The Left

George Galloway: Officially Not A Racist

George Galloway is not an anti-semite. That’s official:

A High Court judge yesterday ruled that Respect MP George Galloway was seriously defamed when a radio station broadcast a programme containing a character called “Georgie Galloway”, who spewed out vile and violent anti-semitism.

Judge Eady, who also heard Galloway’s libel action against the Daily Telegraph three years ago, said that the sick spoof character, whose catchphrase was “kill the Jews, kill the Jews”, was “in appalling taste”. It clearly implied that there was a streak of anti-semitism, which was then exaggerated in the spoof character. Eady said that the initial claim by the radio station, Jcom, that its broadcast was not defamatory was “absurd”.

In an unequivocal finding that sets a benchmark for the wider media, Eady said, “Mr Galloway is the founding member of the Respect Party and is prominent in denouncing racism and discrimination, and has no anti-semitic or racist views.”

He awarded Galloway £15,000 in damages, plus costs.

I have argued, strongly, and for some time that George Galloway is not a man who expresses racist views about Jews. In fact, when Galloway was a guest on the radio show of right wing conspiracy nut, Alex Jones, I remember that he specifically argued against his host’s contention that Israel controls the foreign policy of the United States. I can honestly say that I have never heard George Galloway deliver a racist diatribe directed at Jews.

There are many things one can properly say about George Galloway. He is an absurd and buffoonish character whose influence on British politics has been wholly malign. He appears to have a certain fondness for authoritarian dictators and totalitarian systems of government. He also expressed rather disturbing views about democracy at the time of Musharraf’s coup, when he opined that:

“In poor third world countries like Pakistan, politics is too important to be left to petty squabbling politicians.”

But what about racism?

There are serious arguments to be had about George Galloway’s views, and about the politics in which he and others with whom he is allied are engaged. Why, for example does Galloway’s section of the Left deny the right of self determination only to Israelis – and to nobody else – which they support for Palestinians? Why do they promote a one state “solution” for Palestine which they must know would result in the expulsion and massacre of persons who are the descendants of Jewish refugees from Middle Eastern and European lands? What does it mean for a politician to form a party with people who do express openly racist and conspiracist views, or to speak on the same platform as Hamas and Hezbollah activists, and to glorify them?

The fact is, it is quite possible for a person to do all these things, without being a racist. They may take the view that the greatest evil possible is “imperialism”, that Israel is a fascist state, and that one cannot be choosy when seeking to build a mass movement to campaign for what you honestly believe is the most important cause in the world.

That won’t always be so, in every case.

The point is this. It is at least arguable that a person who marches with people who do say “Kill the Jews” might want to do just that himself. If you find yourself at the receiving end of such an allegation, the correct response is to explain why it is both unfair and unfounded.

Put it this way. I’m repeatedly accused of racism. I find those slurs upsetting. However, when people insist that I am a bigot, I counter that insult by explaining why I am not. The remedy for bad speech is more speech. I choose to put my views out for discussion, and so I invite a response. This discussion could not happen if I engaged in speech-chilling “lawfare”. Any victory, under the law as it stands, would be utterly pyrrhic. In effect, I’d be setting up a debate, and then cancelling it, after I’d had my say.

That is particularly so where the claimant is a politician, and the case relates to his politics. Politicians voluntarily put themselves, and their views, into the public arena. Those, like Galloway, who trade in hysterical rhetoric, have no cause to complain when others respond in kind, and hurl back coarse abuse. It does not do for politicians to displace what ought to be candid arguments about the nature of their views, from the public forum to the rarified atmosphere of the High Court.

A politician who goes to law to defeat his foes, is like a boxer who calls 999 every time his opponent lands a punch.

The law of defamation provides too much protection for politicians. We need a First Amendment. However, we do not have one. Accordingly, George Galloway had every right to bring this case. Likewise, he is perfectly entitled to his victory under the law, as it stands.