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George Galloway in Santa Clara

Last week I had the rare privilege (for an American) of hearing George Galloway speak in person. Held at a local Muslim Community Association, it was quite the scene. The crowd exceeded a thousand people (see picture), certainly the largest crowd for any indoor political event I've attended in many years (if not ever). When Galloway arrived, he was mobbed - surrounded by people getting their picture taken, autographs, shaking hands, etc. His recent Viva Palestina convoy of 100 trucks to Gaza no doubt played a major part. I was surprised to hear that, if I remember correctly, this was the 19th city Galloway had spoken in on his current tour. Aside from his being refused entry to Canada, I was unaware he was on such an extensive tour. I'm guessing many of these engagements were organized through mosques and other Muslim organizations, without extensive public publicity.

Galloway spoke movingly about his visit to Gaza, and what he found there. He spoke for over an hour, but I've excerpted ten minutes of highlights here:

One of the things Galloway was doing was challenging his American audiences to produce their own convoy, by flying to Egypt, renting trucks, buying supplies, and driving into Gaza with American flags flying on the front (presumably as some kind of magic talisman to prevent their being stopped at the border) [It turns out, as you can read on the website, that veteran antiwar campaigner Ron Kovic, he of "Born on the Fourth of July" fame, has now stepped forward to lead the convoy]. Here's a section of the talk where Galloway discusses the subject:

Galloway is a great speaker, one of the best, but I need to say a few things about the content. He boasted about being "the first Obama supporter in England," and seems to harbor (make that "harbour") illusions about Obama with respect to Palestine. How he could maintain such illusions not only through the campaign, but even moreso on the basis of everything that has happened since, all through the assault on Gaza and beyond, is beyond me.

And then there is his misconception of the "Israel lobby." Galloway asserts that the reason they have been so successful is that "no one has taken them on," and that if the Muslim/Palestinian solidarity community simply writes enough letters to Congress, threatens to withhold their votes, contributes enough to candidates, things can change. I beg to differ. As I think I've written before, the Israel lobby is successful precisely because the position it argues for is the position of the American ruling class, and the role that Israel plays on behalf of the United States in the Middle East. The Israel lobby could be just as wealthy, contribute just as much to candidates, have just as many votes, but if they were lobbying not for U.S. aid to Israel (and related issues) but for, say, U.S. aid to North Korea, they would be just as powerless as the Palestinian lobby (such as it is). I'm not opposed to writing letters to Congress and such, but it will take a lot more than that to change the position of the U.S. on Israel/Palestine. Fortunately, one of the things it will take are "facts on the ground," specifically, the increasing impossibility of a so-called "two-state" solution (something touched on by Galloway and discussed at even greater length by Ali Abunimah, who I also had the pleasure of hearing recently), combined with the increasing pressure on the U.S. as Israel stands more and more naked before the world in its aggressive behavior and its utter contempt for international law and world opinion.

Reprinted from Left I on the News

Originally posted to Left I on the News on Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 01:33 PM PDT.

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