Anyone watching last week’s Question Time (5/2/2015), can’t help but feel a sense of injustice at how the show turned into a Roman circus, with the shocking appearance of some people in the audience who had come prepared, rehearsed their lines and at times, chanted and even sang in chorus in their strong disapproval of statements made on the show by George Galloway. His firm response was: “You can be the lions and I’ll be Daniel, but you cannot stop me from speaking…however much you shout.”
One may be excused to think it was a session at the Parliament with all the extra-ordinary noise. However, that’s not what we’re used to in the BBC’s flag show ‘Question Time’, a show which prides itself in giving people an opportunity to have a reasoned debate, and attempts to represent the diversity of all people in the UK community.
It began with an addition to a question, sneakily inserted by the questioner in the audience. For the question of why anti-Semitism was rising, one will notice how the extra “…and do you think some members of the panel bear some responsibility” was absurdly referring to Galloway, who judging from the atmosphere of the show was openly accused of being an anti-Semite. I assume this was suffixed to the question as such an addition would probably have not been passed by the producers. Having said that, why didn’t David Dimbleby then simply point that out? Instead, he continued with that line of questioning, which is not acceptable. After all, the panels are guests on the show and deserve due respect.
Then Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland enters the show to add further insult to the injury, by conflating anti-Semitism with criticising Israel and speaking against Zionism. Probably not even thinking about his comments, he gives examples about how Galloway incites hatred against Jews with his rhetoric of what he calls “violence in the Middle East”. During the way, he signals the ‘Emperor’s Thumbs Down’ to Galloway, almost as a signal for the crowd to continue their attack in the circus.
The reality of the matter is there is an increase in anti-Semitism, as reported by research cited in the BBC’s article ‘Is there a ‘rising tide’ of anti-Semitism in the West?’ Any increase in discriminatory crimes is horrendous and should not be tolerated. Jews should not have to live in fear of attacks or abuse and that principle is universal for all people in the UK and across the world.
We should also be careful of conflating issues. Zionism is not the same as Judaism. Speaking against Israel and its crimes against the Palestinian people has nothing to do with Jewish values and Jewishness, as mentioned in the show by Galloway.
In the light of the Charles Hebdo affair and in discussing the concept of ‘absolute freedom of speech’, we are daily seeing the hypocrisy that comes with such slogans. The government is pushing through a Counter Terrorism Bill, in which one perceived facet is that criticism of British Foreign Policy may be equated with extremism or speaking out against the establishment could be seen as radicalisation. I have before tried to clarify that extremism remains abstract in its definitions.
Also, it now seems there is a sensitive culture that if you criticise Israel or show solidarity with Palestinians, then you are an anti-Semite, as was seen with the recent flying of the Palestinian flag.
Another part of the hypocrisy – which is equally worrying – was the contentment of some to see a thug attack and injure for Galloway stating his views. This is a shameful hypocrisy which many newspapers and broadcasters did not find worthy of condemnation, let alone mention.
Mr Galloway did manage to speak, despite being heckled on several occasions by some of the audience and he put his opinions across very eloquently and forcefully. So although he took on the role of Daniel, the audience were shocked to find that he was in fact a Lion!