Stomping into Canada
Formerly banned British politician George Galloway finally begins his cross-country speaking tour
November 11, 2010
Adored by some for his firebrand polemics, reviled by others who see him as clowning his way towards superstardom, former British MP George Galloway is one of the most controversial polit
ical figures in the world today. Much to the dismay of the Harper government, who tried and failed to have him kept out of Canada as a security risk, Galloway rolls into Montreal on Wednesday, Nov. 17 as part of a cross-Canada tour to help launch the Canadian Boat to Gaza, delivering a cargo of humanitarian supplies to the beleaguered Palestinian territory next spring. The Mirror spoke to him on the phone from London.
You’re coming here to stick it to Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney. Do you think he cares? Could he be thinking that he came out of this on top?
I wouldn’t have thought so. The 50-page judgement of Justice Mosley [who ruled in favour of Galloway] was quite a judicial beating really. I don’t think many ministers in other governments in the world would have survived with their ministerial position intact.
Do you think the reason you won has to do with being a high profile white guy? This kind of thing happens to people from other backgrounds and nobody hears about it.
For most people, it’s inherently ridiculous that a five-time elected member of the British parliament, four of them for the governing party, can possibly sit in the British parliament while secretly being a terrorist and a security threat. The strategy of labelling your opponents terrorists is a strategy that is subject to the law of diminishing returns. People can see that this actually bankrupts the word of all meaning. In my own case, if to take ambulances and wheelchairs and medicine and to pay the salaries of the nurses and doctors in Gaza who hadn’t received a salary for four months, can be described as terrorism, then the word has no meaning.
The truth is that the Western governments, with exception of Canada, are already talking to Hamas and the time will come soon when the most important governments in the world will be publicly talking to Hamas. I can assure you that British diplomats are talking with Hamas, I can assure you that the Obama administration has envoys talking to Hamas and that’s obviously the right thing to do. After all, we’re doing it in Afghanistan. We’re now openly asking the Taliban to negotiate, talk with us.
I have never been a supporter of Hamas. I was sorry that they won the election. But they did win it. And they do represent a very significant section of the Palestinian people who are at the heart of an international conflict which must be resolved not just in their interests but in ours.
Your new project, Viva Palestina, organizes convoys of aid to Gaza. Is there a risk that this emphasis on aid channels the anti-war movement away from protest and into acts of charity?
They’re not just acts of charity, they are acts of international solidarity, which I think strengthens the movement against colonialism and imperialism and apartheid in the world. I don’t see them as a diversion. I think they add and buttress activities in these home countries that try to get their governments to pursue better foreign policies. I think in our own case, the fact that the British government, from Blair and Brown to Cameron and Clegg has moved a very considerable distance towards the Palestinian point of view in just the five months they’ve been in office, is not unconnected to the mass movement we’ve built in Britain around these convoys.
The last convoy which entered Gaza just a few weeks ago was Viva Palestina 5. We include the [Turkish boat] Mavi Marmara, because we were involved in that. he idea of convoys is proliferating all over the world. There’s the Canadian boat to Gaza, there’s an American boat, there’s an Indian convoy. There’s going to be a Malaysian-Singaporean convoy in the early part of the New Year. I can’t keep track of all these convoys that are departing for Gaza. I feel very proud of that.
You’re no longer an MP, but you have a radio show, you appear on reality TV, you’re writing a novel and a musical. Are you coming to the end of your activist career? Are you retreating to a watchtower?
I don’t think so. I have a Friday night live three-hour national radio show, I have two weekly international television shows. I’m a writing a history of the last ten years, Ten Years that Shook the World. I’ve already written the musical. I see these things as part of my work. It’s not even the beginning of the end.
Galloway’s talk, Free Palestine, Free Afghanistan, Free Speech takes place on Wednesday November 17 at 6:30 p.m. in room J-M400 of Uqam’s Judith Jasmin Pavillion (405 rue Ste-Catherine East). For tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more info see canadaboatgaza.org.
Montreal Mirror 11 November 2010 (this is the unedited text)