UK police to investigate MP’s call for ‘Israel-free zone’

Controversial MP George Galloway says residents of Bradford ‘don’t want Israeli tourists’ to come to the city

George Galloway, a member of the minority Respect Party, speaks after winning his former Bradford West seat in March 2012 (photo credit: AP/PA, Anna Gowthorpe)
George Galloway, a member of the minority Respect Party, speaks after winning his former Bradford West seat in March 2012 (photo credit: AP/PA, Anna Gowthorpe)

Two complaints were lodged against controversial British politician George Galloway, after he called for Bradford to be declared an “Israel-free zone,” the BBC reported Thursday. Galloway’s calls were being investigated by in order to determine whether they qualified as hate speech.

Speaking during a meeting with activists on Saturday, the Respect MP urged the public to boycott Israel in response to its ongoing military campaign in the Gaza Strip.

“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,” Galloway said.

“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,” 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.

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