“I don’t debate with Israelis”

Submitted by Matthew on 1 March, 2013 - 5:57

When I first entered politics, I used to respect George Galloway, he was one of few prominent politicians with a viewpoint that seemed to resonate with my own.

I liked the way he could run rings around ignorant TV presenters; his eloquent and devastating oratory gave comfort to me that my anti-Iraq-war feelings weren’t either as isolated, or as naive as every analyst made them out to be.

However, any bone of affection I ever held for Galloway has long since disintegrated, further fuelled by his latest ridiculous outburst at an Oxford University debate. Upon hearing his opponent’s way of reference to Israel, he questioned him, asking… “You said ‘we’, are you Israeli?” Then, on hearing the response: “I don’t debate with Israelis”. He exited the debating chamber reiterating: “I don’t recognise Israel and I don’t debate with Israelis.”

He didn’t say: “I don’t debate with apologists for war crimes”. Or even: “I don’t debate with vulgar propagandists.”

His refusal to participate further was based on his opponent’s nationality, and no other factor.

If we want the politics of Israel/Palestine to be understood, and acted upon by a broad, engaged and receptive public so that a peaceful solution can ensue, we would do well to disassociate ourselves from this kind of politics.

It bears the same lack of moral standard as contemporary politicians; the denial that moral standards are universal and the claim that their group has an earned exception to them. Galloway’s mantra is that his racism is based on “a refusal to recognise Israel”, or an “academic boycott” of Israel.

Imagine a prominent Israeli exiting a debate on seeing his opponent, stating, “I don’t debate with Arabs”. The entire left would be ablaze with denunciation, and rightly so.

Galloway is a supporter of the “one state solution”, one that involves the return of all Palestinian refugees, and their descendants to a democratic, bi-national, secular state. The logical conclusion of the implementation of such a plan however, would lead to a vastly ethnically imbalanced state, the demography changed to the extent it is no longer reflective of the state desired by the population of Israel today.

There are two peoples living in the land that is historic Palestine, both seeking national self-determination.

Ignorance and racism towards one nation’s right to exist will only help to protract the conflict, exacerbate tensions and undermine the hard work of reconciliation that serious leftists and socialists are engaged in.