By Jonathan Hoffman
March 7, 2013
I am proud to be the first (I believe) to publish the speech by Oxford student Eylon Aslan-Levy that sent George Galloway on his bike. The motion was that Israel should withdraw immediately from the West Bank. Galloway had proposed, Aslan-Levy was opposing.
Mr Speaker, thank you for inviting me here tonight.
To the audience – thank you for coming.
Mr Galloway –
I was disappointed, but not surprised, to learn that you had promised the press that you would “annihilate” me—
[Here Galloway interrupts and accuses me of libelling him for repeating a statement made to the Oxford Student Newspaper: http://oxfordstudent.com/2013/02/14/galloway-says-he-will-annihilate/]
Let me make it clear where I stand. This debate is not about whether Israel should withdraw from most of the West Bank upon the signing of a treaty that would guarantee the Jewish and Palestinian nations peace and prosperity within the safe and secure borders of their respective states.
That is a point of consensus in Israel. I believe that the Occupation must end. I am devastated when Israelis are murdered in suicide bombings and rocket attacks; and I am deeply distressed by heavy price that the Palestinians have paid for this conflict, including the tragic loss of innocent life. I want peace and I want it now.
This debate, however, is about whether Israel should withdraw immediately. Overnight. Unilaterally. Without any guarantees from the Palestinians to match such dramatic concessions by calling an end to this century-old conflict. The burden on the proposition today is to make precisely that case.
So this debate is not about who loves justice or freedom more. It’s not about who has suffered more. It’s not about who is good and who is bad, who is right, who is wrong. So let’s not let this debate descend into a parody of itself.
An immediate withdrawal denies Israelis and Palestinians the two essential goods that a peace treaty would secure: firstly, a framework for safety, security and cooperation; secondly, binding promises by each party to irrevocably terminate all claims or states of belligerency against the other. To forego the one chance to sign for peace on the dotted line would leave the region vulnerable, insecure, and in a perpetual state of war.
This is the lesson from the disengagement from Gaza in 2005, which I supported – out of the same misguided faith that the cards were in Israel’s hands. Israel uprooted over 8,000 settlers and evacuated the military – but without a pledge from the Palestinians not to fire rockets at Israeli towns over the very border to which Israel had just withdrawn. We wanted peace: we got war. We mustn’t make the same mistake again.
My first point: only a peace treaty can provide a framework for enduring peace and security—
[Here Galloway interrupts for a second time, asking: “You said ‘we’. Are you Israeli?”]
After the debate Aslan-Levy said that "I am appalled that an MP would storm out of a debate with me for no reason other than my heritage.
"To refuse to talk to someone just because of their nationality is pure racism, and totally unacceptable for a member of parliament."
Many would agree and would ask if there has ever been more blatant racism at a British University...
UPDATE 1 The Times editorial has it right:
Lack of Respect
George Galloway’s Oxford University walkout was childish attention seeking
Given his willingness to talk to Saddam Hussein and congratulate the murderous dictator on his ‘indefatigability’, and to present programmes on the Iranian state-run Press TV, one might be forgiven for thinking that George Galloway would talk to anyone. But now we learn that Mr Galloway is rather picky. It is just that in picking, he prefers dictators.
This insight was provided by Mr Galloway’s behaviour on Wednesday when attending a debate at Christ Church College, Oxford. Upon learning during Eyon Aslan-Levy’s speech that his interlocutor was an Israeli (actually someone born in London with joint British-Israeli citizenship), he got up and walked out. “I don’t debate with Israelis,” he said.
It is tempting to take Mr Galloway as seriously as he takes himself, hard though that feat would be. One might point out that if Yasser Arafat, of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, or President Anwar Sadat, of Egypt, had adopted Mr Galloway’s stance it would have made it difficult to discuss peace. And a walk out on a student’s speech makes a mockery of calling his party Respect.
However, to dignify his display by deploying arguments against it is to flatter the MP. The truth is that Mr Galloway’s abrupt departure was the childish act of an attention-seeker. He has become a circus sideshow: roll up, roll up to be entertained by his next piece of eccentric unreason.
The organisers of the Oxford meeting were “disappointed” that as a result of the MP’s departure “a possibly fruitful discussion was prematurely ended”. It was not Mr Galloway’s departure that made fruitful discussion impossible. It was his arrival.
Iain Dale on the former PressTV Editor who defended Galloway on LBC
"A clueless, anti-semitic bigot"