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Galloway gets controversial

Olivia Schneider, News Contributor

According to George Galloway, the solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the creation of a single state in which Christians, Jews and Muslims would co-exist as equals. He believes that the first step towards this peace in the Middle East is justice for the Palestinian people.  Many people, however, find it hard to trust Galloway’s opinions, given his political history.

George Galloway is a pro-Palestine advocate who is currently on a Canadian speaking tour called, “Free Afghanistan. Free Palestine. Free Speech.”

“No justice, no peace. It really is that simple,” Galloway said at St. Andrew’s Church Hall on Nov. 18.

The former British MP made headlines in Canada last year when he was banned from entry. The federal government deemed him a security threat for his alleged support of Hamas, which in Canada is classified as a terrorist organization.

The ban was overturned this year. A federal court called the ban a political decision, and not about national security. Supporters of Galloway believe banning him in the first place was a mistake.

“Banning him when the United States allowed him in had to be embarrassing for the Harper government,” said recent Dalhousie graduate Kevin Johnston.

Johnston says he was in favour of the ban for one reason — it was effective in generating publicity for Galloway’s message.

Galloway spoke to this fact in his speech, saying banned books always make it to the bestseller list.

Toni MacAfee, who is a member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, one of the sponsors of the event, said Galloway’s tour is important, adding, “We need to have the voice of peace and anti-war activists to be heard, not silenced”.

Although Galloway was permitted to speak in Canada, there is still considerable opposition to his tour.

Second year King’s student, Haley Farrar, says she doesn’t necessarily disagree with Galloway’s opinions that Muslims, Jews and Christians all have a right to live peacefully in Palestine, but thinks he’s very one-sided.

“I feel like him being as radical as he is makes me want to take his opinion with a grain of salt,” said Farrar.

Bill Chernin of the Atlantic Jewish Council agrees. He thinks it’s important that people consider the purpose of events like Galloway’s speech, especially those occurring so close to school campuses.

“It’s important that the campus community who go to these ask themselves if it’s propaganda or education,” Chernin said in a telephone interview.

Although Chernin doesn’t believe Canada should have banned Galloway, he also says he doesn’t like him, saying people like Galloway portray their speeches as academic lectures to pursue their own political agendas.

“They’re wolves in human rights clothing,” Chernin says.

Galloway’s speech on Nov. 16 at York University was greeted by an estimated 300 protesters.

The organizers for Galloway’s Halifax presentation chose to address possible protests in advance. The audience was informed that any person who was disruptive would be asked to leave and escorted to the exit.

The Halifax audience was quiet throughout the speech, interjecting only with cheers of agreement. The only challenge to Galloway occurred in the question and answer period, when man in the audience accused Galloway of not truly caring because he was rich and owned multiple houses.

Galloway immediately responded by looking at his watch and saying, “I’m already tired of being insulted”.

During his lecture, Galloway commented on the topic of free speech, saying legitimate voices must be heard so government can make informed decisions. In reference to Canada’s role in Afghanistan, Galloway said uninformed decisions have, in terms of conflicts, “led us to where we are today.”

He called the war “doomed,” saying no one has ever been able to occupy Afghanistan.

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