On June 8, Arab Media Watch correspondent Victor Kattan interviewed British Member of Parliament George Galloway, who is running for a seat in the European Parliamentary elections for Respect-The Unity Coalition on Thursday June 10.
Victor Kattan: How is the campaign going?
George Galloway: Fantastically well. It’s the biggest campaign of its kind in British political history. We are standing in every constituency in England and Wales. We’ve delivered more than 23 million leaflets, one through the door of every household in the whole country. We have had literally hundreds of public meetings; few of them are attended by less than a hundred people, some of them 2, 3, 4 times that number. We’ve had party political broadcasts on television and radio. We have an open talk bus constantly touring from the top of which I shout like a mad man at the passers-by [laughter]. We’ll see on Thursday but I think it’s going very very well. We’re going to get a huge vote. Whether it will be enough to elect people, only God knows, but I think that the likelihood is we’re going to give Mr. [Tony] Blair a very bloody nose on Thursday.
Kattan: If you were elected to the European Parliament, would you use this as an opportunity to campaign for Palestinian rights?
Galloway: Yes, you know I am not pretending to anyone that the European Parliament is a very important place, but the elections to the European Parliament can be very important indeed because they can act as a kind of referendum on Bush and Blair on occupation and war. I intend to keep my seat in the national parliament. You can do both, you only get one salary, but you can do both jobs, and I will use the European Parliament as I have always used the Westminster Parliament: as a platform to argue for just causes linked intimately to the Arabs and Muslims.
Kattan: Do you favour an arms embargo on Israel?
Galloway: Yes. Not only do I favour it, I am the one whose parliamentary questions exposed the fact that contrary to all the assurances given to Parliament by Mr. Blair, and contrary he said to assurances given to him by Ariel Sharon, British weapons were being used in the occupied territories, and I was given that information by people on the ground who took pictures of the tanks that were using British parts, and who knew that the avionics and the aircraft that were attacking the Palestinian refugee camps were British Aerospace exports. The so-called ethical foreign policy of Mr. Blair doesn’t seem to draw any lines around General Sharon. Mr. Blair is not against dictatorships - it depends only whether that dictatorship obeys orders.
Kattan: Do you think the EU-Israel Association Agreement should be suspended?
Galloway: Yes I do. It’s preposterous that a gangster state, a rogue state, should have most-favoured-nation status in trading with the European Union. These goods that they are selling in the European Union are goods often purchased on stolen land, almost always produced with stolen water, and in any case are exports of a regime which is in breach of more United Nations Security Council resolutions than all the other countries in the world put together. This is a regime which should be shunned like the apartheid regime in South Africa, not rewarded. The only sanction we have ever placed on Sharon’s Israel is to force them to participate in the Eurovision song contest and redraw the map of Europe so that they can play in our European football tournaments. So it’s time to get tough with the Zionist state, and in Europe I intend to press that case.
Kattan: What do you make of remarks in the Observer newspaper on Sunday about your campaign?
Galloway: Well they are disgusting really. You know anti-Islamic racism, for that is what it is, is the last “respectable” racism in the world. Observer readers, who wouldn’t dream of uttering such comments about black people or Jewish people or Catholics, do so with equanimity when it comes to Muslims. For them every Muslim is a fundamentalist and every fundamentalist is a terrorist and this is an equation which we utterly reject, which is poisonous in the effect that it has on communal relations in the country and on the mindset of the British people when invited to support the going to war with Muslims abroad. We say that the war against Muslims abroad is one side of the coin and the other side of the coin is war against Muslims at home, and Cohen, who ought to know better as a Jewish man, should not be casually smearing a whole community in this way. We have the support of, I think, the vast majority of Muslim voters in this election, and virtually none of them are fundamentalists, and virtually none of those support terrorism. In fact, the fundamentalists hate us - Hizb Al Tahrir, Al Mouhajiroun - the separatist organizations actually hate us and try to wreck our meetings, try to persuade the Muslims not to vote at all, arguing that democracy itself is “haram”. So far from being in alliance with the Muslim fundamentalists, we are just in alliance with the Muslims.
Kattan: What positive contribution would you make as an MEP to stem the rise of Islamophobia in Europe?
Galloway: Well I will try to stop more of it flowing across the Channel. France is not far away, and there they have introduced legislation to tear the hejab off the heads of little girls at school and colleges and universities and in public buildings. This is a pernicious, racist step, so I shall play my part in trying to stop that. I will encourage my friends on the left of European politics to make the same kind of alliance with the Muslims in their country that we have and which has been extraordinarily powerful. In France for example, the left is hopelessly misguided on this issue, which led many left-wing people to support the ban on the hejab in France. So our model - which we pioneered in the anti-war movement of making one hand of all those people who are against imperialism, against Zionism and against globalization - is the path that others should study and follow.
Kattan: If you were elected Prime Minister today, how would you sort out the mess the current Prime Minister has got us into?
Galloway: Well first of all acknowledge that we are in a mess, which he steadfastly refuses to do. He is, in the words of David Kay, the right-wing American head of the Iraq Survey Group, “simply delusional”. Britain is the author of the Palestinian tragedy, because Mr. Balfour on behalf of one people promised a second people, the Zionist lobby, the land of a third people, the Palestinians. Therefore we authored this tragedy, and are an indispensable part of it. We are absolutely implicated in all the sufferings of the Palestinians, as any elderly Palestinian will tell you if you meet them anywhere in the Diaspora. They’ll show you the documents that they retain from the time of the British Mandate, and will bewail of the role of the British in the Palestinian tragedy. So I would start by recognizing that. I would make an apology for the Balfour Declaration, and I would throw my weight behind the Palestinian case for justice, and I would use our position in Europe to try and open a second front, because we have to decide whether we are a European country or whether we are the 51st state of the United States of America, and Europe has to decide whether it is going to have a political weight in the world commensurate with its economic and cultural weight, and if it does it will follow a separate and different path on the Middle East.
Kattan: What do you make of the Road Map?
Galloway: The Road Map has been washed away in blood, washed away in the blood of the martyrs Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Dr. Abdul Aziz Al Rantissi and all the other martyrs who have fallen since the invasion of Iraq. The Road Map I described at the time as sand thrown in the eyes of the Arabs. It was a temporary expedient to stun or anesthetize the Arab street against any adverse reaction to the invasion of Iraq. But it didn’t work and now it’s been abandoned.
Kattan: Will Respect be campaigning in the next general election?
Galloway: Well, that depends on a number of things. If we do extremely badly in this result, then it’s unlikely. If we do so well that Labour overthrows its leadership and takes a completely different direction, equally unlikely, there would be no need for it. But if the result falls between these two extremes, which I suspect it will, then yes we will stand in carefully targeted seats at the general election. We would never dream of standing in this constituency [Finsbury Park] for example against Jeremy Corbyn, who is an outstanding MP. But we’ll choose the 50 or so seats where we’re very very strong and where the Members of Parliament have most atrociously betrayed their constituents. So we’ll as it were produce a matrix, and where we’re strong and the Member of Parliament is a pro-war, pro-Israel activist, then we’ll stand.
Kattan: Thank you very much.
Galloway: You’re welcome.
Victor Kattan can be reached at email@example.com