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Baying BBC audience attacks George Galloway for his support of Gaza

When UK MP George Galloway appeared on BBC's flagship programme Question Time, he faced a barrage of heckling for his opposition to Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

I FOUND last night’s Question Time on BBC television shocking and disturbing in equal measure.

Shocking because a questioner was allowed to attack a member of the panel, George Galloway MP, by implying that he had contributed to the recorded rise in anti-Semitism. That in itself was a slur.

Disturbing because the Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland enthusiastically took up the theme by claiming that rhetoric over Gaza had contributed to anti-Semitism. This was greeted by a braying mob, who then went on to heckle Galloway.

Galloway himself was, I thought, perfectly clear: he condemned anti-Semitism and its historic consequences in the Holocaust. He added, however, that the levels of anti-Semitism and attacks on Jewish people were far lower than comparable levels of Islamophobia and attacks on Muslims. He also reminded the audience that the bombing of Gaza killed over 2000 people, including 500 children.

It seems to me that both those facts are incontrovertible. Yet Galloway was heckled by a bunch of people who clearly had no interest in hearing what Freedland was happy to call ‘rhetoric’ i.e. the facts. Nor to acknowledge the levels of racism against Muslims which is the most widespread racism in Europe at present.

The refusal to countenance any criticism of Israel’s policies is bad enough: but to claim that anyone who makes such criticism is attacking not the state and its supporters but all Jews is a lie which the Zionists hope will become accepted if it is repeated often enough.

Let’s remember a few facts. Israel did kill over 2000 in Gaza last summer, leading to some of the biggest demonstrations in support of the Palestinians ever seen in Britain.

Those demonstrations included many Jews, as well as Muslims, Christians and atheists.

Israel treats Gaza as effectively a prison camp, which it blockades at great cost to its population. Illegal Jewish settlements are spreading in the West Bank and Jerusalem. There is an apartheid wall in the West Bank. Israeli Arabs are treated as second-class citizens.

None of this justifies attacks on individual Jews or Jewish institutions. But it does demand opposition to Israel’s policies and the strongest possible criticism of such actions. None were forthcoming from any of the other panellists.

The whole programme appeared to me set up to attack Galloway. There have been complaints that he was invited to the programme, broadcast from Finchley, which is part of a borough, Barnet, that has the largest Jewish population in Britain. Around 15% of the population is Jewish. But you can only take the view that an anti-Zionist MP is not welcome in such an area if you start from the assumption that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. Or that criticism of our government’s foreign policy, with its support for Israel, is not justified.

There are many fears among Jewish people in Europe following the recent attacks in France. These fears and concerns should be discussed rationally and seriously, and everything should be done to counter anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in this context, for example by supporting the Stand Up to Racism demonstration next month.

Instead, the BBC’s supposedly prestigious programme took on more of the character of Jeremy Kyle's tabloid talk show. By the end I thought even Question Time chairman David Dimbleby looked worried and embarrassed. As well he should.

Source: Stop the War Coalition

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