Ezra Levant on George Galloway’s being barred from entering Canada:
Good friends, and friends of freedom of speech say I’m not being consistent — that I should be for Galloway’s right to be wrong. I am; I don’t think he should be arrested for being a racist, terrorist-loving buffoon. I think he should be arrested for raising money for a criminal terrorist organization. That’s not speech I’m against, that’s fundraising for terrorism I’m against. But that’s not my main point: my main point is that Galloway has no “right” to come to Canada. He’s not Canadian.
I’m all for his free speech — elsewhere.
First off, charges that Galloway has raised money for Hamas are wildly overblown. His participation in/organization of the Viva Palestina aid convoy only qualifies as “aid to Hamas” on the grounds that Hamas is the elected government of the Palestinian people, and thus any aid to Palestinians (the vast majority of whom only manage to survive now thanks to various international aid programs and food donations) has to go through Hamas.
(This would be one of the many reasons that the quasi-official nature of Palestinian governance is a neverending bugbear from an international law standpoint: if Hamas is the legitimately elected government of Palestine then without an official declaration of hostilities Canada can’t actually do anything (because you can’t really say that an entire other country is a criminal organization without completely debasing the term), but if Hamas isn’t a legitimately elected government then Canada is ignoring gross human rights violations on the part of Israel that it has sworn to uphold and is thus violating its own treaty obligations. Many other First World countries have this same thorny issue, which is why none of them ever really officially decides what Hamas actually is.)
Of course, that aid also has to go through Israel, but apparently the fact that the Israelis let the entire convoy through – except for a fire engine and boat which the Egyptian government pre-emptively disallowed, and if anybody can explain why a fire engine would be dangerous please let me know – would imply that they didn’t think Galloway’s “fundraising” was dangerous to the state of Israel. Considering that the aid consisted entirely of humanitarian materiels (food, blankets, toys for kiddies, et cetera), it’s not surprising that the Israelis would let it through. Then again, until the Americans complained, the Israelis weren’t letting dried pasta into Gaza. So who knows.
Oh, and as much as Bernie Faber of the Jewish Defense League might claim otherwise, Galloway wasn’t “smuggling” goods to Hamas. Smuggling traditionally does not involve the type of political grandstanding for which Galloway is known. Because that’s not smuggling. Galloway has never been caught committing any sort of crime, and this is because Galloway knows exactly where the line he can’t cross is. One might, if one was so inclined, draw parallels to religious bigots who have a good grasp of the boundaries of criminal hate speech laws and who metaphorically are all too willing to walk right up to that boundary and wiggle their ass at it.
But none of this is the real issue. The real issue is that Levant’s suggestion that this is an immigration or administrative problem is the worst kind of semantics. It’s semantics because this is entirely about the Conservative government choosing to abridge Galloway’s ability to speak in Canada, using a cheap excuse to do so.
Consider the staggering incongruity of Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in complaining that Galloway supports a terrorist organization when Kenney himself attended a rally of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran in 2006, less than a year after the Canadian government declared it to be a terrorist group and a declaration which was upheld by the current Conservative government as recently as this past November. (In fairness, once people found out about Kenney’s attendance, he first claimed that he hadn’t attended the rally, and then when pictures showed up of him at the rally, claimed he hadn’t known it was the PMOI holding the rally and that he had been tricked. Given that Jason Kenney is a very, very stupid man, this is actually slightly plausible. But only slightly.) Given this context, you might think that Kenney’s judgement of Galloway’s potential security risk is suspect, but apparently Ezra Levant trusts him.
Levant’s argument is that Galloway’s supposed criminal acts (for which he has never been tried, because no judge would ever convict him, because as much as certain parties might wish otherwise delivering food and medicine to Palestinians is not yet a crime in Britain or Canada) are good reason to prevent him from speaking in Canada. That’s his position. He can say “no, I think it’s a good reason to bar him from entering Canada and thus as a consequence he can’t speak,” but when Galloway’s entire purpose for visiting Canada is to speak then the two are obviously conflated and pretending otherwise is, as stated, nothing more than semantics.
It’s just the sort of useful semantics that lets Ezra Levant pretend he isn’t an enormous hypocrite, that restricting George Galloway’s ability to speak isn’t restraining free speech because he can describe it a different way thanks to the technicalities of Canada’s constitution. But of course he is being enormously hypocritical, because freedom of expression isn’t derived from the concept that it’s something that just sort of belongs in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but from the idea that speech has intrinsic value in and of itself. Levant has spent the better part of the last few years passionately arguing the latter point; now that it’s become inconvenient for him to do so, he has cheerfully abandoned it.
Which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.