The silencing of Israeli voices on British campuses

Whilst anti-Israel activism on British campuses is well known for its severity and hostility, two incidents in recent days seem to have raised the bar to a whole new level.

George Galloway with his pal whom he does not boycott, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh

The most widely talked about incident took place at Oxford University, where George Galloway, the infamous MP from the Respect party (there’s an oxymoron if ever I heard one) was taking part in a debate about Israeli settlements. Upon realising that his debating opponent was Israeli, he disgracefully walked out of the hall, declaring that he doesn’t talk to Israelis: (h/t David):

Mr Galloway, elected MP for Bradford West in a by-election last year, had already spoken for 10 minutes on the motion that ‘Israel should withdraw immediately from the West Bank’ at the time of the incident at Christ Church, an Oxford college.

Eylon Aslan-Levy, a third-year student, stepped up to the podium to respond, but after he used the word ‘we’ to refer to Israel, Mr Galloway interrupted him.

‘You said “we”,’ the MP said. ‘Are you an Israeli?’

‘I am, yes,’ Mr Aslan-Levy replied.

‘I don’t debate with Israelis,’ Mr Galloway muttered as he stood up and put on his coat. ‘I have been misled, sorry. I don’t recognise Israel and I don’t debate with Israelis.’

He then left the room followed by his wife, Putri Gayatri Pertiwi, as shocked students who were attending the debate looked on.

Speaking after the debate, Mr Aslan Levy – who studies Philosophy, Politics and Economics at David Cameron’s alma mater, Brasenose College – said: ‘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.’

Mr Galloway, a former Labour MP who was expelled from the party and helped set up the far-left Respect, is a strong opponent of Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians, which he has repeatedly denounced as ‘apartheid.’

He wrote on Facebook: ‘I refused this evening at Oxford University to debate with an Israeli, a supporter of the apartheid state of Israel.

‘The reason is simple: no recognition, no normalisation. Just boycott, divestment and sanctions, until the apartheid state is defeated. I never debate with Israelis nor speak to their media.’

Those words echo the infamous Three Noes of Khartoum when the Arabs refused to negotiate with Israel after their defeat int he Six Day War, declaring “no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel”. This policy has not advanced the Arabs’ cause in over 40 years and it similarly won’t help Galloway.

The rest of his words express the wish that Israel should be destroyed. Someone who speaks like that should be sitting in jail on account of racist incitement and certainly should not be occupying a seat in Parliament.

The strident socialist later tweeted: ‘Christ Church never informed us the debate would be with an Israeli.’

Mahmood Naji, who organised the debate, told student newspaper Cherwell: ‘At no point during my email exchange with Mr Galloway’s secretary 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.’

Michael Baldwin, a third-year student who was moderating the debate, said: ‘I was disappointed that a possibly fruitful discussion was prematurely ended by Mr Galloway’s refusal to debate someone just because of their nationality.

As he himself is a Palestinian citizen, he would rightly be indignant if an opponent of his were to refuse to debate him on the basis of his passport. I would encourage Mr Galloway to reconsider his position, which is open to accusations of xenophobia.’

I must admit I was shocked to read that Galloway has another nationality. How can he be a Palestinian? There is no Palestinian state that is able to grant citizenship (UN declarations notwithstanding), and is he allowed to hold dual citizenship and a seat in Parliament simultaneously? I would love to hear an answer from someone who understands British politics.

Mr Aslan-Levy, who is a citizen of both Israel and the UK, argued that Mr Galloway should be barred from the House of Commons.

‘He clearly had a problem not because I am Israeli – I’m sure he would have talked to an Israeli Arab, he didn’t want to talk to me because I am an Israeli Jew,’ he said.

‘I absolutely do not think someone with those kind of views should be allowed to continue as a Member of Parliament.

‘He clearly had some very hardline views and I do not think any good would come of him saying he would come back to debate with me.’

[...]

When asked whether or not he would agree to represent an Israeli living in his constituency, Mr Galloway replied: ‘An Israeli citizen could not by definition be my constituent.’

Again, these words by Galloway constitute overt racism and discrimination. How can he be allowed to remain an MP while violating all the codes, ethics and laws of British politics?

Watch the disgraceful exit of Galloway here:

The other incident took place at Essex University, where Israel’s Deputy Ambassador to the UK was forced out of the lecture that he was giving because of noisy disruptions by anti-Israel protestors:

Israel’s deputy ambassador to Britain was forced to flee from a university campus after protesters caused a lecture on the Middle East to be abandoned.

Alon Roth-Snir was speaking at Essex University in Colchester on Wednesday when 40 students disrupted the meeting.

The university’s student union has a series of anti-Israel policies in place and had actively campaigned against the invitation to Mr Roth-Snir to speak to the government department.

After attempts to calm the situation failed, university officials split the students into two groups and took Mr Roth-Snir to a smaller room to continue his discussions with those not involved in the protests.

But the disruption from the main lecture theatre was so substantial that security officers decided to evacuate the deputy ambassador.

It is understood that two students accompanied Mr Roth-Snir and his entourage back to a local railway station.

Nathan Bolton, president of the student union, had supported the university’s Palestine Solidarity Group and the Socialist Worker Student Society in calling for Mr Roth-Snir to be banned from the campus.

Mr Bolton said the invitation “beggared belief” because of what he said were Israel’s apartheid policies against Palestinians. The student union boycotts Israeli goods and is officially linked to the international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

After the deputy ambassador was forced to flee, Mr Bolton tweeted that it had been “a great day – free Palestine!”.

A university spokeswoman said that although the university did not believe there had been a threat of violence to Mr Roth-Snir, a decision had been taken “quickly” to move him from the campus as the protests escalated.

Around 100 students attended the lecture, with another 80 students protesting outside.

The spokeswoman said the university would consider taking disciplinary action against any students who had broken university rules on the right to peaceful protest.

An Israeli embassy spokesman said: “These students make a mockery of the very foundations of freedom of speech, a pillar of the academic world. Their actions shame Essex University and British academia, and damage a long tradition of positive academic exchange.

“Such behaviour should be strongly condemned by all those who cherish democratic values.”

The Algemeiner adds:

Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, a prominent Rabbi and writer based in the UK, tweeted that Essex University “should hang its head in shame for deplorable treatment of Israel deputy ambsador [sic]today.”

Here again we see a similar silencing of Israeli voices on British campuses. How are British students supposed to learn about the Middle East if they only ever hear one side – the side that lies, distorts and boycotts. Obviously they do not want the students to hear the truth. They are afraid of what they might discover.

In this respect I found a very interesting article in Engage Online, the website of an organization fighting the anti-racist campaign against Anti-Semitism, written by Brian Goldfarb (who comments on this blog occasionally)   that sheds some light into the  anti-Zionist trends within the British left.

Just a very small excerpt, but read it all:

Why is it that it is only Jews who are to be denied a state of their own, when no-one questions the right of there to be something like 30 Moslem states, let alone however many there are that claim to be Christian? Or, as Maureen Lipman noted, in a brief discussion on Radio 4‘s Today programme with fellow actor Roger Lloyd-Pack concerning the Habimah Theatre production of The Merchant of Venice at The Globe, “It’s always the Jews, isn’t it”.

Shame on Britain, shame on its Parliament and shame on its academia.

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13 Responses to The silencing of Israeli voices on British campuses

  1. Brian Goldfarb says:

    Anne, I’m flattered that you have inked to my article. Thank you. Before reading it, people here might like to bear in mind that it was originally a talk to a group of Jewish residents of Cambridge (not to students and only incidentally to any University faculty). This explains the article’s occasional infelicities: it was written to be spoken.

    Comments welcome at Engage to help the debate along.

    • anneinpt says:

      I was just going to drop you a line on the Hezbollah post to look out for this post, and here you are. :-)

      It was a great article. I went to Engage specifically to see if anything had been written about Galloway, but your article addressed the leftist anti-Zionism question much more thoroughly..

      • Brian Goldfarb says:

        Thank you again – this is beginning to sound like a cyberspace love-in – entirely platonic, do tell Mr Anne that. I am after all, 3000 miles away!

        Anne, I took the Galloway post from elsewhere (it’s semi-viral on the blogosphere – too good to miss) and posted it on the “simplyjews” website – Snoopy can’t cover all the angles, but you come close to managing. Unfortunately, engage seems to have lost its energy.

        But I keep trying to revive it: it has a lot to offer the UK scene.

  2. Henry says:

    For the record, at Oxford Mr. Aslan-Levy went on to get a standing ovation from an audience that backed his position, and which was not convinced by the poison peddled by Mr. Galloway. The discriminatory actions taken by Mr. Galloway have been widely condemned in both the university press and in the UK national media.

    The trend you note is indeed uncomfortable, but so long as there are some people who are willing to stand up and be counted, like Mr. Aslan-Levy, Israeli voices will never be wholly silenced in British universities.

    • anneinpt says:

      Henry, that is excellent news! I wish the report about the successful conclusion of Aslan-Levy’s speech would be more widely reported. There was no mention in the media of what happened after Galloway walked out so I’m very grateful for your update.

      Of course you are right that Israel still has many friends in British academia and we are extremely grateful for their support. Somehow though, that support must be translated into louder and more dominant voices because the anti-Israel side seems to have more money and make much more noise – and of course they benefit from a friendly ear in the British media.

      Thank you for commenting here and welcome to my blog! I hope you visit again.

    • cba says:

      Henry, thank you so much for that update. I certainly got the impression from the original video that Galloway had impressed the audience with his BOORISHNESS and nothing else. It’s great to hear that they backed Aslan-Levy, especially as I remember from my days (many many years ago) that many Oxford students (especially the “activist” types) were pretty anti-Israel and I’m sure it’s got worse since then.

  3. reality says:

    Mr Galloway made a fool of himself as we can see from your video,but it is extremely worrisome about all the other campuses that are starting to violently oppose Jewish/Israeli speakers including a deputy ambassdor. i’d like to see that happen here that ambassdors are ambushed & have to flee for their lives. Disgusting. But on top of that -who organised the protest in Essex? Right again -a Jew. Shame on him. Has he or his friends never considered the fact that a Jew is a Jew is a Jew as Hitler put it before exterminating them?

    • anneinpt says:

      Sorry reality, where do you see that it was a Jew who organized the protest in Essex University? There’s no indication that the student union leader is Jewish, unless I missed something.

      In any case there is no shortage of anti-Israel Jews. Perhaps I should rephrase that. There are several anti-Israel Jews but they are in a tiny minority in the Jewish community even in England. They simply have the loudest voices and have the ear of a friendly anti-Israel press to magnify their voice.

      They do not stop to consider that Hitler would have considered them on an equal level with haredim and kipot srugot. They are blind to anything outside their own little worldview that Israel=bad, Palestinians=saints.

      • Brian Goldfarb says:

        Anne, et al, all survey work carried out shows that some 90% of UK Jews are Zionist. We know what’s what, even if the small group “as-a-Jew” nuts don’t. You and your readers may recall the episode of a couple of years ago of “Independent Jewish Voices” and their ads in The Independent, The Guardian (no surprises there) & The Jewish Chronicle (they need the money). Linda Grant, novelist and journalist (and engageonline commenter) noted that a fair proportion of them, despite their claims of being silenced by the so-called jewish establishment (who they?), “were but a phone call away from an op-ed in The Guardian or The Independent”.

        Some silencing of the “as-a-Jew” brigade.

  4. cba says:

    “I must admit I was shocked to read that Galloway has another nationality. How can he be a Palestinian? ”

    He was given a Palestinian passport when he was visiting Gaza. Not quite citizenship, but still rather beyond the pale, one would have thought, for a sitting MP.

  5. Pingback: Good News Friday | Anne's Opinions

  6. roxymuzak says:

    Galloway, who first emerged on the political scene from John Hurt’s rib cage in Aliens 1, has always been a repellent toad, and a friend of terrorists.

    Free Palestine – with every pack of Weetabix!

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