(September 3, 2014 / JNS)
By Ben Cohen/JNS.org
Ask a foreigner to name a British parliamentarian. Assuming they are able to provide an answer, there’s a high chance, especially if that person is a Jew or a Muslim, that the name on their lips will be that of George Galloway.
The 60-year-old Galloway has been a fixture of the British House of Commons since 1987. In that time, he has represented a variety of constituencies, beginning in the Scottish city of Glasgow and currently representing a section of Bradford, a heavily Muslim city in the north of England. He has also represented two different political parties, the first one being Labor, from which he was expelled in 2003 over his inflammatory comments concerning the forthcoming war in Iraq, followed by the far-left Respect, an oddball coalition of Islamists, Trotskyists, and anti-war activists which Galloway himself set up and which has remained his political home over the last decade.
A man who craves celebrity and attention, Galloway is rarely out of the news, which is what accounts for his name being recognized well beyond the boundaries of the United Kingdom. Typical of Galloway’s recent publicity stunts was his appearance on a reality TV show wearing a red leotard and impersonating a purring cat.
Galloway remained in the limelight in late August, but not in the type of way he’d normally envision. While posing for photographs with admirers on a street in west London, he was approached and beaten by 39-year-old Neil Masterson. By the time Masterson was apprehended by the police, he had left Galloway with severe bruising on his face and head, and a couple of broken ribs. It was a nasty beating, but not a fatal one, and Galloway was discharged from hospital the following day.
I will readily admit that, like many Jews, my reaction to the news was one of unbridled joy, tempered by the guilty realization that, in a democracy, violence is rightly frowned upon as a means of dealing with one’s political opponents. However distasteful someone’s views—and Galloway’s views are, without question, highly distasteful—there are legal and constitutional channels available to challenge them.
The problem is that Galloway has never been forced to answer in court for his incitement against Jews and Israel, his shady financial dealings through various charities like the notorious “Viva Palestina,” his brazen support for Islamist terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, and his fondness for brutal dictators like Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, Fidel Castro, and Hugo Chavez. Since he has carried on these antics with impunity, countless Galloway adversaries on social media platforms opined that the beating had “been a long time coming.”
But just how bad is Galloway? In my mind, nothing beats his craven appearance before Saddam Hussein in 1994, long after the Iraqi dictator deployed chemical weapons against both the Iranian army and the defenseless Kurdish population in the north, during which Galloway declared, “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.”
Yet there have been several moments almost as nauseating in the intervening two decades. In 2006, while in Beirut, Galloway fawned over the Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, expressing his wish that the terror master would one day become president of Lebanon. There was his 2005 election campaign in the eastern London constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow, during which his supporters hounded sitting representative Oona King, a black woman of Jewish origin, with anti-Semitic rhetoric.
There is Galloway’s insatiable appetite for headlining TV shows on some of the world’s most foul networks, including Press TV, the Iranian government-financed Holocaust denial outfit, and RTV, the English-language mouthpiece of Russian President Vladimir Putin. And there is his habit, which drives some observers to mirth and others to apoplexy, of sauntering around like a wannabe dictator, a Cuban cigar fixed in his mouth, speaking English with an Arabic-inflected accent despite the fact that he hails from the Scottish city of Dundee.
But it was the latest Galloway scandal that was probably uppermost in Neil Masterson’s mind when he spotted him and landed a series of punches and kicks. In early August, with Israel’s Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in full swing, Galloway delivered a speech in Bradford in which he declared the city to be an “Israel-Free Zone.”
“We don’t want any Israeli services,” Galloway ranted. “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.”
Jewish leaders rightly dubbed this tirade as hate speech. Galloway was even questioned by police, as there is no First Amendment in the U.K. that protects racist or anti-Semitic invective. But as of yet, no charges have been brought against him.
Therein lies the tragedy of the assault on Galloway. Over the years, there have been many opportunities to prosecute him—for unfiled paperwork relating to his charities, for his handing over of thousands of dollars in cash to Hamas leaders, for baiting British Jews with his violently anti-Zionist rhetoric, and for allegedly benefiting from the U.N.’s “Oil for Food” scandal in Iraq. Yet Galloway has never paid the price for his actions. Had any of these episodes been properly investigated, it’s conceivable that Galloway would now be sitting in a jail cell.
For anyone who cares about democracy, seeing Galloway behind bars would be a far more satisfactory outcome than seeing him writhing around on a London sidewalk, cowering beneath the blows of his assailant. The MP’s incarceration is an outcome, moreover, that is still worth pursuing.
Ben Cohen is the Shillman Analyst for JNS.org and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Commentary, Haaretz, and other publications. His book, “Some Of My Best Friends: A Journey Through Twenty-First Century Antisemitism” (Edition Critic, 2014), is now available through Amazon.