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2009-04-01

Canadian Judge Upholds Government Decision to Bar British MP George Galloway on National Security Grounds

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A Canadian judge has upheld the Canadian government’s decision last month to ban the outspoken British lawmaker George Galloway from entering the country for a speaking tour. Canadian officials say they banned Galloway on national security grounds, saying he provided financial support to Hamas, the Palestinian political party which was elected in January 2006 and controls the Gaza Strip. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: A Canadian judge has upheld the Canadian government’s decision last month to ban the outspoken British lawmaker George Galloway from entering the country for a speaking tour. The Respect Party leader led a humanitarian aid convoy of over a hundred vehicles to Gaza earlier last month. Dubbed "Viva Palestina," the convoy brought in clothes, food, toys and medicine.

Canadian officials say they banned Galloway on national security grounds, saying he provided financial support to Hamas, the Palestinian political party which was elected in January 2006 and controls the Gaza Strip. Canada, like the United States, the European Union and Israel, consider Hamas a terrorist organization. Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has said those who support, promote and help terrorist organizations should not visit Canada.

George Galloway addressed his Canadian supporters and detractors through video link from New York on Monday night. He joins us here in the firehouse studio in New York.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

GEORGE GALLOWAY: Thanks very much.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you’re not allowed into Canada.

GEORGE GALLOWAY: No, but I’m touring the United States to big audiences, north, south, east and west. I’m sitting in the British parliament, as I have done for the last twenty-two years. It’s a bit odd to be branded a security risk in Canada, which I’ve toured many times, spoken at meetings in all the major cities there.

AMY GOODMAN: It sounds like, though, you’re actually reaching more Canadians than you would have if you had gone into Canada. So, what are you doing?

GEORGE GALLOWAY: Well, the book that’s banned is always a bestseller, and the speeches that have been banned are now taking place through the internet, through the ether. And a thousand people turned up at church in Toronto on Monday night to hear me speak, and 500 last night in Mississauga. I’m speaking to Montreal tonight, all from New York. And to —

AMY GOODMAN: By video link?

GEORGE GALLOWAY: Yes. And it’s good quality, I think, and the sound is good, and people are buying tickets and asking questions. It’s not as good as being there in person. But it just shows that it was a foolish move politically, as well as quite a dangerous one. It’s a creeping problem, I think, in Canada, that their government is the last bastion of dead-end Bushism in not only North America, maybe in the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Why did you go to Gaza?

GEORGE GALLOWAY: Because after twenty-two days, the Palestinian people there were in a desperate situation. We took twenty-four ambulances, a fire engine, trucks full of wheelchairs and medicine and children’s clothes and blankets for the 61,000 Palestinian families whose homes have been destroyed. And, of course, when we got there, we have to give them to the authorities there.

As it happens, I’m not a supporter of Hamas. I never have been. But I am a supporter of democracy. And if the Palestinian people elect a government, we have to respect that.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain why they’re saying you provide material aid to a terrorist organization.

GEORGE GALLOWAY: Well, is material aid ambulances and medicine and wheelchairs and nappies for children and biscuits for hungry people and tents for homeless people and blankets for them to huddle up in the wintertime under? If that’s terrorism, then terrorism no longer has any meaning as a word.

AMY GOODMAN: You almost didn’t get into Gaza. You were stopped. Our reporter, producer Anjali Kamat was there in Gaza. They got through, CODEPINK, the delegation. You ultimately did, but you were stopped at the border.

GEORGE GALLOWAY: Yes, because we were a convoy of 350 British people, 110 British vehicles. And, of course, the Israelis put tremendous pressure on the Egyptian government as to what can go through the gate at Rafah and what must go through the Israeli-controlled gates.

That’s why we’re in the bizarre situation. You can take aspirin to the Palestinians through the Egyptian gate, but you can’t take food. So you can’t feed them, but you can give them an aspirin for the headache that they’ll get as a result of being hungry. This is crazy.

This siege has to end. Gaza is like an earthquake has hit it, the difference being, if it had been an earthquake, all the governments of the world would be airlifting the means of life to the victims of that earthquake and beginning to reconstruct it. And that simply isn’t happening.

AMY GOODMAN: You were criticized, George Galloway, by some Egyptian activists and groups for coordinating with the Egyptian government in order to secure your entry for the convoy into Gaza. This is Egyptian blogger and activist Hossam el-Hamalawy.

    HOSSAM EL-HAMALAWY: To organize a trip supposedly in solidarity with the Palestinians, but you organize it in coordination with the local dictatorial Arab regimes in every single country who are direct participants in the Gaza siege, what this convoy did, that it might have brought aid to help the Palestinians and make them survive for one day, but they gave political capital to the Arab regimes that will allow them to continue the siege over Gaza for the rest of the year.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response, George Galloway, saying it’s not only Israel that has a siege —-

GEORGE GALLOWAY: Well, I’m very angry, actually. It’s the first time I’ve seen that and heard that. The best people to ask would, of course, be the Palestinians in Gaza, whether or not our convoy was a good thing, rather than someone in an armchair in Cairo with the luxury of taking that point of view.

Of course, your last two questions are mutually contradictory. You said that we found it difficult to get through, and he’s saying that we were collaborating with the dictatorial regime.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, that you then negotiated with Egypt.

GEORGE GALLOWAY: Both of those things can’t be true. We went through eight borders, 10,000 kilometers, to make the impact of the breaking of the siege. The entire Palestinian population in Gaza cheered us to the echo, and that’s what matters to me. You’ll always find people, as I say, from armchairs pontificating like that fool that you’ve just had on. When I think of the blood that we sweat to get there, it makes me very angry indeed, I must say.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think is going to solve the issue there? What do you think President Obama should do? And do you think he has to play a special role?

GEORGE GALLOWAY: I think he has to, and I sort of think he will. At the risk of incurring the wrath of other armchair pontificators, I think that Barack Obama, President Obama, knows, because he’s a professor, and he sat next to the late great Professor Edward Said. He knows that Palestine is the heart of the matter, that if we don’t solve the Palestinian question, there will be no peace in the region, and if there’s no peace in the region, there’s no peace in the world, and that includes New York City, includes London.

So, he has, I think, to break from business as usual. Israel has elected a couple of monsters, actually. Netanyahu and Lieberman are the closest thing to fascists that the Israeli people have ever chosen. And, you know, we just can’t go on doing business as usual with these people. We can’t go on giving every dollar, every bullet, every airplane, every missile that’s fired at the Palestinians to such people. We have to shift this paradigm. Now, President -—

AMY GOODMAN: Does Britain take a different approach?

GEORGE GALLOWAY: Not much different. But, of course, given that Britain is playing the role of following the leader in the case of the United States, if President Obama changes tack, no doubt the British will, too, on some things. The British, for example, recently resumed discussion with Hezbollah, still not allowed for US politicians. I think tomorrow they’ll do the same for Hamas, because you can’t choose other people’s representatives for them. You’ve got to talk to the people that they represent.

AMY GOODMAN: George Galloway, we just read this in The Guardian about the G20 protesters that right now are inside the Royal Bank of Scotland in London, windows smashed. One protester is trying to set curtains on fire. Computers, filing cabinets are being smashed. That’s what The Guardian is saying. Your thoughts, if that’s true?

GEORGE GALLOWAY: Well, I mean, I don’t approve of that kind of thing. This setting curtains on fire will burn people indiscriminately. And I do think that it is important that we don’t play up to the stereotypes of the media presentation of the G20 protests, which are, in the main, and ought to be protests against the inhuman, dehumanizing impact of globalized capitalism and its failure. It was dehumanizing and inhuman when it was profitable. Now that it’s bankrupt, it is even worse, and people are suffering, their lives diminished and degraded, some lives lost, actually, as a result of that globalized capitalism. We say there is a better way, can be a better way. And we need a human economic system, an alternative economic system. You won’t get that by setting fire to the curtains in the local bank.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, George Galloway, President Bush did get into Canada, despite a Canadian group, the Lawyers Against the War, calling for his arrest or deportation. The Canadian government ignored their request, though they did deny you entry.

GEORGE GALLOWAY: Yes, and on the grounds that I was a national security risk, which will have come as a surprise to the Homeland Security Department here and to the Speaker of the House of Commons, with whom I’ve sat with for twenty-three years. Yes, I mean —

AMY GOODMAN: We have twenty seconds.

GEORGE GALLOWAY: George Bush, dangerous killer, here’s a million-dollar fee, come and speak. George Galloway, antiwar leader, don’t bother turning up.

AMY GOODMAN: George Galloway, that does it for today’s broadcast, British lawmaker, British MP, banned from entering Canada. He’s addressing the Canadian people through video link every night from here in New York.

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