The outspoken MP George Galloway has sparked anger by storming out of a debate at Oxford University after he discovered his opponent was Israeli.
The Respect MP for Bradford West had been due to debate the motion “Israel should withdraw immediately from the West Bank” at Oxford college Christ Church on Wednesday evening with student Eylon Aslan-Levy.
Footage posted on YouTube shows Galloway picking up his coat and leaving after Aslan-Levy referred to Israelis as “we” and then confirmed he was an Israeli citizen. Reports said Galloway had spoken for about ten minutes before his abrupt exit.
“I’ve been misled, sorry. I don’t recognise Israel and I don’t debate with Israelis,” Galloway says in the video.
He later defended his actions on Twitter, writing: “No recognition of Israel. No normalisation. Christ Church never informed us the debate would be with an Israeli. Simple.”
Eylon Aslan-Levy, reported to have joint British and Israeli citizenship, told the Times newspaper: “It’s deeply offensive to refuse to speak to someone because of their nationality…
“The fact that a sitting member of Parliament could do this is all the more astonishing.”
The paper quoted moderator Michael Baldwin as saying: “As moderator of this debate, I was disappointed that a possibly fruitful discussion was prematurely ended by Mr Galloway’s refusal to debate someone just because of their nationality.”
Galloway has previously faced criticism for presenting a show on Iranian state-run channel Press TV, while in 1994 TV footage showed him telling Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein: “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.”
But he has slammed the British government’s own support for authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia.
In August, the head of Galloway’s Respect party, Salma Yaqoob, quit over his comments that rape allegations against Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, simply constituted “bad sexual etiquette”.
Formerly a Labour MP, Galloway also courted controversy in 2006 by appearing on a reality TV show in which he pretended to be a cat, purring while on all fours and lapping imaginary milk from the hands of actress Rula Lenska.