Mr. Galloway Returns
By Diane V. McLoughlin December 6, 2010
main website: mcloughlinpost.com
[Author's note: The apostrophe, ' ' is used below for the spoken word when I am not absolutely certain that I transcribed exactly what the speaker said, while conveying the spirit of what was said. It is also used to indicate a fanciful inner dialogue of 'policeman,' below. Square brackets [ ] are sometimes used to interject a note of clarification, or when there is audience reaction.]
Mr. George Galloway, peace activist and distinguished former British Member of Parliament, gave a speech delivered with wit and charm at Ottawa's Bronson Centre early on the overcast Saturday afternoon of November 27, 2010.
The tour was entitled, ‘Free Afghanistan, Free Palestine, Free Speech.’ It was Mr. Galloway’s last scheduled stop of ten cities, raising funds for the Canadian Boat to Gaza, as well as the anti-war movement.
Some of the main sponsors of the event were the Ottawa Peace Assembly, and the Canadian Peace Alliance.
Messages the peace groups themselves conveyed were, 'end the war', and, 'expose the lies of Stephen Harper’s government'.
Directly after Mr. Galloway’s presentation, there was to be an anti-war march to Parliament Hill. This corresponded nicely with the fact that Canada was expected to vote on whether to extend participation in the Afghanistan war, early in the following week.
Unexpectedly, there was a too-early-for-this winter’s wind direct from the Arctic. It charged over the Gatineau Hills, scooped up damp off of the surface of the Ottawa River, to rush, North - South, up and over the earthquake fault-line running under Bronson Avenue. I braced, cursing the weather, as I walked from my car, tilted sideways against the wind. Probably not too many people coming out; too bad.
And it was true, there was not much action outside the modest entrance. Just a few frigid souls handing out leaflets. Here is the text of the two flyers I was handed as I rushed to get in out of the cold:
‘VIGIL, International Human Rights Day & Mohamed Harkat’s 8th year anniversary of his arrest under a Security Certificate, December 10th, 2010, 5 P.M.
Human Rights Monument (corner of Lisgar and Elgin)
Bring candles or flashlights/friends
Stop Secret Trials in Canada
Abolish Security Certificates
Mohamed Harkat was arrested on December 10th, 2002 under a
Security Certificate without charge or access to the evidence.
Detained for 43 months and spent one year in solitary confinement.
Released in June of 2006, under the toughest conditions in
Canadian history. His Canadian wife was his full-time jailer and
prisoner in her own home. Now he faces deportation to torture…
all under a veil of secrecy for National Security reasons.
CSIS alleges, assumes, believes…would you trust them with your life?
(For more info: http://www.justiceforharkat.com/ )’
Regarding the Harkat case, Sophie Harkat, a French-Canadian, is a pearl. Over the long years, she has continued to fight for her husband‘s freedom. It was she herself who handed out the flyers.
Another flyer handed out:
‘Support the Canadian Boat to Gaza
A Canadian humanitarian initiative to aid the
Civilian population of Gaza living under Israeli blockade
There were also flyers handed out that were negative on Galloway, according to subsequent media reports. I didn’t see any of those. They would have been interesting to read and share, as well. Aggravating. But interesting.
In the surprisingly crowded lobby, people were being directed to, ‘please take a seat in the hall if you already have tickets, it’s going to start [very late] soon.’
In the middle of the milling crowd, within a wide circle of avoiding-that space, there is a bemused young man
speaking to an imposing, wide-stanced policeman. The policeman is a giant who, I note wryly, is standing with legs so far apart that it is as if to say, 'That’s right. My balls are that big. So my personal recommendation to everybody here is that nobody mess with me.' I can see I’m with the kid on this one, unable to decide whether I should be amused or intimidated. The officer is warmly dressed, in an ensemble that includes black splash pants with reflective tape on them, and enormous winter boots. The young man is saying something politely above the bustle of the crowd about how he understands, but that he’s not really in any official capacity to tell people how to stay on the sidewalks.
Subsequent published estimates put the capacity crowd in the auditorium at 900. Impressive, considering the bitter cold.
Typical city dress: Jacket, sweater and jeans. A few hijabs. The assembling throng is college- and middle-aged. Eclectic. There is a distinctive aura of education.
I would share that, on my way out afterward, there was a woman seated apart against the wall by the auditorium doors, with a solicitous man hovering by her. She was all in black, only a slit where her eyes were exposed. Fortunately, from my own cultural perspective, one sees few women so cut off from society in these parts by way of what they wear. In Western society there are other ways women can find themselves oppressed. My heart went out to her with a twist: I wished my man was hovering solicitously near me.
Hoping to sit where clacking on my laptop won’t aggravate…hall is too full. No one seems bothered. (Happiness.)
Introductions on-stage. The Canadian Peace Alliance has 140 member groups, including the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers [both big;] rabble.ca [indy on-line news site;] the Canadian Arab Federation.
Jason Penner, Independent Jewish Voices, is at the mike: “It is not anti-Semitic to criticize Israel!” [loud clapping]…not anti-Semitic to stand up for Palestinian human rights!” [Audience: ‘Hooray!’]
Another group’s spokesperson, Canadian Boat to Gaza: ‘Fundraising brings people together from coast to coast to break the siege - we have a special responsibility, considering the Harper government’s unquestioning support of Israel.’
More from the stage: ‘We are upholding our right to free speech. Defend human rights. Jason Kenney [a Canadian Member of Parliament] has done more for promoting the peace groups. We thank Mr. Kenney for making sure the people of Canada know what he’s really all about.’ ‘And,’ [gesturing magnanimously to the speaker‘s right] “we’ve saved him a seat today…;” [a table and chairs are on-stage. One of the seats has a ’Jason Kenney’ sign taped to it. Audience laughs.]
‘-…controversial topic. Let’s keep it respectful. Everyone who wants to participate in the discussion may do so at the question-and-answer portion of the event.’
Background: The last time Mr. Galloway was invited to Canada to speak, in 2009, a staff member who works in Conservative MP Jason Kenney's office (Minister for Citizenship and Immigration Canada) no doubt prompted by loud noise from self-styled pro-Israel lobbyists, acted to bar Mr. Galloway from being admitted into the country. The argument: Mr. Galloway should not be admitted, being a ‘supporter’ of the Palestinian group, Hamas, a group that is designated a terrorist organization by the Canadian government.
The actions of the government were subsequently denounced. Mr. Galloway and others successfully sought a legal judgment in Federal Court. Justice Mosley ruled, 'that the main reason why the respondents sought to prevent Mr. Galloway from entering Canada was that they disagreed with his political views.'  [2a]
All that this abuse-of-authority foolishness did - in trying to squelch freedom of speech and assembly - was delight Mr. Galloway with a democratic challenge. It is as if he is made of aplite - an interesting entry convenient to 'aplomb' in the dictionary: a light-colored, fine-grained granite rock.
Threatened with being barred at the Canadian border, Mr. Galloway did two things: He spoke at the scheduled 2009 events through live video feed; and he prepared to defend, not only his own rights and his own reputation, but, in defending himself he was defending Canada's reputation as a democratic country; he was fighting for Canadian freedoms of speech and assembly, too.
Due to the authoritarian behaviour of the Conservative government, and the wide coverage by the press, the anti-war and social justice crowd couldn't have been more pleased. The results were packed auditoriums and church halls to hear one live in-person, giddy, gifted Scot, victorious in 2010.
Perhaps because the police escort had to wait around all afternoon for the anti-war protest march afterward, many were no doubt disappointed to find that organizers either did not, or could not, keep their word: There was no time for anyone to lob questions, hard or soft, at Mr. Galloway. The march began with evident haste, ‘while there’s still daylight’, immediately following.
George Galloway introduction; he ascends the stage to rousing standing ovation.
Mr. Galloway: “As I was saying - before I was [rolling, soft Gailic ‘r’s] rrrudely interrupted!” “So close [audience laughter] I can almost sense Mr. Kenney’s presence!”
Galloway: ‘So close to the Supreme Court!’ ‘So lucky!’ ‘Despite not being a gambling man - as I am a religious man, gambling is, in fact, forbidden - nevertheless!’ “Today, I bought a lottery ticket!” [The day’s pot, $30 million dollars.] “If, on behalf of the peace movement, I scoop the lotto this evening - but I won’t ask you to pray for that, because it’s not really permitted - but I would like to see Jason Kenney’s face!” [Laughter; applause.]
‘Thanks to everyone involved. ‘Fantastic tour, coast to coast to coast of Canada. Thousands of people, thousands, have come to these rallies. In inclement weather. Donating generously. Our message has reached millions in the last two weeks!’ Audience: "Bravo!"
‘Any book you try to ban, automatically gets on the best-seller list! We intend to stay there! This is not goodbye [last tour date] but a bien tot - until we meet again. I will be back again and again!” [More applause.]
‘My eye caught something on the metro [bus]:
‘Last Laugh for Former Brit MP.’
‘True. Up to a point. But what Jason Kenney did was not funny. To be slandered in front of the entire world whilst sitting for a quarter of a century in the biggest of parliaments - doesn’t get much more serious that.’
‘Must have come as a surprise, as her Majesty the Queen, regularly meeting with her as I did in Buckingham Palace, that not only was I harboring a terrorist organization … surprising to the House of Commons, too, where I have been voted 'Debater of the Year', all the while a member of a terrorist organization with the aim to harm Canada! [Audience laughter.] And even under George Bush’s presidency I was permitted into that country! But Jason Kenney apparently knew something that the CIA did not!’
‘The Canadian security services knew that both the allegations were false: that George Galloway is not a member of a terrorist organization and he is not a threat to Canada’s security. Thanks to any CSIS agents present [Canadian Security Intelligence Services] …jokingly invites any secret agents in the audience to stand and publicly take credit; [dramatic pause.] 'No?' [Laughter.]
‘What can we say about a Canadian government that lies on such a scale? Their tune has changed; apparently I wasn’t banned at all. But we know better.
‘Kenney tried to proclaim that, ‘Galloway isn’t coming here, and that is that.’
Galloway: “That is not that.” Audience: "Here, here!"
‘Jason Kenney should meet me man-to-man to resolve this matter. If he doesn’t see me here he’ll see me in court, that’s for sure.’ [Clapping].
Galloway has launched legal suits. ‘Every cent we win from the Canadian government will be used to build a greater Canadian anti-war movement.’ [Applause.]
‘How did Canada go, in such a few short years, where freedom of speech and association…regarded as a model of multicultural society; a place where liberal values prevailed; was loved in the 1970’s and 80’s in Lebanon…the Canadian soldiers were the favorite soldiers under UNIFIL. How did this happen, to be reduced to merely an embassy of the most extreme right-wing Israeli government the world has ever seen?!’
‘[Canadian Prime Minister] Harper is prepared to pay “any price.” 
‘[Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu’s a fascist. Harper is prepared to pay any price. But the Canadian people are not prepared!’ [Much clapping.]
‘In any other democratic society, a minister would not have survived politically, the sixty-page caning from the court [as Jason Kenney received] and would have resigned; pages that unmask the crime that the people could be treated as children: who to hear, what to speak, what to think; I am proud of Canadians!’
‘There are limits to freedom of speech! Not to defame and libel anyone. No one may use their freedom to whip up religious hatred. Such hate speech is repugnant to all of us in the anti-war movement.’
Mentions the National Post: ‘…surely the worst paper I have ever seen in my life!’
Shares a little of his background: Joined the labor party at 13. Active as a child at election-time with parents. A socialist.
‘We are against the racist ideology of Zionism!’ [Cheering; applause.]
‘There are thousands, hundreds of thousands marching with us, including in Israel itself. We are not guilty of any form of racism. In fact, those who accuse us have a far more questionable record, and we refuse to be intimidated out of our right, from this smear, from criticizing Israel!’
Analogy of Russia and communism: ‘We didn’t want to destroy the people of Russia, but the ideology. Zionism is, itself, a racist ideology. It believes that, for example, a Canadian Jew isn’t Canadian. Israel is described as a Jewish state; even though 25% of Israel’s citizens are not Jews. Israel is also racist against the occupied Palestinians.
‘I saw Apartheid South Africa. I worked underground there. Jewish members of the African National Congress financially supported me and my work.
'We fight in Iraq for democracy while there is none in Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, there were free and fair elections by the Palestinians, who unfortunately [according to Israel and the U.S.] voted the wrong way’ [and were, and continue to be, roundly punished for it.]
Galloway on Afghanistan: ‘The Canadian government has broken another promise: not withdrawing the troops. This was supposed to be the Canadian military’s last tour of duty. We have been training Afghans for ten years.
“Nobody trains the Taliban, and yet…they do quite well!” [Laughter.]
‘The training budget for President Karzai’s army is [didn’t quite catch Galloway’s figure…billions.] ‘No noticeable improvement in ten years.’
Riled audience member shouts out - no pensions! The inference being Canadian tax dollars are going to bullets and bombs rather than social spending at home. Galloway responds by sharing that in Scotland, pensioners are more likely to freeze to death in winter even as compared to the outer reaches of Siberia. [Sharp intake of breath from the shocked audience.]
‘Thirty-five percent of the Afghan military recruits we train slip out the back door and join the Taliban. Apparently the wages are better.
‘No one has successfully occupied Afghanistan, not even Alexander the Great.
“Mr. Harper, you ain’t no Alexander the Great!”
‘We are so desperate for somebody, anybody, to negotiate our withdrawal, that the other day a shopkeeper showed up and said, 'I’m a leader of the Taliban.' He met [U.S.] General McCrystal. He flew to meet Karzai. They gave him four hundred-thousand dollars! He really won the lottery. He came back three times before somebody realized he wasn’t the real guy!
‘The conflation of al-Quaeda - terrorists - to Taliban: Taliban only want to drive out the occupied armies, and any would. The Afghans are good at it: British, Russians: defeated in their times. Karzai’s administration is not worth the blood of a single soldier’s life.
‘Our demand is that Afghanistan does not become a base for bin Laden. But those terms have always been available. Every life lost was lost in vain. Al Quaeda are not in Afghanistan. See Bob Woodward’s book. There are forty-five al-Quaeda left in all of Afghanistan. Why do we still have hundreds of thousands of troops there?
‘Our presence is recruiting for bin Laden all over the world. The swamp of hatred in the Muslim world is ever deepened by our continued occupation - in which the enemy has actually left! We sent those people in there in the first place. Bin laden was only in Afghanistan because [U.S. President] Reagan and [Great Britain’s Prime Minister] Thatcher sent him in there under the dubious moral principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
‘I am completely against this global al-Quaeda mindset. I despise bin Laden, a medieval savage. I despised him when you were giving him guns and money. The blood of Iraqis, Afghanis and Palestinians is far cheaper than others, and it is recognized for what it is in the Muslim world.
On the subway-bombing terrorist attack in London: ‘The murder of innocent people for the crimes of others - is no different as a crime, regardless of what he wears or what tools of destruction are used. The base hypocrisy, the double-standard of what we are doing over there is not recognized in the media.
‘Palestine is the heart of the matter, the center of the confrontation between the two worlds. The Palestinians who are the victims of terrorism, and Israel which perpetrates the terror is called the victim. This double-standard Muslims cannot accept. Its people have been scattered.
‘On my tour here in Canada I couldn’t believe it - there are six Palestinian families living in the Great Slave Lake region of the Canadian Arctic!
‘Millions of Palestinians that were driven from their lands now have foreigners living in their houses. Sixty-two years in rancid, rat-infested refugee camps - Palestinians demand to go home! [Audience roars approval.]
‘The kaffiya [Palestinian scarf of white, with a wavy black-check pattern] has become a symbol throughout the world, for the struggle for peace and justice.
‘The Palestinians will ultimately win. How did it come about - that my country, the British foreign secretary [Balfour; turn of the 20th century] promised one people, atheistic Jews, promised the land that belonged to a third people that Britain didn’t even possess at that time. This group of white European atheistic settlers had no real desire to go there. They wanted to go to the Seychelles, or to Patagonia in Latin America. Only later, that God was a state agent. A bogus claim.
‘The U.S. for the past fifty years has paid for every bullet, every bomb supporting the occupation. A country
eliminated - the people - scattered.
‘Finally, the people had an election, described by Jimmy Carter as pristine and transparent. The problem is that the people voted the ‘wrong’ way.
‘I am not a supporter of Hamas. I am a supporter of democracy, and the only people qualified to choose who represents them is the Palestinian people themselves.
Regarding pro-Israel Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal opposition leader Michael Ignatieff:
“Two cheeks of the same backside!” [Guffaws.]
‘Why is there an economic siege for voting the wrong way?! How can this be justified with our protestations of love for democratic processes in other countries? In Gaza today, eighty percent are refugees and therefore entitled to protection from the international community. Eighty percent are living on a dollar a day. The children are under- or malnourished.
‘We have not seen anything like it since the Second World War. 1.6 million Palestinians were locked up in Gaza so that death and destruction could be rained down upon them, live, on television. For twenty-two days and nights we saw a barbarous assault of a people who could not escape because the doors were locked by those dropping the bombs. Not only bombs, but gas. Can you believe a state calling itself a Jewish state dropping white phosphorous gas on a civilian population? [Late-2008 - early 2009: Israel’s military assault on Gaza, nicknamed, ’Operation Cast Lead.’]
Galloway, on Lebanon: ‘The resistance drove out an Israeli occupation of 28 years. White phosphorous was used against Lebanon in 1982. I visited the hospitals. I saw the effects of white phosphorous on children as they lay there, breathing out white smoke as the gas cooks them from the inside out!
‘God-fearing Christian, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair supported Israel’s assault on Gaza.'
Audience shouts of, "Shame!"
‘In the village of Zeitoun, one family of thirty-five: Dead. The Israeli army prevented ambulances for five days from reaching the wounded and dead. They killed ambulance workers who tried to get in!
A five-year old child demanded to know from Galloway:
“Where is the Arab world? The Umma? [Islamic leadership.] Why don’t they help us?”
‘I promised that child, with my last breath, to tell the world.
‘Five convoys so far have broken the siege of Gaza to bring the people humanitarian supplies: ambulances, medicine, educational equipment - and this makes this terrorism! The word has been bankrupted of all meaning if that is supporting terrorism!
‘We live in a very, very dangerous, unbalanced world…fake indictment of Hezbollah for the assassination of Hariri by Canadian authorities. For four years we were told it was Syria; not the Lebanese resistance.
“Stand up for Palestinians! For Afghans! For freedom!”
Standing ovation, whistles, hooting. End of George Galloway speech.
There is a brief statement from the peace groups about American war resisters fighting deportation proceedings. The Canadian Labor Congress needs two-thousand dollars fighting to keep U.S. war resisters from being forced to go back to the U.S. A fragile-looking individual introduced to the audience as Skyler shares that they joined the U.S. army, but, with, 'don’t ask don’t tell,' the U.S. military does not 'stand for gays.' Skyler, from all appearances, looks pretty depressed. Enjoys Canada: people are welcoming. I should have been born in Canada, 'best place in the world.' A collection is taken the old-fashioned way passing buckets through the aisles. Folding money and change come out of pockets, wallets and purses.
Last, the audience is strongly encouraged to join in the anti-war march.
Outside, protest signs are being handed out. I scoot, hunched in the cold, back the way I came to my car. I end up stuck at the bottom of the street at a long red light as the march, I suddenly realize, advances, bearing down on my car from on high at the crest of Bronson Avenue - drums drumming, banners waving. The policeman's car, like a tank, is leading, onward, safe passage for these troops who fight for peace and social justice, marching to Parliament Hill.
Colder now. The day grows dim and with all my might, I will the traffic light to change.
1] Organizers and sponsors of the tour:
Ottawa Peace Assembly: http://ottawapeace.org/ ;
Palestinian Canadian Congress: http://www.pcc-cpc.ca/ ;
Ottawa Palestine Solidarity Network ;
Pan-Canadian tour organizers:
Canadian Peace Alliance: http://www.acp-cpa.ca/;
Canadian Boat to Gaza: http://canadaboatgaza.org/;
Canadian Arab Federation: http://www.caf.ca/ ;
Independent Jewish Voices: http://www.independentjewishvoices.ca/;
Defend Free Speech Campaign: http://www.defendfreespeech.ca/;
rabble.ca: http://www.rabble.ca/ ;
 Article, 'Court dismisses George Galloway Appeal'; Mike Blanchfield;
Canadian Press for the Globe and Mail; Sept. 27, 2010;
[2a] The September 27, 2010 legal judgment; can be viewed here:
 Youtube of CTV news clip: 'Canadian PM: Canada will defend Israel, whatever the cost';
Youtube: George Galloway speech, 'Free Palestine, Free Afghanistan, Free Speech'; Ottawa; Nov. 2010;
from Youtube StraightGoodsNews channel;
Copyright 2010, Diane V. McLoughlin
All Rights Reserved.