Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Christine DeSouza
Assistant Editor 

George Galloway stirs up a sticky wicket in Yorkshire, England

 

Mark Kerrison/ Mark Kerrison/Demotix/Corbis

Respect MP George Galloway has claimed that Israeli goods, academics and tourists are not welcome in the West Yorkshire city of Bradford.

Recently, in reaction to the Gaza conflict, George Galloway, a Respect party representative to U.K.'s Parliament announced that the West Yorkshire city of Bradford would be 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," Galloway stated.

Speaking on behalf of the Respect Party in Leeds, the MP for Bradford West encouraged a crowd gathered at a public meeting to back his stance and "do the same."

However, citizens of Bradford made it clear that they do not agree with Galloway's declaration and the city's small Jewish community and supporters of Israel invited Israel's ambassador to the United Kingdom, Daniel Taub, to visit the city.

The local Telegraph & Argus newspaper reported that 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 Telegraph & Argus. "I don't believe George Galloway is the real voice of Bradford. There is a long history of cooperation between Bradford and Israel."

Several complaints were filed against Galloway for the comments and he is under police investigation.

A police spokesman said that the matter would be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service for their consideration once inquiries are completed.

Galloway said: "This is a monumental – and monumentally expensive – waste of police time set off by people who apparently find it excusable to incinerate innocent children and babies. 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."

To add fuel to the fire, Zulfi Karim, secretary of the Bradford Council for Mosques in Bradford, accused Galloway and the Israeli embassy of creating disharmony in the city, according to The Guardian newspaper.

During his visit, Taub said: "In the best spirit of Yorkshire, the real voice of Bradford knows that there has only ever been one good boycott – and that's Geoff Boycott (a former Yorkshire and England cricketer and now a member of BBC Radio 4 Longwave's Test Match Special commentary team)."

Taub also tweeted a picture of himself holding an Israeli passport outside city hall and another with an Israeli flag in the Greengates area of the city: an act described as a "deliberate provocation" by Karim.

"For an ambassador to unfurl an Israeli flag by a Welcome to Bradford sign is a deliberate provocation and not the behaviour I would expect of an ambassador of one of the world's most important countries," Karim retorted.

He called on Galloway and Taub to stop using the city for their own political ends, saying: "This is to Mr. Galloway and the ambassador: please do not bring your politics on to the streets of Bradford to create disharmony among our communities. If you have concerns, share them in your embassy or in parliament or in a neutral place, not in Bradford."He added: "We work in harmony in Bradford and we support our Jewish community. Last year it was the Muslim community which helped to secure the sustainability of the city's last synagogue."

With only 299 Jews left in the city, the final synagogue was under threat of closure when members could not afford to repair the roof, until local Muslims kick started a campaign to save the 133-year-old building.

In his speech on Monday, Taub praised the cross-cultural understanding in Bradford. "This real Bradford has a great deal to teach the world about a multicultural city where Christians, Muslims, and Jews live, work, and cooperate together. Here, the historic synagogue thrives thanks to the support of the Muslim community. It's a much-needed model of how people who may not agree about everything can still listen to each other, hear each other, and treat each other with genuine respect."

Labour's Dave Green refuted Galloway's claims, which "give an unjust and unfair view of the city".

"By making these ludicrous and outrageous statements, Galloway is doing something very dangerous because what it does is cause tension within communities in Bradford," he said.

Jews in the city had raised concerns about an increase in verbal abuse of late, said Green. "You may like to ask Galloway how he is going to identify Israeli citizens. It's one of those statements, which may get him a round of applause among his acolytes but which is underpinned by something really dangerous."

 

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