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No platform for Israelis?

No Platform for Israelis. So says George Galloway in the video above. 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. Further clarification by way of Twitter:

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.

This article first appeared at A Very Public Sociologist. We also note that the Palestinian National Committee on boycotts, divestment and sanctions does not support boycotts of Israel individuals.

4 Comments

  1. Gerry says:

    No socialist should EVER support a “no platform” policy…all they achieve is to make socialists seem scared, defensive, dictatorial, authoritarian, hysterical and anti-freedom of speech and expression..

    Which in itself sums up George Galloway and his horrific Respect Party!

  2. Chris says:

    “all they achieve is to make socialists seem scared, defensive, dictatorial, authoritarian, hysterical and anti-freedom of speech and expression..”

    Only brainless blobs could believe that about socialists and frankly I don’t want them to vote for us anyway.

  3. John P reid says:

    chris ,you like people not voting for socialist candidates, your view of socialism then is that if someone disagrees ,they’re not worth trying to talk too, and you wonder why Labour lost 4 elections against thathcer on the trot,

  4. Gerry says:

    John P Reid – excellent post…

    I have always been a Labour voter, and if this horrific Respect Party version of socialism with its no platforms and hysteria ever becomes accepted, then the left/centre-left of which I am proud to say I am part, can kiss goodbye to future electoral success.

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