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Hitch is wrong

by Michael Weiss

Posted: Mar 30, 2009 10:48 PM

He doesn't actually botch the general merits of the Canadian government's decision to ban George Galloway, which had to do with his ostentatious delivery of material aid to Hamas, but in his latest Slate column Christopher Hitchens wrongly emphasizes that foreign entry permits are being denied to unsavory figures of late due to what they say, not what they do. "The British House of Commons has room for a man as appalling as George Galloway; why should Canadians not have the chance to make up their own mind about him?"

Leaving aside the plain fact that if my old professor and I had it our way the British House of Commons would not make room for the Scottish terrier at all (except perhaps to allow agents from the International Criminal Court to affix manacles to his feet), the reason is that Galloway broke Canadian law by funding a terrorist organization, in the open, and while taunting Western authorities to do something about it. (The British Charity Commission is now investigating his Viva Palestina convoy, whose documents are not forthcoming about the purpose and intended recipients of its largesse.)

I posted about this confused distinction here on Arma Virumque days ago, and I've expanded on the argument -- which, in Hitchens' defense, the Canadian press has been almost heroic in its determination to distort -- in this piece for Pajamas Media. But my friend and neighbor to the north, Terry Glavin, offers the full monty on the Galloway story at a UK blog in every way appositely named for the current controversy, Drink-Soaked Trotskyite Popinjays for War:

A couple of weeks ago, a Canadian High Commission official in London had a conversation with someone in George Galloway’s parliamentary staff about the MP’s travel plans. The official then showed George Galloway the personal courtesy of writing him directly to advise him that a preliminary assessment of his admissability to Canada was not favourable.

In that letter, Immigration Program Manager Robert J. Orr politely referred Galloway to certain provisions of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, specifically, Section 34 (1), which, among other things, cites “engaging in terrorism” as grounds to prevent a person from entering Canada. In Canada, engaging in terrorism includes raising money for terrorist groups. In Canada, the death cult Hamas is listed as a proscribed terrorist group.

Mere days before Orr wrote his letter, Galloway had delivered roughly $2 million (Cdn.) in vehicles, various goods and cash, directly to Hamas boss Ismail Haniyeh. Galloway boasted about this, and openly dared British and European authorities to charge him for breaking the sanctions against Hamas, and he went so far as to stage an event for Al Jazeera television in which he handed over a wad of cash in the equivalent of about $50,000 (Cdn.) directly to Haniyeh. Around the time Orr was composing his letter to Galloway, the British Charity Commission was preparing an investigation into the transactions Galloway was involved with in Gaza.

There is nothing occult about any of this.

In his letter, Orr noted that Galloway was not expected to make his Canadian appointments before March 30, and so he extended to Galloway the further courtesy of inviting him make a submission to address his preliminary assessment of inadmissability. The alternative would be that a Border Services Agency official might find himself obliged to make a final determination at some border crossing, informed only by the preliminary assessment, but without the benefit of a submission from Galloway himself. Orr also suggested an alternative to Galloway, to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit, but he also showed Galloway the further kindness of letting him know that it would be unlikely that such an application would succeed.

Instead of proceeding as he was so politely invited, Galloway took the event as an opportunity to combine with his Canadian admirers and exploit the gullability and general slovenliness of the press in order to tell a pack of lies, monger a lurid conspiracy theory about a secret plot hatched in Ottawa to silence critics of Canada’s engagements in Afghanistan, fabricate a free-speech controversy, and blame it all on the Jews.

It must also be said that Hitchens misconstrues the letter, if not exactly the spirit, of our own State Department's decision to continue the travel ban against Oxford University's favored Islamist apologist in residence, Tariq Ramadan. Ramadan's considered persona non grata by the Obama administration for the same reason he was (eventually) found to be so by the Bush administration: Between 1998 and 2002, he donated a total of $940 to two charities, Comité de Bienfaisance et de Secours aux Palestiniens and the Association de Secours Palestinien, French and Swiss respectively, both of which our government has linked to Hamas.

In Ramadan's defense, it seems plausible, judging by the revised mealy-mouthed language and muddled chronology of his visa revocation process that the State Department was simply looking for any excuse to keep him out. Although their motive likely wasn't, as he maintained in a Washington Post editorial ("Why I'm Banned in the USA"), his vocal criticisms of the Iraq war, CIA detention facilities and our policy of torturing enemy combatants. Plenty of types with lots to say on those topics daily land at and take off from major American hubs. Rather, Ramadan is the most glamorously deceptive European salesman of Islamic fascism. He's got two "discourses" -- one for his Muslim audiences, and one for his non-Muslim audiences -- that, with alternating degrees of sophistry and impenetrability, attempt to bleach the messianic nastiness out of groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. There are generous helpings of postmodern theory to facilitate this task, rendering religious brutality the stuff of Foucauldian pyrotechnics or multicultural compromise. For instance, Ramadan professes to prefer a "moratorium" on the sharia-backed practice of stoning women for adultery. Look up "moratorium." (For a concise rap sheet on Ramadan's slipperiness, see Catherine Fourest's Brother Tariq, published by Encounter Books.)

Now, Hitchens is surely right to say that such views are loathsome in themselves but are not -- or should not be -- sufficient grounds for the kind of censorship meted out by border security. (How many commenters on political blogs would be turned away at LaGuardia each year if sinister stupidity were all it took?) And while it looks as if Ramadan's ideas did indeed precipitate the desire to ban him from the U.S. that ban was only legally followed through because of his disclosed actions. Giving money to terrorist front groups is a crime that seeks no Voltairean rebuttal.

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