'Obnoxious' rant charge unlikely

By Jonathan Kalmus, August 14, 2014

George Galloway is unlikely to face prosecution under racism laws after he told a Leeds audience to ban visits by Israelis and mimic Bradford as an "Israel-free zone".

The Respect MP, speaking at a party meeting in Leeds last week, said: "We don't even want 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."

West Yorkshire Police says it is liaising with the Crown Prosecution Service over the comments, while dozens of complaints were made to police according to Israelis in Leeds. An online petition calling for Mr Galloway's prosecution for a racially aggravated offence has gained nearly 14,000 supporters.

A CPS spokesperson said: "We have provided West Yorkshire Police with early investigative advice on this matter and will continue to do so as requested. We have not yet been asked for a charging decision."

But UK Lawyers for Israel director, barrister Jonathan Turner, said the "obnoxious" views do not come near the level required to successfully prosecute under the Public Order Act:

"The prosecution would have to prove that either Galloway intended to stir up or instigate racial hatred or, objectively in all the circumstances, suggest racial hatred would be stirred up."

Local politicians rounded on Mr Galloway's statement, including MP David Ward, who said although anti-Israel boycotts "should not be confined to Bradford" comments about banning Israeli tourists were "dangerous."

In a symbolic act of defiance Israelis and pro-Israel supporters took selfies in Bradford on Sunday, which were spread widely on social media.

Daniel Sugarman, a 24-year old history graduate from London, said he wanted to "make it perfectly clear that it's absolutely ridiculous for a demagogue like George Galloway or anyone else to exclude one nation from a city in any democratic place."

Waving an Israeli flag in Bradford's city centre, Rabbi Shneur Odze said he went to stand up for British people who believe in fair play and openness, adding: "People in Bradford, even pro-Palestinian demonstrators, told us they didn't agree with George Galloway and we are welcome."

A an appearance by Mr Galloway at Belfast City Council's Ulster Hall scheduled later this month has sparked disquiet.

Stephen Jaffe, chair of Northern Ireland Friends of Israel, said: "There is genuine concern wider than just Israeli supporters. There is a diverse group of people concerned about his visit."

Last updated: 2:19pm, August 14 2014