Now, I'm not saying that George Galloway isn't a fairly manipulative politician, who has, in the past, kissed up to some pretty nasty dictators... (as opposed, for instance, to kissing up to the butcher of Sabra and Shatila, as so many other politicians have.)
He plays fast and loose with his crippling invective, and relies upon terms and language which are every bit as biased and wrongheaded as that used by his opponents. For this reason alone, I absolutely wouldn't want him running my country. I couldn't count on him to be both fair and civil.
But at the same time, he's absolutely invaluable to a healthy discourse of such topics in Britain, in that he helps to establish something close to actual balance in every forum he's a part of. He is a powerful and gifted orator who doesn't back down, and backs his words -- however slanted -- with strong factual arguments. He appears to have been falsely accused of being on Saddam's payroll and threatened with imprisonment in the U.S., and has been branded as a potential subject to apply Britain's potentially oppressive new antiterrorist laws to, and yet he's consistantly brave and defiant, refusing to bend to popular opinion.
And, of course, he's absolutely right, in that Israel is an occupier and, in the case of Lebanon, a repeat invader, ignoring binding rules of international law against such acts. He's right that Israel still holds prisoners for a war which was supposed to have long since ended. He's right that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, even if he doesn't choose to spend his time in front of the camera addressing the Messianic, Islamofascist tendencies of Hezbollah.
But you know, why should he, when there are hundreds of rabidly pro-Israel talking heads out there in the Western media who regularly take on that duty, and who often get to air their views without a truely opposing view being presented. The United States literally does not have any speaker of national authority capable of doing what George Galloway does for the British media, and although you might feel soiled by his approach, he plays an absolutely vital role.
It seems wrong that we, a nation supposedly based on the rule of law, routinely try and convict other nations for their supposed crimes, without anything close to an actual defence in the court of public opinion. I, for one, want and welcome those who are brave enough to defend those who cannot speak for themselves, whether they are in Iraq, in Lebanon, or in Iran. In all of the above cases, these people may want to live under different conditions, or with different leaders, but they would all, no doubt, prefer to achieve these goals without war.
Above all, Galway was right when he said that we don't know the name of any of the Palestinians whose lives were snuffed out by the Israeli military during a family visit to a beach in Gaza. Even I, who pride myself on my research of such issues, don't know their names. I didn't see footage from their funerals. I didn't see their families and relatives asked for statements on the attack. I didn't see them invited on to western news broadcasts to say their peace. I wish I had, because I have seen the same of family members of those Israelis who were kidnapped in this conflict, and who will, with any luck, return home to their families one day.
It seems odd to ask whether we, as a nation, are biased on these issues, when over 1000 Lebanese are dead and over 750,000 homeless refugees as a result of a military mission supposedly designed to bring about the freedom of two captured prisoners, presumably with the goal of obtaining their release without the necessity of freeing any of the thousands of Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners currently being detained, many without having ever been charged with any offense.
Would those 1000 Lebanese be dead today and those 750,000 refugees have to live on charity in a strange land, if only Hezbollah had chosen to kill the Israeli prisoners in question, rather than sparing their lives? It's hard to say how much an attempt to trade prisoners with Israel has cost Lebanon. What's obvious, however, is that any sign of balance and proportionality amongst those conflicts that our nations consider worthwhile and justified has long since flown out the window.