George Galloway attacked Israel as a “state of absolute lawlessness” whilst speaking to the Oxford University Islamic Society this week.
Galloway condemned the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, describing it as “one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century, now bleeding into the 21st century…made all the more despicable because it involves what they themselves call, but we reject, the Jewish state.”
He attacked the settlement that created Israel following the Holocaust as “unique even by imperial standards, not least because Britain did not even possess the lands it was giving away”.
However, student Freddie Fulton was unimpressed: “My main objection is simply what good it could do to invite George Galloway as a speaker. He’s no longer taken seriously as a politician or a thinker, and all he does is stir up trouble.”
Fulton continued: “Even moderate anti-Israel thinkers, and anyone reasonable, have disassociated themselves from him due to embarrassment. Inviting him isn’t helpful- he’s completely discredited.”
Galloway was cautious of appearing anti-Semitic, distinguishing between Zionism and Judaism. Arguing that Zionism has had negative effects on Jews as well as the wider area, he claimed that “the Zionists did not believe in the religion at all”, and that the religious claim for Israel only came later when it “suited them…to claim that God was an estate agent who promised the land to them”. He added that as a politician of the left, it was inconceivable that he could harbour racist views.
His criticisms focused on the political state of Israel itself: “Israel is a state of absolute lawlessness, which steals other nation’s passports to kill other nation’s members in hotels…it has occupied its neighbour, and has scattered its people to the four corners of the world.” He was unimpressed by the response of Western countries to Israel, citing its trade deals in his claim that the EU “treats this rogue state as if it were…a perfect member of the international community”.
Commenting on Israel’s stopping of a flotilla in August 2008, he said: “If Iran had boarded a ship, if Iran had murdered nine humanitarian workers, if Iran had taken hundreds of men to a prison in the desert and robbed them of all their possessions, we would now be at war with Iran.”
Galloway outlined his views on the current situation in Palestine: “Palestine was wiped off the face of the earth, and its people were scattered to the four corners of the world.
“Millions of Palestinian refugees are living in rancid, rat-infested refugee camps, within sight of their own homes, now being lived in by someone for England, or America, or Russia. Imagine if you could see people picking your oranges from your tree in your garden…that is the nature of the crime.
He continued: “It is ironic that the Palestinians, who are the victims, are called the terrorists, while the Zionists, who are the terrorists, are called the victims.”
Yvonne Ridley, a journalist who was on one of two boats to reach Gaza in over 41 years, also spoke at the event. She said: “The Israeli navy make the Somali pirates look like amateurs. They break international law, they flout international law.” She added that Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, had violated twelve international laws, while Israel has violated or annulled seventy.
Referring to the 2008 Gaza War, Galloway recalled that Israel had “rained down death and destruction on [the people of Gaza], including, can you believe it, poisonous gas…simply because the Palestinians had held an election, and voted the wrong way.”
While describing having a modest meal in the Gaza’s Deputy Prime Minister’s apartment when Israel had cut off the power, Ridley said: “This is why the people in Gaza voted for Hamas…do you vote for the guy in the luxury villa…or do you vote for the man sitting beside you, eating cold food because the power has been cut…They live alongside the people, they suffer alongside the people.”
However, a LMH student disagreed with the positions put forward: “Israel is one friendly democracy in an area surrounded by brutal dictators and extremist governments. Hamas is a terrorist organisation that constantly sends missiles into Israel. The embargo is needed for its people to protect itself.”