Controversial UK parliament member George Galloway was questioned by British police this week in the wake of complaints regarding his call for Bradford, the city he represents, to be an “Israel-free zone.”
Commander of the Leeds police Paul Money said that Galloway had been voluntarily “interviewed under caution…following complaints made about the content of a speech given in Leeds earlier this month,” the Daily Express reported on Wednesday. Money added that “the matter will be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service for their consideration.”
Galloway, of the Respect Party, announced at a party meeting on August 2 that “we have declared Bradford an Israel-free zone,” and added that the “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. “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, and added that “direct action helped in the struggle against apartheid.”
In response to the controversy, Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub, visited Bradford 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.
“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.”
Two complaints were lodged against Galloway after his speech, 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.
On Wednesday, the MP said that the investigation was a “monumental” waste of police time, instigated by “by people who apparently find it excusable to incinerate innocent children and babies,” the Guardian reported.
“I will not suffer any attempts to have my freedom of speech curtailed and I am confident that at the end of this charade my right to speak the truth will be upheld,” Galloway added.
Galloway’s comments were heavily condemned by members of the Jewish community in Britain as well as British politicians.
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.
JTA and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.