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article imageBrit MP: 'I don't recognize Israel, I don't debate with Israelis'

By JohnThomas Didymus     Feb 21, 2013 in World
George Galloway, the Respect MP for Bradford West, shocked an audience at a debate in Christ Church College, Oxford, when he stormed angrily out of the venue after he discovered that his opponent at the debate was an Israeli.
According to the Daily Mail, Galloway, a former Labor MP, who was expelled from the party and is one of the leaders of the left-wing Respect Party, was speaking at a debate at Oxford University when he learned that the student he was debating against was a citizen of the state of Israel.
What followed was a shocking scene in which the outspoken MP stormed out the venue, saying: "I don't debate with Israelis."
The scene was caught on camera by the student newspaper, Cherwell.
The Daily Mail reports that the MP had already spoken for 10 minutes at the venue on the motion: "Israel should withdraw immediately from the West Bank," when a third-year student Eylon Aslan-Levy, came up to the podium to speak. When the student spoke, referring to Israel as "we," Galloway stopped him and said, "You said 'we", Are you an Israeli?"
Aslan-Levy: "I am, yes."
Galloway stood up immediately and put on his coat, muttering: "I don't debate with Israelis. I have been misled, sorry. I don't recognize Israel and I don't debate with Israelis."
He then stormed out of the room with his wife Putri Gayatri Pertiwi following, while the largely student audience looked on uncomprehendingly.
Aslan-Levy, a student of Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Brasenose College, later 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."
He added: "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. 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."
Galloway is known as a strong opponent of Israel's Palestinian policy. He has, on several occasions, denounced the country's policy as "apartheid."
He later attempted to explain his action 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 normalization. Just boycott, divestment and sanctions, until the apartheid state is defeated. I never debate with Israelis nor speak to their media."
George Galloway
George Galloway
He also tweeted: "Christ Church never informed us the debate would be with an Israeli."
However, the student newspaper Cherwell, reports that the organizer of the debate Mahmood Naji, said: "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."
The debate moderator, a third-year student, 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."
Galloway has faced criticism on both Facebook and Twitter.
The Daily Mail reports that a former Labour candidate for the London Assembly, Christine Quigley, wrote: "As a former constituent of George Galloway and pro-Palestinian, I'm deeply unimpressed he refused to debate someone because he was Israeli."
When asked whether he would represent an Israeli resident in his constituency, he replied: "An Israeli citizen could not by definition be my constituent."
Raw Story reports Galloway has been at the center of several controversies. He came under attack after he presented a show on Iranian state-run Press TV. In spite of the fact that he had accused the British government of supporting despotic governments in the Middle East, a 1994 TV footage reportedly showed him addressing former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein: "Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigabillity."
He sparked controversy in 2006 when he appeared on a reality TV show in which, on all fours, playing a me-owing cat, he pretended to lap milk from the hands of actress Rula Lenska.
More about Israel, Israelis, George Galloway, Oxford university
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