Thursday, 21 February 2013

No Platform for Israelis

So says George Galloway:

Further clarification by way of Twitter:

Oh dear.

Galloway's career has seen alternating cycles of popular acclaim and public self-immolation. As Galloway is an intelligent man and a seasoned political bruiser, none of this is entirely accidental.

The political capital gained from his celebrated trip to Washington was poured down the drain less than a year later with his excruciating stint on Celebrity Big Brother. His work as an anti-war populariser has no doubt influenced hundreds of thousands of people, but an equal number have always found this compromised by cosy relationships with Hamas and the Iranian regime, and his studied softness toward Ba'athism (Saddam Hussein then, Bashar al-Assad now). And do we even need to talk about the Assange comments?

Galloway has carved a space out for himself as an unpopular populist, an uncompromising truth-teller to power. As Owen observed in his Indy column, of Galloway's appearance on Question Time, "Even a figure with a long-haul flight’s worth of baggage can be cheered if they use populist language that connects with people and their experiences." But part and parcel of this is his plain spoken opposition to Western foreign policy generally and Israel in particular. This might go down well with bits of the far left and a smattering of radical Muslims, but not with everyone else.

This reminds me of a set of ideas I once adhered to.

During my passage into Trotskyism as a student, the political education I received placed great emphasis on "anti-imperialism". Based on the old Bolshevik slogan 'the main enemy is at home' and derived from Trotters' musings about a hypothetical war between colonial Britain and fascist Brazil, I came to understand that in a situation of conflict between an imperial power and a colony (or "semi-colonial" country, it's the revolutionaries' job to undermine the war effort in the imperial heartland and help those waging the anti-imperialist struggle, regardless of their political character. This critical, but unconditional "military" support was an article of faith for the ra-ra-revolutionary proletarian group of lecturers, teachers and students I was around at the time. This military support never manifested itself in arms shipments, funds, or new international brigades, but I am sure Argentinean conscripts and Iraqi anti-aircraft gunners were very grateful for the sharply-worded polemics that graced the group's low circulation monthly newspaper.

Galloway's anti-imperialism is roughly similar to those I imbibed, though his support for these movements tends to be uncritical and can lead to a simplistic black-and-white narrative that overwrites the hegemony and dependencies constituting the relationships between states. Nevertheless if you can grasp this, you can begin to understand his apparent fondness for "anti-imperialist" dictatorships, his clumsy handling of the Assange case, and his 'no platform for Israelis' nonsense.

Regardless of what you think about Galloway, he has tirelessly (one may say indefatigably) worked to keep the problems of the Middle East in the public eye. But the debate we need is ill-served by stunts like the above.


asquith said...

One thing our anti-"Zionists" never seem to acknowledge, and this is doubly so for Galloway, is that Israel (for all that it often doesn't do itself any favours) is a democracy which holds free and fair elections, in which Arabs and Muslims participate. And only last month, in their election, they took a turn towards less warlike politicians.

I see the theoretical Trotskyite underpinnings of what Galloway has done. But this only confirms my belief that this stance is, in fact, a load of bollocks.

Those who honestly want to improve the world should make a rational analysis of what needs to be done and how best to bring it about. It certainly won't be by always siding with an alleged anti-imperialist against an alleged imperialist, regardless of the actual virtues or vices of each player.

I consider that the average inhabitant of the Gaza Strip suffers at the hands of their de facto, theocratic, government, rather than the Israelis that many of them never set eyes on. And most of all, not only him but also the David Ward tendency, are simply refusing to accept that the Zionist entity is no more a monolithic bloc off imperialists than the Muslim world is a monolithic bloc of theocrats.

Gary Elsby said...

i personally admire someone who says they will do one thing and then actually do that one thing.

Unlike those who say one thing (get elected) and then do another.

Galloway says he does not recognise Israel and rejects them.
he will not debate with Israeli's.

Will he vote for Trident? let me think?
I wonder if he is of a mind to consider old people, young people and working families being systematically made to suffer before coming to a rational decision based on better uses of that money?

I wonder if the Ed's will also speak of suffering of the British masses (get elected) before deciding (after getting elected) to spend Billions on Trident?

I don't have to agree with Galloway or anyone else, but I admire, no, respect (see what I did there?) a person who says one thing............

Anonymous said...

When we recall Galloway's 'anti-imperialist' support for the Islamic Republic, Ba'athism and the like, let's also remember to include the Jamaat e Islami. Momentous things re happening in Bangladesh, it should be better known.

Chris said...

Galloway did the right thing, the Israeli economic apartheid and stranglehold over the Palestinians dictates the boycotting of Israeli's. Pseudo liberal lefties can go fuck off.

Israeli is a police state, which keeps tortured political prisoners in dungeons. If the left start to say that Israel represents anything that could be called a democracy then we may as well pack it all up.

Phil said...

The thinking goes Asquith that be 'defending' a semi-colonial country that's under attack, the bigger enemy - 'imperialism' - will be set back and lead to a more favourable balance of class forces for revolutionary parties to do their thang.

In reality, it has become a key touchstone of revolutionary identity politics. If you don't 'defend' the Taliban against the US, you're a sell out, basically.

Phil said...

Chris, since when have the left 'no platformed' a citizen of any state? Should the left refuse to debate representatives of or apologists for Saudi Arabia and North Korea?

True, I do understand Galloway was ambushed and that he was not informed in advance that he'd be debating an Israeli, but he certainly knew he'd be arguing with someone who thinks Israel is the bee's knees.