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'I don't debate with Israelis': George Galloway accused of racism after walking out of Middle East debate at Oxford

Galloway criticised after telling audience: 'I don't debate with Israelis'
  • @bobjwilliams

The controversial MP George Galloway has been accused of racism after walking out of a meeting at Oxford University when he discovered he was debating with an Israeli.

Mr Galloway, who is the Respect party MP for Bradford West, had been speaking in the debate organised by Christ Church college in favour of the motion: "Israel should withdraw immediately from the West Bank".

Around three minutes into the speech given by his opponent, Eylon Aslan-Levy, Galloway interrupted asking: "You said we. Are you an Israeli?"

The third year student Aslan-Levy answered "I am, yes."

Galloway then stood up and replied: "I don't debate with Israelis, I've been misled, sorry."

Mr Galloway then left the lecture theatre.

The outspoken MP is a well-known and vocal critic of Israel and its treatment of the Palestinian people.

Video footage of the incident, obtained by the Oxford student newspaper Cherwell, quotes Aslan-Levy as saying: "I am appalled that an MP would storm out of a debate with me for no reason other than my heritage. To refuse to talk to someone just because of their nationality is pure racism, and totally unacceptable for a member of parliament."

The incident caused a flurry of angry Twitter exchanges, some of which Galloway responded to. In one posting on the micro-blogging site Galloway wrote: "No recognition of Israel. No normalisation. Christ Church never informed us the debate would be with an Israeli. Simple."

A posting on Mr Galloway's Facebook page said: "I refused this evening at Oxford University to debate with an Israeli, a supporter of the apartheid state of Israel.

The reason is simple: no recognition, no normalisation. Just boycott, divestment and sanctions, until the apartheid state is defeated. I never debate with Israelis nor speak to their media. If they want to speak about Palestine – the address is the PLO."

The moderator of the debate, Michael Baldwin, a 3rd year reading Philosophy, Politics and Economics, said: "I was disappointed that a possibly fruitful discussion was prematurely ended by Mr Galloway’s refusal to debate someone just because of their nationality."