s 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 university.

“We sent the [deputy] ambassador running,” he said on Twitter.

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.”

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