By Richard FERRER

Respect MP George Galloway

Respect MP George Galloway

However heinous one might find some of George Galloway’s opinions, no one who prizes free speech would deny his right to be heard and debated

Indeed, there’s no shortage of educated individuals ready to publically dismantle his distorted views on Israel and the Middle East with logic and reason.

Last week, the Respect MP for Bradford West flatly refused to debate Oxford student Eylon Aslan-Levy, after learning he has Israeli citizenship.

After speaking for 10 minutes in favour of Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank, Galloway announced that he did not debate with Israelis and truculently stormed off stage.

Respect? What a travesty of the word’s true meaning. Where is this man’s respect for the fundamental notions of democracy, in which all sides have the right to be heard?

Making a stand is very different to standing up and walking away. Balance must always be sought, especially in political discussions on university campuses, so that students are placed in a position to make their own minds up.

After all, young minds – especially those sharp enough to study at Oxford University – should be hungry to learn and broaden their viewpoint. Give one perspective and they emerge blinkered. Give many and they can make informed choices.

The scourge of anti-Israel sentiment is now widespread on our campuses. Indeed, this latest the manifestation in Oxford occurred just 24 hours after a talk at Essex University by Israel’s deputy ambassador was abandoned due to interruptions by protesters, who screamed “war criminal!” during Alon Roth Snir’s speech.

Such shameful scenes damage Jewish students on campus and our academic reputation around the world.

Tolerance and respect for opposing views are the basic building blocks of democracy. Every person, even George Galloway, has the right to be heard. Equally, one individual’s voice should not drown out those of the rest. Especially George Galloway’s.

Those who remain silent to Galloway’s literally unspeakable actions tacitly condone a troubling trend – one that makes a mockery of the principles this country is most proud of.

Richard is editor of the Jewish News. Follow him on Twitter @richferrer