Friday, May 22, 2009
George Galloway at UC-Irvine
George Galloway in his diatribe at UCI
Last night, the Muslim Student Union at UC-Irvine hosted controversial British MP George Galloway as its concluding act in the "Israel-Politics of Genocide" extravaganza. Galloway lived up to his reputation as a pugnacious advocate for the Palestinian cause. Approximately 6-700 people were present, almost all members of the Muslim community. It was obvious that to them Galloway was a rock star as dozens of the folks came up to the dais to introduce themselves to Galloway and have their pictures taken with him.
Prior to introducing Galloway, the president of the Muslim Student Union announced to the crowd that the MSU was being treated unfairly by the university in various and sundry ways. He alluded to a written statement made recently by UC President Mark Yudof, in which he (Yudof) condemned the MSU for alleged hate speech.
Then it was on to the main event. Galloway opened by referring to the fact that not all the members of the audience were on his side. How did he know? Because he had been reading their blogs prior to his UCI appearance. He more or less dared them to try and debate with him. He also said that if anyone were to try and disrupt or engage in violence, that he was a former boxer, had a lot of friends in the crowd and it was a long way to the door. (??!!?) Of course, nobody disrupted his speech nor tried to engage in violence-not because we were afraid of Galloway, rather because it's not what we do-it's what the other side does.
Galloway's speech focused on the Israel/Palestinian conflict. He excoriated the State of Israel over and over for stealing the Palestinians' land and killing the Palestinian people. He called George W Bush an imbecile and criticized the US for "writing a blind check" to Israel (after telling us how much he loved America and the American people). He denied being a supporter of Hamas and denied being anti-Semitic. He referred several times to the Holocaust and questioned why the Israelis (Zionists), having been victims of that crime, would then victimize the Palestinians (I am paraphrasing and summarizing, of course).
When it came time for Q&A, members of the audience were invited to come to microphones in front of the stage. The ground rule was that Mr Galloway would not answer the question until the questioner had returned to his/her seat and sat down (a convenient rule designed to preclude follow-up questions).
My question, which was not delivered in a belligerant manner, went something like this:
"I heard many references to anti-Semitism here tonight. During the recent fighting in Gaza, there were many demonstrations in the US. In places like Ft Lauderdale, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Toronto, some demonstrators-not all- were heard saying things like, Long live Hitler", "Jews, go back to the ovens"....
At this point, Galloway interrupted, "First of all, I think you are a LIAR."
(Hoots and hollers from the audience as I invited Galloway to check it out on YouTube).
"May I finish?"
Moderator: "Finish the question."
"A few years ago, on this campus, a man named Mohammed al-Asi, an imam, said, "Jews are low-life ghetto-dwellers. You can take the Jew out of the ghetto, but you can't take the ghetto out of the Jew." In your country (UK), there are reports of Jews being afraid to walk in certain parts of British cities. Do Jews have a reason to be afraid in the UK?" (someone in the audience yelled out to me something about quoting al-Asi accurately.)
I took my seat in the first row.
Galloway then replied, "I am 99.9% sure that what you say is false". From my front row seat, I said, "a minute ago you were 100% sure", and again told him the statements were on video (YouTube). He then went on to condemn the statement I had reported by al-Asi. He then added he wished I would shed a tear for the Palestinian children killed by Israeli bombing. He never answered my question about Jews in the UK. (a friendly lady in the crowd shouted for him to answer the question.)
There were several more questions from the audience, a couple mildly critical, but the rest friendly. Boxes were passed around for the audience to make contributions for Galloway's Viva Palestina drive to deliver supllies to Gaza.
Contrary to his fears, nobody tried to disrupt him or instigate violence. We followed the rules set forth for the question and answer session. Since each questioner is limited to one question so as to give everyone a chance, there were many things I had to leave unsaid. I would have liked to tell Mr Galloway that outside the cozy confines of that hall and the university campus, nobody in America cares what he thinks of our country or George Bush. I would have liked to tell him that ten George Galloways don't make one George Bush. I would have liked to tell him that Bush removed the two most horrific regimes in the world and gave some 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq (Muslims) the chance to live in freedom-while he was making pilgrimages to Iraq and having tea and crumpets with Saddam and Uday Hussein. Had Mr Galloway had his way, the mass graves, rape rooms and torture chambers would still be in full throttle in Iraq and women would still be executed at half-time in Kabul soccer stadiums. So much to say-so little time.
Now comes the good part.
Mr Galloway, you called me a liar for bringing up the statements about Hitler and ovens during recent pro-Palestinian rallies in the US and Canada. You are much too intelligent and well informed not to know of their existence. For your viewing pleasure, here they are.
(New York City)
Now who is a LIAR, Mr Galloway?