George Galloway’s speech on Monday night at the Oxford Union was interrupted by a student bearing an Israeli flag.
Following an impassioned, hour-long speech during which Galloway revered Churchill’s patriotism and criticised the legacy of Tony Blair and New Labour, which he said has left a “crumbling” state with “rotten” institutions, the floor was opened to questions from the public.
The protesting student, who stood up following a number of questions by other members of the audience, approached the MP for Bradford West whilst he intoned a speech in Hebrew and gesticulated angrily at Mr Galloway.
The student bore an Israeli flag beneath a blue jumper, which appeared at first to be a suspicious object. Mr Galloway warned the student that he felt “threatened” and asked him to back off.
He then began speaking in English and criticised Mr Galloway for his behaviour during his last visit to Oxford, when he refused to engage in a debate with Brasenose PPE student Eylon Aslan-Levy, on the grounds that he did not wish to “debate with Israelis”. It had been previously reported that Galloway had intended to “annihilate” his opponent in the debate. A video of the debate went viral and was reported in national headlines.
When Galloway told him that “you’re yourself a lot of harm”, the student, who is reported to be fellow Brasenose student Jonathan Hunter, told Mr Galloway that “I think you did a lot of harm by not speaking to my friend Eylon and not having a constructive dialogue with him” before informing him he did not in fact have a question for him, “because I don’t debate with racists”, after which he walked out of the debating chamber.
Galloway later commented that the last time he had seen an Israeli flag was at an EDL rally last week, saying that he found it “not surprising” that “fascists” should want to fly the Israeli flag.
At the beginning of his speech on Monday night, Mr Galloway referred to a student who had confronted him on his previous visit to the Union regarding Freedom of speech in Venezuela as a “hapless young fellow”. A video of the question, followed by Galloway’s response, went viral online and was aired on Venezuelan TV.
Later on during question time, Mr Galloway was again confronted about his refusal to debate Eylon Aslan-Levy last term when a student asked him if he considered himself to be “a racist”. To this he retorted that it was the “racist ideology” of Zionism which should be labelled as such, comparing it to Apartheid South Africa.
In a tweet after the event, George Galloway published a picture of the protesting student with the caption “…and we’ve found the fool of the night!”.
George Galloway has been the fruit of much controversy in recent years. Having been expelled from the Labour Party in 2004 for his views on the Iraq war, he established his own party, Respect, winning a seat for Bradford West in the 2012 by-election. In his last visit to the Oxford Union last year, he was confronted by feminist protestors due to his comments that the charges brought against Julian Assange in Sweden do not amount to rape.