As you probably already know, I tried to cover an assignment for my college newspaper in downtown Vancouver yesterday. I went with my voice recorder, camera, and notes to see George Galloway speak. I showed my press pass at the front door and the organizer, Derrick O’Keefe (of rabble.ca and stopwar.ca fame), stepped forward and said, “Oh we know you. You’re a rightwing propagandist.”
A case of mistaken identity? O’Keefe insisted I was a writer for Propagandist Magazine and refused to let me in to do an assignment I’d been covered to do. After a bit of a blow up at the front door about freedom of the press and the glowing hypocrisy of lefties crying foul about free speech and then denying select members of the press from reporting about it, I paid my entrance fee and listened to George Galloway.
That night I filed to the Vancouver Sun with a few pictures. They did confirm acceptance of the story and were scheduled to run it, but as other media didn’t really pick up on the Galloway speech last night I guess they dropped it from the queue. Regardless, here was the “propaganda” I submitted to the Vancouver Sun:
George Galloway said he would use “every cent” he receives suing Canada’s immigration minister to fund the anti-war movement in a speech made in Vancouver Monday night.
The former British politician became a controversial figure in Canada after Immigration Minister Jason Kenney barred him from entering the country in March of 2009. Galloway said he doesn’t mind being called controversial if it gets people discussing Palestine, but believes he has been libelled by the Canadian government.
Dressed all in black with a Palestinian-coloured scarf around his neck, Galloway spoke to a packed house of several hundred people at St.Andrews Wesley United Church downtown.
Mocking Kenney and the Harper government, Galloway said he resents being called a member of a terrorist organization and a threat to Canada’s national security.
The crowd gave warm applause to the criticisms of the Harper government, particularly when Galloway said Canada’s reputation has fallen internationally for its support of Israel.
“Harper says it’s a badge of honour,” Galloway said. “Well, it’s a badge of shame!”
Galloway also rejected being labelled as anti-Semitic or a supporter of Hamas. He told the audience that he supports democracy and that only the Palestinian people have the right to choose their government. Palestine elected Hamas to government in January of 2006, the paramilitary wing of which is designated as a terrorist organization by Canada.
In response to the 2008 conflict between Israel and the Gaza Strip, Galloway took humanitarian aid in a convoy and donated it to the Hamas government, along with a personal donation of £25,000 to the prime minister.
Galloway had harsh words for Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan as well. He said the war there is only fueling more terrorism every time a Muslim in killed by foreign forces.
“All that a young Muslim needs to get radicalized is the possession of a television and the ability to watch the news”, he said.
Galloway’s Vancouver visit was organized by the StopWar.ca coalition. He’s in Canada on a 10-city speaking tour, and is scheduled to appear in Yellowknife on Tuesday.
That was my professional, unbiased record of the event. What did I think personally? I thought Galloway relied on the usual specious arguments and half-truths. When an audience member asked how he could work with Iranian Press TV he gave an equivocal answer criticizing the Iranian government for the last elections, but then said that “at least Iran had elections.” He then turned to condemn our “allies” in Saudi Arabia for having unelected leaders. Confusingly, he had earlier in the evening condemned Canada for getting booted from the U.A.E.
I’m not really going to dissect his speech, but I do find one thing confusing. Galloway, and many others like him, seem to genuinely believe that Canada’s post-2011 mission in Kabul would involve combat. I just don’t understand where he’s getting this idea from.
Is there an inherent danger of maintaining Canadian Forces in Afghanistan beyond 2011 behind-the-wire? Yes. About the same level of danger as exists driving on the 401 every day to work. Not to minimize the casualties, but the facts are the facts.
At any rate, perhaps it’s for the best the Sun dropped the story. A lot of Galloway’s remarks are polemic, hyperbolic, and one-sided. As he himself admitted in his speech, he’s only controversial in Canada. Everywhere else in the world he’s a relatively insignificant partisan on the Palestinian side of the Middle Eastern Israeli-Arab stalemate.