‘George Galloway attack is an attack on all dissenters’
And that speaks volumes about the type of country Britain has become and how our democracy and the freedom to speak our minds on foreign policy issues has been eroded.
Just imagine if instead of George Galloway being attacked, it had been a 60-year-old MP who was a strong and outspoken supporter of the state of Israel. Imagine too that his alleged attacker had been a pro-Palestinian Briton who was wearing a Hamas T-shirt. Imagine that his alleged attacker had stalked the MP online and written ‘I’d cut his throat myself if I’d dare stoop to the required level,’ earlier on Facebook.
We can be sure that the attack in this case would have been a front page news story for many days as well as being the lead item on Western television news channels. Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Lib Dems Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband would have come out straight away to condemn the attack, and MPs of all parties would be rushing to send their best wishes to the MP concerned and publicly express their outrage.
If it transpired that the attacker not only was a pro-Palestinian, but also Muslim, then we can be sure that the assault would have been classified as a ‘terrorist attack’. Muslim leaders would come under pressure to condemn the assault, and neocons would be telling us that British Muslims with dual nationality need to take an oath of allegiance to the Crown or face losing their passports.
And what if had then been revealed that pro-Palestinian supporters of the alleged Muslim attacker had started a fund to raise money for his legal fees and had raised over $4,500 in three days? Imagine the vitriol directed at the pro-Palestinian movement if the alleged attacker had been hailed as someone who ‘stood up for the Muslim people.’
Very inconveniently though for Britain’s political and media elite, the attack which took place last week was not on a pro-Israeli MP by a pro-Palestinian Muslim, but on a pro-Palestinian MP, with his alleged attacker being a Zionist and self-proclaimed Jew who wore an IDF T-shirt.
Therefore, instead of the attack receiving major coverage it’s a case of ‘let’s change the subject and talk about something else very quickly.’ The case has to be brushed under the carpet because it doesn’t fit the ‘official narrative’ and the unwritten rule of Western news reporting that Zionists (like Israel itself) must always be portrayed as the victims of Muslim/Palestinian aggression and never the other way round.
It would have been different too if Galloway’s attacker had not been a Zionist, but a Scottish Nationalist angry with Galloway’s support for the ‘No’ campaign in the forthcoming referendum. Then, undoubtedly the incident would have been used to by members of the political/media elite to discredit the Scottish Independence cause and paint its supporters as extremists. Of course, the actual attack won’t be used to attack the pro-Israel cause.
It’s very revealing to compare the rather muted reaction from the elite to the attack on anti-war George Galloway, with the reaction to an attack by a Muslim on an MP who voted in favor of the Iraq war MP a few years ago.
Jessica Purkis, writing for the website Middle East Monitor, reminds us what happened then.
Stephen Timms, it seems was worthy of support from his fellow MPs, Galloway clearly is not. Incidentally, Timms’ assailant was jailed for life in 2010.
To their credit, a few members of Britain’s journalistic and political class did express their concern over the attack on Galloway.
Spectator columnist Hugo Rifkind, himself the son of a Tory MP, tweeted:
What happened to @georgegalloway shouldn't happen to any politician in this country. Horrifying. Hope he's okay.
— Hugo Rifkind (@hugorifkind) August 30, 2014
Peter Oborne, chief political columnist on the Daily Telegraph tweeted:
Just read about shocking physical assault on George Galloway- best wishes George and get better soon! You are a brave and principled man.
— Peter Oborne (@OborneTweets) August 30, 2014
But these were isolated voices. As Osborne himself later tweeted:
George Galloway was assaulted on a London Street. It is troubling that no MP has sent a message of public support: http://t.co/TumAqq3TS6
— Peter Oborne (@OborneTweets) September 1, 2014
Troubling indeed! It’s instructive to look at what happened when Caroline Lucas MP, leader of the Green Party, did tweet her condemnation of the attack, on 2nd September. Amy Wyatt had tweeted Lucas with a link to the piece I’ve mentioned above by Jessica Purkis for Middle East Monitor. ‘Well, it looks like I won’t be voting Green anymore,’ Wyatt wrote.
Lucas replied ‘Attack on George Galloway was cowardly and shocking- wishing him a speedy recovery’
— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) September 2, 2014
I’m sure that many MPs and journalists failed to tweet or publicly register their solidarity with Galloway because they feared being branded a ‘Galloway supporter’, as Lucas was - and all the flak that would follow from that.
The reporting of the attack has also been instructive. The news was hidden way down the news bulletins. The BBC described Galloway as ‘controversial’ - an epithet they don’t use to describe warmongering MPs who told us Iraq had weapons of mass destruction - an outrageous lie which led to a war and the subsequent loss of up to 1 million lives.
“Particularly ugly use of 'controversial', given the context. Is Galloway more controversial than Blair, Cameron, Obama, who bomb, invade and kill?” asked David Edwards, of the media monitoring organization Media Lens.
In reality, when we get down to it, there’s nothing very ‘controversial’ about George Galloway’s politics- and labeling him as such tells us much about how British politics has lurched to the neocon/neoliberal right in the last thirty or forty years. It's this lurch which explains why the elite reaction to Galloway‘s attack has been so muted. Galloway can best be described as an Old Labour socialist. He combines unequivocally anti-imperialist views on foreign policy, with support for socialist economic policies, such as public ownership, at home. And underpinning his beliefs is an implacable opposition to racism in all its forms.
MPs with Galloway’s views were common in the Labour Party in the 60s, 70s and 80s, but are very rare to find in parliament today. The New Labour Blairite purges were all about removing genuine socialists like Galloway from the party and replacing them with pro-US, pro-Israel Blairite clones. It's not George Galloway who has changed, but the party of which he was once a proud member.
MPs who were strongly critical of Zionism like Galloway were also more common thirty or forty years ago, both on the left and the center-right. One can remember the wonderfully urbane Sir Ian Gilmour, a ‘One Nation’ Tory who was a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause.
Since the heyday of Sir Ian Gilmour though, the Atlanticist and Zionist grip on our politics has intensified. It has been claimed that 80 percent of Conservative MPs, including most Cabinet members are members of Conservative Friends of Israel.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Ed Miliband gave a speech at this year’s annual lunch of Labour Friends of Israel. He said, “I am proud to be a supporter of LFI.”
Demonstrating their support for the US, NATO and Israel is essential for any ambitious member of Britain’s political class who aspires to holding high office.
Those who don’t toe the line on foreign policy like George Galloway are hounded as heretics and portrayed as ‘fanatical extremists’, even though their anti-war views are much more in line with the majority of ordinary people than their persecutors.
An insidious New McCarthyism has emerged in Britain, designed to stamp out dissent in a country which once prided itself and with some justification for its respect for free speech. These neocon and faux-left Zionist New McCarthyites have set themselves up as ‘censors’ to determine what can and can’t be said by politicians and media commentators. Their aim is to restrict free and open debate on Britain’s foreign policy and to 'marginalize' those who dare to dissent.
With unbelievable arrogance they try and tell us what television news channels we should/shouldn’t watch (of course RT, for giving a regular platform to George Galloway and other Western dissident voices is a definite ‘no-no’), and also tell us who we should/shouldn’t link to or ‘retweet’.
They decide who should/shouldn’t be described as an ‘expert’. And they set themselves up as arbiters of who should/shouldn’t be published in the mainstream media.
It‘s ok by these self-appointed gatekeepers to mildly criticize Israel’s actions so long as you include an even fiercer criticism of Hamas, but it is most certainly not acceptable to call for an economic boycott of the country as Galloway has done.
Galloway is demonized because he has not acknowledged or accepted, like so many less courageous MPs, these artificially imposed parameters on what we can/can’t say.
These attacks on George Galloway are attacks not just on British democracy, but on our right to express opinions which the neocon Zionist McCarthyites disapprove of. The parameters get narrower with each year that passes. As the veteran anti-war and award-winning journalist and reporter John Pilger has observed in his article: ‘The return of George Orwell and Big Brother’s war on Palestine, Ukraine and the truth.’
In politics as in journalism and the arts, it seems that dissent once tolerated in the “mainstream” has regressed to dissidence: a metaphoric underground. When I began a career in Britain’s Fleet Street in the 1960s, it was acceptable to critique Western power as a rapacious force. Read James Cameron’s celebrated reports of the explosion of the Hydrogen bomb at Bikini Atoll, the barbaric war in Korea and the American bombing of North Vietnam. Today’s grand illusion is of an information age when, in truth, we live in a media age in which incessant corporate propaganda is insidious, contagious, effective and liberal.
Last week there was a vicious and brutal physical attempt to silence one of Britain’s most high profile dissenters, but we should also highlight the other ways the New McCarthyites try to silence, intimidate and cause distress to dissident voices.
There’s the endless stalking and harassment. The lies and defamations posted online, designed to destroy the individual’s reputation (in Galloway’s case this has been the outrageous slur that this veteran anti-racism campaigner is ‘anti-Semitic’). The campaigns of character assassination, the smears, and the denigration. The malicious editing of Wikipedia pages to show the subject in the worst possible light. The admonishment of those who make the ‘mistake’ of re-tweeting or citing the work or articles of individuals concerned. The adoption of fake identities to send ‘poison pen‘ emails to the employer of the individual targeted to try and get the person the sack - something which happened to me after I had critically reviewed a pro-Iraq war book in 2005. When it’s neocon Zionist trolls doing the stalking and harassment there’s very little, if any, mainstream media coverage. But when pro-Palestinian people go too far on the internet, it’s a different story. Last week in the Sunday Telegraph, a columnist wrote of his experience with 'quite a vicious troll’ who was an ‘anti-Israel obsessive.’ We don’t read too much about trolls who are ‘vicious pro-Israel obsessives’ because it doesn‘t fit the official narrative of one side always being the victims of abuse and never the perpetrators.
You would have thought and hoped that in a country that calls itself a democracy all physical attacks on public figures, or indeed all physical attacks on anyone on account of their political views, would be condemned equally. It shouldn’t need to be said that an attack on an MP who is a critic of Israel ought to be condemned as loudly as an attack on a MP who supports Israel. But this week’s events have shown us once again that some victims are more equal than others. The shameful silence surrounding the attack on George Galloway should make anyone who genuinely cares about democracy and freedom of speech in Britain deeply worried. For in the end, it wasn’t just an attack on the MP for Bradford West, it was an attack on all those who dare to express opinions of which the neocon bullies and serial warmongers disapprove.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.