For many people, the question as to whether Galloway is an anti-Semite is a ridiculous one. Some people might even be offended by the fact it’s even being asked. But this is a question that comes from a statement made by the journalist Larry Derfner on Facebook, he says:
Galloway has his problems, and I don’t agree with his views on Zionism and Israel and a lot of other things, but there’s a lot here that’s powerful and true. And until I see clear proof that he’s an anti-Semite, I say he’s not.
The powerful words to which Derfner is referring were made by Galloway at an appearance at Oxford University and can be viewed here:
Part of his “powerful” words are that he spent some time travelling around South Africa as an agent of the African National Congress. I suppose we’ll just have to take him at his word on that one. He also says;
Throughout the entirety of my time underground in South Africa every house I slept in, every dinner I ate, every car I drove in, was provided by Jewish activists of the African National Congress. So Jews don’t have to be on the side of apartheid, Jews don’t have to be on the side of racism. Jewish heroes amongst my blood brotherhood like Denis Goldberg who served 27 years on Robben Island, on Pollsmore prison but who never was able to touch Mandela and his comrades.”
First off, Goldberg served 22 years, not 27, and he served them in Pretoria prison — far away from Mandela, Robben Island and Pollsmore prison. Furthermore, one of the first things Goldberg did upon his release from prison in 1985 was visit his daughter Hilary in Israel at Kibbutz Ma’ayan Baruch, where she lived at the time. Though Goldberg himself was anti-Zionist, one wonders how he would feel about his deceased Zionist daughter being placed by Galloway on the same side as the people who locked him up for 22 (not 27) years.
Furthermore, Goldberg barely considered himself Jewish. In an interview he gave in 1997, he simply said:
“I’m Jewish because my parents and grandparents were. My grandparents were Orthodox, my parents were atheists.”
This is all the more interesting for the fact that Galloway goes on to discuss other Jews who he argues were excellent examples of anti-apartheid Jews. He mentions Joe Slovo and Ruth First (they were married) and Albie Sachs in addition to Goldberg, all of whom were communists save for Sachs, who never had a bad word to say about Israel or Zionism.
By identifying them as Jews, rather than by their chosen atheist ideology, Galloway makes it clear that the attempt by Jews to shed their Jewish skin and join the global brotherhood of the workers failed. Galloway is praising these people, but he is doing so by holding them up as examples of good Jews that other Jews should emulate, not as anti-apartheid campaigners that everyone should emulate. It’s a nuanced point perhaps, but it sits at the heart of everything that brought Zionism into being. Even when we leave Judaism behind for the global brotherhood of the workers, the global brotherhood will remind us that we cannot leave our Jewish identity behind no matter how hard we try.
In so doing, Galloway actually reminds us why it was that so many socialists were also committed Zionists. They knew that no matter how communist or socialist they were, it would never be enough to remove their Judaism in the eyes of their peers. For Galloway, it demonstrably doesn’t matter what Jews do to shed their Jewish skin; he will always hold them up as Jews first. Here he does so alongside another Jew…Karl Marx. Let’s not even get into the fact that the way he tells it, there was no such thing as an anti-apartheid Jew who was also a Zionist. Except there was.
This is Galloway’s anti-Semitism laid bare — his inability to do anything other than tell Jews what it is we’re allowed to believe, what it is we should believe, and hold us to account, according to standards he decides. Standards that, as it turns out, have little to do with reality.
When Galloway lost his parliamentary constituency to Naz Shah, he said the following;
I don’t begrudge the Labour members here their moment of celebration of course…But there will be others who are already celebrating: the venal, the vile, the racists and the Zionists will all be celebrating.”
This is a rather bizarre comment to make at such a time. One might think he would thank his campaign team or congratulate his opponent, but no, he talks about Zionists.
During the recent controversy over the former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone’s comments on Zionism, George Galloway said the following;
So in that sense, Nazism and Zionism were two sides of the same coin. They even actually minted a coin to prove it, to celebrate the Haavara agreement which was reached.”
So we have a man who ignores the way his so called “blood brothers” view themselves and insists on labeling them as Jews, a man who equates Zionists and Nazis with one another, who constantly proclaims his support for Hamas and Hezbollah, declared his constituency area to be an “Israel free zone”, refuses even to debate an Israeli and talks of “Zionists” when losing his election…is this enough to bring out the A word?
Well probably not for Derfner.