On Tuesday, Respect MP George Galloway will attend a public meeting in the House of Commons, organised by Stop the War Coalition, to protest against the deterrent sentences handed out to demonstrators at last year’s Gaza marches.
In the spirit of George Monbiot’s call to arrest Tony Blair in January, this is the perfect time to arrest Mr Galloway: a symbolic, mock-arrest, on if not legal then on strong moral grounds.
Why? When Mr Blair appeared at the Chilcot Inquiry, Mr Galloway hit out at the former Prime Minister’s ‘perverse association’ with George Bush. Yet Mr Galloway retains his own ‘perverse association’ – with the Islamic Republic of Iran, through its London-based broadcaster Press TV, and is something of an apologist for Iran's ruling clerics.
In the Daily Record, in June, Mr Galloway showed little sympathy for peaceful protestors in Iran disputing the fraudulent re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, even though they were met by a ferocious crackdown.
He wrote: “There are grounds for being surprised at the result of the Iranian election. Even grounds for being disappointed. But there are absolutely no grounds for the cats’ chorus of criticism and allegations now emanating from some quarters after the cookie crumbled the wrong way.”
Neda Agha-Soltan was part of that cat’s chorus. So are the countless others who have suffered violence at the behest of Ayatollah Khamenei. Iranian state violence includes men armed with Colts shooting at random, illegal detentions, beatings, rapes, killings, show trials, summary executions and the vilest form of deterrent sentencing – the death penalty – being handed out to the very people Iran depends on to pull out of its 31-year-Islamist hell: its young.
On Tuesday, Mr Galloway, who without compunction maintained his links with Press TV while again and again the Islamic Republic pounded the streets with its iron fist last year, will not be mentioning the harsh sentences meted out to demonstrators in Iran.
It’s worth asking whether by the same moral yardstick he applies to Messrs Bush and Blair, he is not complicit in the Islamic Republic’s crimes. And surely he should lay bare his connections: Has he ever come across footage of crimes in the Press TV’s offices that have been spliced out? Has he witnessed, passing by edit suites at Press TV, footage that the state itself has of the crimes committed against Iran’s ‘green’ protestors that he has decided to turn a blind eye to? Is it possible to work for such a broadcaster, adhere to its censorship, and to use Mr Galloway’s own terms, not have blood on your hands?
The tragedy is that Stop The War Coalition remains behind Mr Galloway and happily in bed with the Muslim Council Of Britain, an organisation which has no criticism to make of the Islamic Republic Of Iran.
The killing of Muslims by mullahs is presumably acceptable in its eyes; perhaps it is only when Jews and Christians do it that it’s wrong.
STWC has organized no demonstrations in support of Iran’s protesters despite issuing a wishy-washy statement supporting them in June. It said: “In expressing our solidarity with all the Iranian people striving for a democratic outcome to the crisis in their country, the Coalition will support demonstrations and initiatives which reflect these principles.”
This inaction – in contrast with the organization’s campaigning for the right to wear hejab in France – is explained thus: “It would be wrong for us to take any position on the disputed outcome of the Iranian presidential election.”
Disappointingly, Stop The War Coalition still bars Hands Off The People Of Iran – an organisation which opposes both Iran’s Islamists and US imperialism – from joining, preferring to stay on friendly terms with the Islamic Republic.
It is surely time for Tony Benn, STWC’s president, to speak out about the political Islam that infests the sensibilities of not only STWC but also the liberal press. What is political Islam?
Witness how the political editor of one left-leaning UK current magazine responded to my pitch for an article calling for the arrest of George Galloway: “How on earth do you equate working with the Iranian government, however bad it might be, with sending British troops to fight, kill, torture and die in an illegal, foreign war? On what grounds would you perform your “citizen’s arrest”? Are you out of your mind?”
My appeal to the editor to explain what he meant by ‘however bad it may be’, surely a get-out clause that exonerates Messrs Khamenei and Ahmadinejad from smashing dissent while the threat of war looms and in fact giving them carte blanche to do so, was met, aptly, with a deathly silence.
A leading left-leaning newspaper’s web editor was similarly unconvinced: “As I understand it, the accusation against Blair is because he took Britain into the Iraq war," he said. "That's rather different from working for PressTV, even though it's a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime.”
So George Galloway is sticking up for the rights of demonstrators as at Gaza march in the UK while turning his back if not two fingers up at demonstrators in Iran. In order to highlight Galloway’s links with a regime that beats, tortures and kills people it incarcerates illegally, in order to highlight Stop The War Coalition’s increasing kowtowing to Islamist sensibilities (criticism of Iran’s mullahs – no; sticking up for the hejab in France – yes) there are strong moral grounds for performing a citizen’s arrest.