George Galloway, a British lawmaker known for his anti-Israel positions and support of Hamas, caused a minor uproar at Oxford University when he abruptly left a debate after realizing his opponent is Israeli.
"I have been misled," said Galloway when Eylon Aslan-Levy, an Israeli student, confessed his nationality.
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The debate discussed an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. Galloway argued that Israel should pullout immediately, while Aslan-Levy claimed that a withdrawal should take place only as part of a negotiated peace agreement in which two states will be recognized.
Aslan-Levy, a third-year Philosophy, Politics and Economics major, used the term "we" to describe Israel's stance.
"You said 'we,'" Galloway interrupted, "are you Israeli?" to which the student answered affirmatively.
"I don't debate with Israelis," Galloway said, got up hurriedly, got his coat, and stormed out.
Upon leaving he reiterated: "I don't recognize Israel and I don’t debate with Israelis."
Galloway's departure shocked those present, several in the crowd calling "racism" after he left.
Aslan-Levy was quoted in the Oxford student paper Cherwell as saying: "I am appalled that an MP would storm out of a debate with me for no reason other than my heritage.
"To refuse to talk to someone just because of their nationality is pure racism, and totally unacceptable for a member of parliament."
Galloway explained his behavior on his Facebook page: "I refused this evening at Oxford University to debate with an Israeli, a supporter of the Apartheid state of Israel.
"The reason is simple; No recognition, No Normalisation, Just Boycott, divestment and sanctions, until the Apartheid state is defeated.
"I never debate with Israelis nor speak to their media. If the want to speak about Palestine – the address is the PLO."
He said the university did not inform him in advance of Aslan-Levy's identity.
Mahmood Naji, the organiser of the debate, said that he "condemned Mr. Galloway's walkout, on the basis of his opponent's nationality."
He went on to deny that he had "misled" the MP. "At no point during my email exchange with Mr. Galloway's secretary was Eylon's nationality ever brought up or mentioned." He added, "nor do I expect to have to tell the speaker what his opponent's nationality is."
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