On Saturday 2nd August, around 200 people attended a Respect Party public meeting at Woodsley Road Community Centre in Woodhouse. The meeting was addressed by George Galloway MP, showing that draw he still has on particular issues.
Leeds Socialist Party members
Galloway spent most of the meeting denouncing the blockade of and onslaught on Gaza being carried out at present by the Israeli regime. He vividly explained the catastrophe facing the people of Gaza, who literally have no place to go. He also critiqued the role of the establishment political parties, stating this was another issue on which they carried out actions contrary to the interests of ordinary people and still expect them to vote for them at elections. Galloway appealed to those attending not to do so, that Respect had the solution to the situation in Gaza as well as other issues and that people should vote for and join them.
Plenty of time was allowed for a question and answer session from the floor which ranged over a wide number of issues. In response to one question, Galloway correctly stated his opposition to ISIS and other reactionary groups, and condemned the cynical support for Gaza of many Arab rulers who he described as “inept kings & presidents who rule the muslim world… (they are) open collaborators with the murderers.”
Yet Galloway’s claim that Respect had the solution to the situation in Gaza, seemed to ring hollow as the questions progressed. He said he was at a loss to explain why Barack Obama was still supporting Israel, given that the pro-Israel bloc in the US generally votes Republican – seemingly missing the obvious answer that it’s because the interests of the US capitalist class, which Obama is the current representative of in the presidency, dictates that position to defend its interests in the region.
Responding to a question asking for what could end the question – he posed the idea of a state of Jews, Christians and Muslims from the River Jordan to the Meditarranean, although this “democratic, free Palestine is for long in the future”. He didn’t explain how such a state could come about, and discounted the role that workers in Israel could play.
In response to comment by a Socialist Party member on the thousands who had marched in Tel Aviv and the West Bank in the week or so, Galloway correctly condemned the role of the Palestinian Authority in trying to stop anti-war protests, but attempted to downplay the size of the demonstrations in Israel, saying they were only a few hundred strong. The Socialist Struggle Movement (the Socialist Party’s sister party in Israel-Palestine) reported that 6,000 took part in a demonstration in Tel Aviv last week – a not hugely different figure of 5,000 was given in the New Stateman also.
He further incorrectly stated that opinion polls had been running at 95% in support of the Israeli government’s actions, and only 4% against, when in fact the correct figures are more around the 85% support and 10% against mark (with the rest undecided). This was only done to support his own presupposition of the situation. Moreover such polls ignore the 25% of the population that isn’t from a Jewish background. It was noticeable that Galloway didn’t comment once on the situation of the Bedouin population in Israel. (The latest report from the Socialist Struggle Movement can be read in this week’s the Socialist – http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/19015/29-07-2014/gaza-in-crisis-mass-action-needed-to-stop-bloodshed)
This approach was further shown when Galloway talked about boycott actions. Whilst most of the time he talked about boycotting products produced in the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, he at other times advocated a boycott of all things Israeli – including tourists. He attempted to draw a parallel with boycott of Apartheid South Africa, although in this case the overwhelming majority of the black working class supported a boycott against the white elite. This is not the position of the large working class in Israel, which we believe should be recognised. This, of course, would not preclude supporting some boycotts, especially when they were clearly directed against the settlements, those profiting from the occupation etc. (A fuller explanation of our views on BDS can be found at http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/6332)
Whilst the Socialist Party views international solidarity as hugely important, especially given the political support of most Western countries for the Israeli ruling elite – in our opinion this can only be an auxilliary to a mass movement of the working class and the rest of the oppressed layers. There have been a number of strikes which have seen Israeli-Jewish and Israeli-Arabs have struggled together in recent years, indeed the Israeli ruling class attempts to whp up chauvanistic moods as at present to divide workers as effectively as possible.
Only on the basis of removing that rotten elite, and the capitalist system they represent, can a real solution to the conflict in Israel-Palestine be posed – a socialist Israel and a socialist Palestine as part of a federation of socialist states in the Middle East.