Israel’s ambassador to the United Kingdom visited a city whose representative to Parliament declared an “Israel-free zone.”
Daniel Taub came to Bradford, in northern England, on Monday at the invitation of community members, the local Telegraph and Argus newspaper reported. Taub met with local lawmakers, faith leaders and representatives of other community organizations.
George Galloway of the Respect party announced at a party meeting on August 2, “We have declared Bradford an Israel-free zone.”
“I am here because I was invited to come by the people of Bradford, who sent a clear message that George Galloway does not represent them,” Taub said during his visit, according to the newspaper. “I don’t believe George Galloway is the real voice of Bradford. There is a long history of cooperation between Bradford and Israel.”
Galloway in his comments had said, “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.”
A Galloway spokesman told the British media that his remarks were in reaction to Israel’s operation in Gaza.
Two complaints were lodged against Galloway, after he called for Bradford to be declared an “Israel-free zone,” the BBC reported last week Thursday. Galloway’s calls were being investigated by in order to determine whether they qualified as hate speech.
Speaking during a meeting with activists last Saturday, the Respect MP urged the public to boycott Israel in response to its ongoing military campaign in the Gaza Strip.
“We reject this illegal, barbarous, savage state that calls itself Israel – and you have to do the same,” he told the audience.
Despite the complaints and the investigation by police, Galloway did not retract his statements.
“George stands by the comments – he thinks they are quite reasonable,” Ron McKay, Galloway’s spokesman, told the BBC.
“The reason he made them is because there’s mass carnage and mass slaughter going on against the people of Gaza,” he said.
“Direct action helped in the struggle against apartheid,” McKay added.
Galloway’s comments were heavily condemned by members of the Jewish community in Britain as well as British politicians.
“What about an Israeli who is a supporter of the Palestinian cause? He doesn’t differentiate between an Israeli who supports the Israeli government or an Israeli who doesn’t,” Jonathan Arkush, vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said, according to the BBC.
“He doesn’t differentiate between an adult or child – most people are apolitical. This man is so intolerant he can’t bear to have someone with an opposing view in his town – how ridiculous is this.”
Conservative MP Robert Halfon said Galloway’s calls were an “ill-considered rant” which would offend many.
“Fortunately, I suspect most Bradford citizens are like British people as a whole: tolerant and decent – and will ignore Mr Galloway’s demands, treating them with the contempt they deserve,” Halfon said.
“They know that despite the tragedy in Gaza, that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, that both ordinary Palestinians and Israelis have suffered – not least because of the 13,000 rockets fired on to Israel by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, since the Israeli unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.”
Galloway, 59, has long been known for his overtly anti-Israel stances. In 2004, after being booted by the Labour party for comments on the state of the Iraq War, he co-founded the anti-war Respect Party. He became an MP in 2012 after taking the Bradford West seat from Labour in a by-election.