GARDEN GROVE, Calif.–”With controversy comes interest, and with interest comes more support.” These are words that British MP George Galloway must be intimately familiar with. His support of the Palestinian cause is not the only brush with controversy that Galloway was referring to at an Al Awda event drawing some 1,000 people on April 7.
Galloway is well-known as an unflinching supporter of social justice causes that are often considered to be politically unpalatable to his colleagues. He has also challenged the government’s policies on Iraq, arguing that “Iraq is not separate from the question of Palestine,” and has written a biographical portrait of Fidel Castro.
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Banned from scheduled speaking events in Canada due to “national security concerns,” this was Galloway’s last speaking appearance on his latest tour of North America. After an introduction by Al Awda co-founder Zahi Damuni, Galloway started his lecture with a description of how he became active in the Palestinian cause in the 1970s, and the events that took place along the route of his Viva Palestina project.
The Viva Palestina project succeeded in bringing over £1 million in aid to Gaza in February, after making stops throughout Europe and Africa. One theme of his talk was that common citizens are generally in support of the Palestinian cause once they hear the truth about the illegal Israeli occupation. He explained how he became involved in the issue after listening to a Palestinian activist.
Galloway noted the turning tide of public opinion toward a desire to end the occupation and reach peace. “There’s a new atmosphere in the U.S. over Palestine,” he said. “The phenomenal response to this tour demonstrates that.”
He argued that activists shouldn’t settle for a two-state peace solution, but should instead demand a one-state solution where people of all ethnicities and religions can dwell together in peace with equal rights for all.
He argued that Israel has “spent its entire bank of public support” during its recent 22-day assault and ongoing siege on Gaza. Galloway condemned Israel for “[taking] the precautions of locking all the doors,” giving the population of Gaza nowhere to run and nowhere to hide from the violence of the assault.
Galloway emphasized the gravity of the current situation in Gaza under the siege, and condemned the lack of media attention it has been getting: “At least when they were being bombed, they were in the news. Now they suffer in silence.” He also condemned the lack of support from surrounding Arab nations, specifically Egypt, stating, “This is an Arab siege, unless Egypt is no longer a country.”
He went on to announce plans to launch Viva Palestina USA, a convoy modeled after Europe’s to cross the Egyptian border into Gaza with aid from Americans. He said it would be co-led by Vietnam veteran and long-time peace activist Ron Kovic, who was also present at the event. The convoy would leave on July 4, as a symbolic gesture to acknowledge that Gaza’s right to self-determination is as significant as America’s