George Galloway, an MP for the leftist Respect Party, stormed out of a debate on Wednesday night at Oxford University after discovering that one of his fellow speakers was an Israeli citizen, writes the Guardian. Galloway refused to take part in the discussion entitled “Israel should withdraw immediately from the West Bank” once it was made clear that his opponent, Oxford student Eylon Asian-Levy, was Israeli.
Galloway, who represents the northern England constituency of Bradford West, is a supporter of Palestinian rights and a vocal critic of Israeli policies, often referring to Israel as an apartheid state.
He had already spoken for ten minutes in favor of the motion before handing the floor over to his opponent, writes the Oxford student newspaper Cherwell. However, Asian-Levy, a third-year student in philosophy, politics and economics, was only able to speak for three minutes before being interrupted by Galloway.
“You said ‘we’,” exclaimed Galloway. “Are you an Israeli?” When Asian-Levy replied that he was from Israel, Galloway stood up, grabbed his coat, and while walking out the door retorted, “I don’t debate with Israelis. I have been misled, sorry.” His exit led to cries of “racism” from the crowd of students who had gathered to watch the debate.
Later that night Galloway tweeted: “I don’t debate with Israelis or speak to their media. If Israelis want to speak about Palestine they can talk to the PLO.” He also said in a statement following the debate, “I refused this evening to debate with an Israeli, a supporter of the Apartheid state of Israel. The reason is simple; No recognition, no normalization.”
Student Asian-Levy told Cherwell that he was “appalled” that an MP would choose to walk out of a debate based on the opponent’s heritage. “ To refuse to talk to someone just because of their nationality is pure racism, and totally unacceptable for a member of parliament,” he told the student newspaper. The organizer of the debate, Mahmood Naji, “condemned” Mr. Galloway’s performance at the debate and explained that he never “misled” the MP. “At no point during my email exchange… was Eylon’s nationality ever brought up, nor do I expect to have to tell the speaker what his opponent’s nationality is,” Naji said.
According to the Guardian, Asian-Levy wanted to use his speech to call for a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict that would recognize both states.