A controversial British lawmaker is being investigated by police after declaring his district an Israel-free zone, and the Israeli tourists he told to stay away are now on his city’s streets mocking him.
MP George Galloway, a long-time critic of Israel, has represented his Bradford, U.K., district since 2012.
In a speech to political activists Aug. 2 in the city of Leeds, Galloway called on those in attendance to boycott goods from Israel, citing the example of Bradford:
“We have declared Bradford an Israel-free zone … we don’t want any Israeli goods. We don’t want any Israeli services. We don’t want any Israeli academics coming to the university or the college. We don’t even want any Israeli tourists to come to Bradford, even if any of them had thought of doing so. We reject this illegal, barbarous, savage state that calls itself Israel. And you have to do the same.”
That declaration was news to government officials and community leaders.
A police spokesman told the Daily Mail it is “currently investigating the complaints” of Galloway’s comments, labeled “hate crimes.”
A former archdeacon of Bradford, Canon Guy Wilkinson, created an online petition at Change.org calling for Galloway’s prosecution under section 5(1) of the Public Order Act 1986, which criminalizes threatening, abusive and insulting words or behavior, reported Breitbart.
“It’s an absurd thing to say anyway and completely unjustified,” said Wilkinson. “I saw these statements made by Mr. Galloway and it seemed to me that they did nothing for the reputation of Bradford. It has always been open to all kinds of people.
“It was a thoroughly disgraceful thing for him to say that Israeli people were no longer welcome in Bradford. Bradford does not need that type of reputation. But it needs to build on the reputation that it welcomes all people. Bradford needs to flourish.”
Perhaps the biggest rebuke was the arrival this week of tourists – Israelis and British Jews – who came to Bradford to wave Israeli flags, eat hummus, ask for service in local shops and distribute “Israeli goods” to people on the street.
The group, led by Rabbi Shneur Zalman Odze came to Bradford to “prove a point,” and the group’s onlive video claimed the people they met were “friendly, welcoming and respectful.” When not on camera, “they all rejected the Israel-free zone,” the videomaker claimed.
Following their visit, Rabbi Odze tweeted a picture of the group with the message, “In Bradford today with my Israeli friends, we got a tremendous reception – how’s your ban going?”
“Britain is renowned for being an open, tolerant and fair society, so for Galloway to appoint himself as a spokesman for the city in such demeaning and dismissive tones is unacceptable,” said Odze.
Officials in the city of Belfast are considering cancellation of an appearance by Galloway scheduled for Aug. 23, the BBC reports.
The city has seen an attack on a local synagogue within the last month and recently removed the memorial plaque marking the birthplace of former Israeli President Chaim Herzog because of frequent acts of vandalism.
“We have asked for that booking to be reviewed, we think it is inappropriate at this time of tension in light of his highly controversial comments,” said Democratic Union Party councelor Brian Kingston.
“He goes far beyond calling for a boycott, he is rejecting and demonizing an entire country and its people.”
Galloway dismissed the charge, saying, “To be lectured on good relations by the DUP is a bit like being told to sit up straight by the Hunchback of Notre Dame. It’s a commercial contract with the Ulster Hall, signed, sealed and will be delivered, except on terms of very severe compensation.”
Galloway has a long history of anti-Israel comments and activities:
- 2006 – “Hezbollah has never been a terrorist organization.”
- 2009 – Received a Palestinian passport from a senior Hamas official
- 2009 – Helped raise funds to ship aid to Palestinian officials
- 2012 – “We do not hate Jews. We hate Zionism, we hate Israel, we hate murder and injustice. Israel blasphemes against the Torah by calling itself a Jewish state.”
- 2013 – Walked off the stage at a scheduled debate after learning his opponent was Israeli, saying, “I don’t recognize Israel, and I don’t debate with Israelis.”
In another incident, in 2007, Galloway abruptly booted WND’s Jerusalem bureau chief Aaron Klein and radio talk-host Rusty Humphries from his London office and handed them over to Parliament police, claiming the two were Zionist operatives who had breached security by falsely presenting themselves as reporters.
Klein interviewed Galloway on June 25 for Humphries’ national radio show. The two said they traveled to London as part of an investigative series on Islamic extremism in Europe.
During their interview with Galloway, Klein called Hamas a terror group, to which the Scottish politician responded, “I don’t think Hamas is a terror organization, and it’s a very foolish conflation that you make, because Hamas are a national liberation movement with specific goals to liberate their own country, which has been taken from them by others.”
Following an extended heated exchange, Galloway ended the interview with Klein.
“Is this an interview or a political broadcast on behalf of the Zionist movement?” asked Galloway. “I didn’t even know that you were coming here; you’ve actually got this interview under false pretenses.”
Klein protested, insisting he had told Galloway assistant Kevin Ovenden, who arranged the interview, exactly who he and Humphries represented. At the beginning of the recorded interview, Humphries can be heard clearly identifying himself and Klein as working for Talk Radio Network and WND, respectively.
Klein said he coordinated the interview with Ovenden two weeks in advance, even providing Ovenden with the focus of the scheduled conversation.
The exchange then went like this:
GALLOWAY: I think that we should conclude this interview now. I told you at the beginning, before we started, I don’t speak to the Israeli media.
KLEIN: I’m not the Israeli media.
GALLOWAY: Well you might as well be. I have no intention of talking to either of you any further. So, good afternoon gentlemen.
Galloway told the journalists to leave or he would call the police. When Klein, obviously taken aback, invited him to go ahead, Galloway said, “I think I’m going to do exactly that before you leave.”
“You are not a journalist, you are a political partisan for Zionism,” Galloway thundered at Klein, “Now please leave my office.”
The exchange with Galloway can be heard by clicking here: