George Galloway challenged by hostile audience at Finchley Question Time

By Marcus Dysch, February 6, 2015
Respect MP George Galloway

Respect MP George Galloway

Respect MP George Galloway was heckled by Jewish audience members who challenged him on his anti-Israel record during tonight’s BBC Question Time programme.

Mr Galloway, who refuses to debate with Israelis, appeared in the parliamentary constituency with the country’s largest Jewish population.

During the discussion in Finchley, north London, on Thursday evening, audience member Gabriel Rosen asked: “Why is antisemitism rising in the UK and does a certain member of the panel bear some responsibility?”

As Mr Galloway prepared to answer, audience members shouted: “You’re not welcome here.”

Mr Galloway said: “Am I on trial here? Zionism and Israel are different things from Judaism and Jewishness.

“I can’t tell you how deeply I resent this part of the programme. Antisemitism is a foul form of racism that in the 1930s led to the Holocaust. If I had been born then I would have been the first in the line in the recruitment office to fight fascism.

“Everything that has been said here with melancholy about the shadow cast by the rise in antisemitism could be said many fold about the Islamophobia and fear of Muslims in Britain and attacks on Muslim property.

“Why can’t we all oppose antisemitism and Islamophobia? Why not oppose the attacks not only on kosher, but halal?”

He said Jews and Muslims should unite to counter Ukip’s plans to ban non-stun slaughter.

“Many Jews are not Zionists and most Zionists are not Jews,” Mr Galloway said. “You’re playing a very dangerous game.”

In reference to last summer's Gaza conflict, Mr Galloway said Israel was responsible for the "mass murder of 2,136 Palestinians locked up in a prison camp in Gaza".

Audience member Holly Shaw said the MP had imported the Middle East conflict to the UK by saying he was making his Bradford constituency “Israeli free”.

“You put the British Jewish community in the frontline at a very volatile time,” she said.

Responding to the question from Mr Rosen, Guardian journalist and JC columnist Jonathan Freedland, a fellow panelist said: “I was dispirited by the new [Community Security Trust] figures published today.

“I don’t think Britain is an antisemitic country. We have put down deep roots here. People are scared of a Paris scenario.

“Some of the rhetoric around Israel gets so inflamed – it spills over.”

Other panelists included Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, her shadow counterpart Tristram Hunt, Guardian journalist and the former editor of the Catholic Herald, Christina Odone.

Ms Morgan said the British Jewish community made an enormous contribution to the country.

A small number of pro-Israel activists gathered outside the venue in Finchley.

After leaving the show Mr Galloway claimed on Twitter that people waving Israeli flags had attacked his car, kicking it as it drove him away.

A coalition of Israel-supporting groups had initially suggested they would protest outside the recording, but Sussex Friends of Israel said on Thursday that it had decided against the move.

In a statement SFI said: “We have been in touch with the police, Community Security Trust and other Jewish organisations.

“We have also been monitoring Facebook groups and Twitter. Having weighed up all the information we have received and with the safety of our community as paramount, we strongly feel that a demonstration of any kind would not be sensible at this time.”

After the Bradford West MP’s planned appearance was announced by the BBC last week, Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer said the decision to include Mr Galloway on the panel was “deliberately provocative”.

Last updated: 12:12pm, February 6 2015