George Galloway, the Respect party MP for Bradford West, has provoked anger after refusing to debate with an Israeli student at Oxford University.

The debate, hosted at Christ Church, Oxford saw Galloway argue for the motion “Israel should withdraw immediately from the West Bank”. After the MP had spoken for ten minutes, Galloway’s opponent, a third year PPE student named Eylon Aslan-Levy at Brasenose College, began a speech in which he used the word “we” to refer to Israelis.

Galloway, a long-term critic of the state of Israel who promotes the boycott of Israeli produce and media, interrupted the student to say: “You said ‘we’. Are you an Israeli?” When Aslan-Levy responded that he was an Israeli citizen, Galloway stood up and made to leave the room.

“I don’t debate with Israelis”, Galloway said. “I have been misled, sorry. I don’t recognise Israel and I don’t debate with Israelis”. In a statement on Wednesday the founder of the left-wing Respect party explained: "I refused this evening to debate with an Israeli, a supporter of the apartheid state of Israel. The reason is simple; no recognition, no normalisation. Just boycott, divestment and sanctions, until the apartheid state is defeated."

As Galloway made to leave there were audible gasps from the members of the audience, one of whom shouted “racism” and “he’s a human being”, as Galloway refused to continue with the debate. The audience of around 80 people broke into laughter after the MP exited the room with his wife and Aslan-Levy continued with his speech.

Commenting on the refusal, Aslan-Levy said afterwards "I am appalled that an MP would storm out of a debate with me for no reason other than my heritage. To refuse to talk to someone just because of their nationality is pure racism, and totally unacceptable for a member of parliament."

The organiser of the debate denied that Galloway had been misled at any point.

Oliver Schofield, a second year at Christ Church, told Varsity: “After the initial shock of Galloway's sudden departure, the audience really got behind Eylon and encouraged him to finish his speech regardless of his opponent's bizarre actions. It was a great shame that Galloway failed to show the Respect that his party is named after!”

Speaking to Varsity, a friend of Aslan-Levy, a fellow third year PPE student, commented that Galloway’s refusal to debate demonstrated “great idiocy or, as Eylon has accused him, racism”. “I believe that Galloway's actions last night have stripped him of any credibility that he still had. To refuse to debate with anyone is a demonstration of cowardice and a lack of confidence in one's own convictions.”

Last year, Galloway drew condemnation after comments he made concerning rape allegations against Julian Assange, which Galloway said were a “set up” and a matter of “bad sexual etiquette”. As a result, Galloway was made the subject of an NUS ‘no platform’ motion.

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