Posts Tagged ‘George Galloway’

A recent editorial in the Winnipeg Jewish Review could leave the impression that the Brandon and District Labour Council is rethinking its endorsement of the Nov. 26 speaking engagement, in Winnipeg, of George Galloway. This would be the wrong impression. The event, organized by Peace Alliance Winnipeg, drew an audience of more than 400 and was endorsed by 15 organizations, including the BDLC.

On Nov. 17, the BDLC passed a motion saying it would pay for tickets for any members who wished to attend, that it would contribute $100.00 to Peace Alliance Winnipeg, and that it would  send a letter with the donation stating the BDLC position on the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. Had something changed?

Because I am a member of PAW and helped organise the event, I was concerned by the implications of the WJR editorial. I asked Peace Alliance Winnipeg chairperson Glenn Michalchuk to clarify the situation. Michalchuk said he spoke with the BDLC about the WJR editorial and was assured that nothing had changed. Said Michalchuk:

“The BDLC reaffirmed, to me, its support for holding the Galloway event. In line with the resolution they passed, they will be sending a cheque for $100 and a letter that outlines their views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Why is this issue worth wrting about? On one level, it’s fairly straightforward: an editorial in an online journal implies something that is not factual and leaves the reader imagining that Peace Alliance Winnipeg misrepresented the views of one of the organizations listed as an endorser of its event — we need to set the record straight.

On another level, it’s because I want to encourage readers to go to the Winnipeg Jewish Review and learn something of its perspective on the world, especially to what appears to be its unconditional support for the actions of the State of Israel against the Palestinian people and its apparent unwillingness to consider alternative viewpoints.

There can be no real progress towards peace anywhere unless we are open to the views of those with whom we disagree, even it it seems that they are closed to information that challenges their world view.


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Is the Manitoba NDP preparing a public witch hunt, or at least a private spanking, of members who attended George Galloway’s Nov. 26 speech in Winnipeg? That certainly is the impression left by an article by Rhonda Spivak in the Winnipeg Jewish Review entitled BRANDON NDP WOMEN’S ASSOCIATION ENDORSES GALLOWAYS SPEECH IN WINNIPEG NOV 26.

In the article, Spivak trots out all the shop-worn distortions of Galloway’s anti-war and anti-Zionist activities and quotes Manitoba’s Water Stewardship Minister Christine Melnick as saying:

“It is important to know that this issue was not brought before Greg Selinger, the Leader of Manitoba the New Democratic Party nor the Manitoba NDP Provincial Council. This action is neither sanctioned nor endorsed by either the Premier or the Manitoba NDP. The NDP Brandon Women’s Association does not represent the Manitoba NDP on this issue . . .

“I want to ensure people that the Manitoba NDP is taking this incident very seriously and are already looking into the matter.”

For those unfamiliar with Manitoba NDP code, “taking this incident very seriously” is code for “someone’s gonna pay.” It’s the same language used by Education Minister Nancy Allan after B’nai Brith complained about a provincial high school examination question. The offending question — “Explain whether or not you think people in the entertainment industry have a responsibility for making the world a better place?” — was asked with reference to an essay entitled “Over the Rocks and Stones” by pop star Chantal Kreviazuk. Among many other things totally unrelated to questions of human suffering, Kreviazuk’s essay describes the struggle for life of a badly injured Palestinian boy and his family’s pain. An objective reader would be hard pressed to find evidence that hatred of Israel was being promoted.

Allan’s eagerness to roll over for B’nai Brith was widely ridiculed; even the Winnipeg Free Press editorial board, normally a perennial cheerleader for all things zionist, concluded that Allan had been too easily stampeded, that she should “respond rationally” in situations like this and “let the department do its work free of political meddling and public nitpicking.”

Back to the present. I’ve heard that functionaries in the Brandon Cabinet Office were not amused by the uppity women who endorsed Galloway’s event. Whether this goes farther remains to be seen. Surely if the NDP heavyweights start trying to muscle Seymour and others over their attendance at the Galloway meeting, it will be time for them to remove the word “Democratic” from their party’s name. Ditto for “New” which is really shop-worn after all these years.

Readers who share my outrage are encouraged to express themselves in a polite, but assertive reminder to Minister Melnick that Canada remains a free country where all, even NDP members, are entitled to the freedoms associated with a democracy. You can write to her at minwsd@leg.gov.mb.ca.

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Over the past 2 weeks, George Galloway spoke to packed halls from Halifax to Yellowknife. Winnipeg was no exception, with more than 400 people crowding into the Broadway Disciples United Church on Nov. 26 to hear Galloway’s passionate plea on behalf of Free Speech, Free Afghanistan and Free Palestine.

Galloway repeated his pledge to donate “every cent” of the compensation he expects to result from his defamation suit against the Canadian government to the Canadian anti-war movement. He also announced plans to launch a Canadian wing of Viva Palestina, in Calgary, next year. Viva Palestina is a registered UK charity that Galloway helped found that has raised millions of dollars in humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza.

Galloway is a frighteningly talented orator. It is easy to understand why Immigration Minister Jason Kenney would want to keep him out of the country. He spoke knowledgeably, passionately, with great warmth and biting wit, without notes for just over an hour. (My favourite example of his savage wit was a passing reference to Harper and Ignatieff as “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum . . .two cheeks of the same backside” — but I digress.)

Here are only a few of the highlights.

On Kenney’s attempt to keep Galloway out of Canada

“As any bookseller could have told Mr. Kenney, any book that you try to ban usually ends up on the best-seller list.”
“Though the offence against me was considerable, the offence against you was much, much more serious, because what it established and what Justice Mosley’s 60-page caning of Kenney — across a 60-page judgement — what was established was that you have a government of liars and deceivers who are planning to take your rights away.”
On racism, Antisemitism and Zionism
“It is unconscionable to exercise freedom of speech to whip up racial or religious hatred – to whip up hatred of people because of what they are – not for what they’ve done, not for what they believe in, but because of who and what they are. That’s called racism.”
“That somehow I might be a hater of Jews, or in other words, a racist, is as absurd as it is insulting and offensive.”
“We are against the racist, apartheid ideology of Zionism and its practise in the apartheid state of Israel.”
“When people campaigned to end communism in Russia it didn’t mean they wanted to end the people of Russia. It didn’t mean they wanted to eliminate the country of Russia.They were against a political ideology which they believed was wrong and harmful. And that’s the spirit in which we say we are against Zionism. We’re not against the Jewish peiople who live in the land they call Israel and we call Palestine. We’re against the idea that there can be an apartheid state created there where the non-Jews are second class citizens and where the state illegally occupies and controls every aspect of the lives of three million Palestinian people living under occupation in the West Bank, in Gaza and in East Jerusalem.”
On Afghanistan
“Has anyone in Canada ever asked the question how come the Afghan army needs quite so much training? For ten years they’ve been trained by the occupation armies that invaded and occupied Afghanistan . . . The cost of training Hamid Karzai’s puppet regime, paid for by western taxpayers including every one of you,  is $1 billion per month . . . with no noticeable improvement in their performance. Nobody’s training the Taliban and they’re doing quite well.”
“Nobody has every successfully occupied Afghanistan. Even Alexander the Great did not succeed in occupying Afghanistan and Stephen Harper is not Alexander the Great.”
“The Afghans are quite good at fighting. They don’t need much training. And they will never accept the foreign occupation of their country. Full stop.”
“We have to get out of Afghanistan, not just because we can’t afford it, not just because our own young men are being killed, but because we’re achieving the opposite of what needs to be done. We’re deepening that swamp [of bitterness], rather than draining that swamp.”
“Bush and Blair and Harper and, I dare say Kenney, are willing to fight to the last drop of other people’s blood and that’s just immoral.”
On Democracy
“I’m not a supporter of Hamas. It doesn’t matter how many times these raving bloggers in Canada or these raving ministers in Ottawa contend it, the judge has already opined on this point and his decision is final.  I’m not a supporter of Hamas but I am a supporter of democracy. And the only people entitled to choose the leadership of the Palestinian people are the Palestinian people themselves. This is surely ABC. I mean how else could it be?
“I don’t like Stephen Harper. I wouldn’t have voted for him. But I can’t pretend that he’s not the Prime Minister of Canada. I can’t appoint somebody else as the Prime Minister of Canada though the vision of Michael Ignatieff just flitted across my mind. Talk about Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Two cheeks of the same backside. I can’t appoint Ignatieff or Layton of anyone else as the leader of Canada. I have to accept the outcome of the elections in Canada.
“Well, as we say we’re fighting for democracy every time we go to war, the Palestinians had democracy. They had an election. It was the only, only, free, democratic election ever held in any Arab country, ever, in all history. It was described by Jimmy Carter, no less, as pristine. Pristine. Chrystal clear. Transparent. Perfect. We just didn’t like the result. So what did we do? We immediately imposed a siege to starve the children of the votes, to punish them for how their parents had voted.
“How democratic is that? That’s hypocrisy, not democracy. But that’s exactly what we did and that siege has now lasted for four long years.”

In an interview, today, on Winnipeg’s CKUW-FM community radio station, peace and human rights activist George Galloway pledged to spend the proceeds of his lawsuit against the Canadian government to help fund the anti-war movement in this country.

Galloway was interviewed by Jonathan Wilson, co-host of CKUW’s People of Interest program which airs Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 8:00 a.m. at 95.9 on the FM dial. You can listen to the program on line, here. The Galloway segment of today’s program is available here .

In March 2009, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney banned Galloway from entering Canada. The impact, according to Galloway, was severe.

“It may well have contributed to my first ever defeat in an election, in May of this year. My opponents ruthlessly pressed the case that I was a terrorist as officially defined by the government of friendly Canada – a country that most people tend to admire and love . . . It was threatening to my personal security because if I had been what Jason Kenney and his office were telling people I was, then there are lots of people around who are ready to physically harm if not eliminate such a person. It forced me to take all manner of personal security precautions.”

The October 31st Federal Court decision that over-turned the ban, has delighted Galloway. “I’m glad that the honourable judge proved what I had said all along, that Canada remains a country governed by laws rather than the whim of here today and gone tomorrow politicians. So I’m very glad to be back.”

Antisemitism

When asked to comment on the mandate of the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism, which this month hosted a conference in Ottawa of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism, Galloway was critical.

“Well, it’s all very mysterious. That’s the first point. The Canadian taxpayer paid a pretty penny for this conference, even though they were entirely locked out of it. No media were permitted in it. We have no proper record of who was there. The attendance list even has not been published despite the taxpayer funding the whole thing. And it’s all very mysterious – what it’s all about. And when we’ll see its impact on Canadian public life. But it would be a fair inference that its impact will be malign and that the current assault on free expression on this issue in Canada is going to be intensified as a result of these protocols.

“I don’t think that this kind of secret conclave, coming up with – until now — secret protocols – is going to combat any antisemitism in Canada. As a matter of fact, it’s quite likely to generate greater feelings of enmity, which of course, I would deplore.

“Antisemitism exists. It is a racist phenomenon that has long existed in Christian countries for many, many centuries. Like all forms of racism it must be combated, and combated in the correct way which successfully, hopefully, one day, extinguishes it.

“But the answer to antisemitism is not to stop beating up the Jews and start beating up the Muslims. Instead, the answer is to conduct oneself in an unrelenting campaign against all forms of racism, bigotry and hatred – and that’s what I have done all of my life.

“Insofar as I’ve seen anything from this secret conclave, it attempts something unique in the world – to make Israel the collective Jew. And this, itself, is a racist and therefore antisemitic idea. Israel is not the collective Jew. There is no collective Jew.

“There are huge numbers of Jews who don’t want anything to do with Israel either from religious or secular, progressive standpoints. The population of Israel is not Jewish. There are at least 25 per cent of the population which is not Jewish and no one has the right to collectivize them as Jewish – to do what Lieberman is demanding they do themselves – to sign an oath effectively liquidating their place in the state as first class citizens.

“And of course there are well over two and a half million – in fact, getting on for three million Christians and Muslims living under illegal occupation within the de facto borders of Israel today. And they too cannot be collectivized as Jews by the whim of a secret conclave in Ottawa. So I think it’s all rather disturbing.

“But it raises what we used to call the $64,000 question, which is: Why is Canada doing this? Why has Canada become this monomaniacal supporter of the most extreme forms of support for Israel? Why has Canada allowed itself to become effectively an embassy for Netanyahu in the world?

“It’s certainly not in Canada’s interest. I don’t believe it’s in the interests of the Jews of the world. And I don’t even believe it’s in the interests of the State of Israel. And it goes without saying it’s certainly not in the interests of the region as a whole and peace in the world.”

Canada in Afghanistan

Galloway was asked about Canada’s role in Afghanistan now that the Harper government has announced troops will be staying until 2014 in a training capacity.

“Well I wondering when the people of Canada are going to ask how come these Afghans need so much training. That’s 10 years of training with no noticeable improvement in theatre. No one is training these Taliban and they seem to be doing remarkably well, so I’m wondering just how long you are going to keep on using your tax dollars and risk the blood of your sons in order to “train” the armed forces of a corrupt and discredited administration of Hamid Karzai.

“Second, I don’t think you should fool yourself that the Afghans resisting foreign occupation regard these soldiers as only trainers. In fact, any foreigner who is participating in the occupation of Afghanistan is, in fact, in a very life-threatening, endangered situation. And I pray that you don’t add to the very considerable death toll amongst Canadian soldiers that you already have, because I don’t believe that Hamid Karzai’s administration is worth another drop of Canadian blood, or anyone else’s blood for that matter.

“So I think it’s a very serious mistake. Again, it’s done for political reasons, to continue to provide cover for the war, so as not to add to the run on the credibility bank which is already underway in the world about this war – and I very much hope that Canada doesn’t pay a further price for this.”

George Galloway will be speaking in Winnipeg on Nov. 26, 2010. Click here for details. Details of the national tour are available here.