George Galloway is no friend of the Palestinians

The return of George Galloway to the Parliament of the United Kingdom is, as the Board of Deputies describes, a dark day for the Jewish community – I would argue it is also a deeply concerning moment for the rest of us as well.

His successful campaign in Rochdale is a direct result of the opportunistic exploitation of the vacuum created by the abject failure of the Labour Party to stand up for Palestinian lives and liberty, and also in being extremely weak when it comes to addressing rampant Islamophobia in our political establishment and wider society.

British Muslims are very much marginalized, disaffected and discriminated against within our mainstream politics and wider society. Indeed, the recent scandal and longer term problems surrounding Islamophobia set the stage for an election victory on the back of what has been described as a surge in anti-Muslim hatred throughout the UK.

It is very apparent that the Rochdale by-election was turned into a largely single-issue campaign that honed in on the anger of many communities regarding what is viewed as a total failure to take action on the catastrophic situation in Gaza. Addressing the Labour Leader directly in his victory speech Galloway said “Keir Starmer: This is for Gaza”.

Despite the rhetoric, coupled with the fact Galloway has some support from certain groups that would claim to be left wing, I believe it is important to challenge the false assertion that this demagogue is some kind of staunch supporter of the Palestinian people. His support for Bashar al Assad while the Syrian regime was slaughtering Palestinian refugees in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus should have been enough for anyone with even the most basic principles to question Galloways claim to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

This is the man that praised the Assad regime while it was butchering Palestinians in Syria and killing them in their thousands with bombing, starvation, torture and engaging in the forced displacement of tens of thousands. He even labelled Palestinian militant groups resisting the Syrian regime’s massacres as traitors. His record is one of appropriating the Palestinian cause repeatedly at the expense of the hard work being done by credible individuals and organizations that give genuine support to Palestinians.

George Galloway is no true friend of the Palestinian people or their legitimate plight for justice, liberation and equality. Anyone who misuses the Palestinian cause as a platform to not just further their own career, but as a way of guising the tyranny and oppression of others under the pretext of supporting Palestine, exposes themselves as being completely disinterested in, and detached from the movement seeking, human rights and justice for Palestinians. Any faux solidarity or support for Palestine that stems from injustice or oppression elsewhere must be squarely rejected. It is my hope that nobody will agree to work with or support any efforts made by Galloway during what will hopefully be a very brief time in Parliament.

I also firmly believe that the Houses of Parliament are now even less safe for women, Jews, Palestinians and Muslims with George Galloway elected as a member. He has been accused of stoking division and using sexist, homophobic and antisemitic language by his opponents and his past behavior towards Naz Shah, his opponent in his thankfully failed 2015 Bradford West election campaign, shouldn’t be ignored. I am truly horrified and disturbed that Naz Shah, is now potentially at risk of bumping into Galloway in the corridors of Parliament and will have to share opposition benches with him.

Given that this is also the man who was sacked by TalkRadio over an allegedly antisemitic tweet it is an entirely legitimate fear that he will use his position as an MP to bring in some extremely dangerous ideologies, language and even incitement into Parliament. The risk that he may host events using Parliamentary resources or book rooms in order to invite even worse divisive figures into Parliament for events should also be scrutinized closely.

It is my hope that other members of parliament will lead the way in criticizing, condemning and boycotting George Galloway as much as possible. He is someone who deserves to be utterly isolated in Parliament and should be rejected by any movement that stands in solidarity with Palestinians.

About the Author
Gary Spedding is a cross-party consultant on the Israel-Palestine conflict and an applied peace and conflict researcher with a specialisation in comparative conflict analysis, conflict transformation and restorative justice.
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