‘Dark day’ for Jews as ‘demagogue’ Galloway wins by-election

Alarm as man who called for Bradford to be an ‘Israel-free zone’ secures platform in Parliament


George Galloway celebrates with supporters at his campaign headquarters (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Veteran anti-Zionist campaigner George Galloway’s sweeping victory in the Rochdale by-election – winning a majority of almost 6,000 with almost 40 per cent of the vote – has been met with deep concern in the Jewish community.

Campaign Against Antisemitism cited his “atrocious record”, including his comment in a speech in Bradford in 2014 that he wanted the city to become an “Israel-free zone”.

He had blamed a previous election loss on the “venal, the vile, the racists and the Zionists”, saying they would “all be celebrating”.

During the Rochdale race, the Workers’ Party leader, who dubbed himself “Gaza George”, described the October 7 massacre as “a concentration camp breakout”, and Hamas terrorists as “fighters”.

In what was a bitterly-fought race in the heavily-Muslim constituency, Galloway campaigned mainly on his fierce opposition to Israel’s war against Hamas.

Galloway celebrated his victory by delivering a stark warning to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer over his support for Israel.

“Keir Starmer, this is for Gaza”, Galloway said, accusing him and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of being “two cheeks of the same backside. And they both got well and truly spanked tonight here in Rochdale”.

A Board of Deputies spokesperson told the JC: "George Galloway is a demagogue and conspiracy theorist, who has brought the politics of division and hate to every place he has ever stood for Parliament.

“His election is a dark day for the Jewish community in this country, and for British politics in general. We believe he should be shunned as a pariah by all Parliamentarians."

Russell Langer, the public affairs director of the Jewish Leadership Council, commented: “George Galloway has made a career out of the politics of division and has once again used a by-election to exploit fault lines in community cohesion. It will be worrying to many in the community that he will now have a platform in Parliament again to further spread his hatred.”

The Campaign Against Antisemitism cited examples of past inflammatory statements by Galloway, saying he had an “an atrocious record”.

The CAA pointed out that Galloway had called David Baddiel - who despite his book exposing antisemitism, Jews Don’t Count, has never been known for closely associating himself with Israel - as a “vile Israel-fanatic”, and claimed that the institutional antisemitism within the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn was really “a disgraceful campaign of Goebbelsian fiction”, a reference to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propagandist.

The CAA told the JC: “Mr Galloway has now been chosen by the voters of Rochdale to represent them and is once again an MP. Given his historic inflammatory rhetoric and the current situation faced by the Jewish community in this country, we are extremely concerned by how he may use the platform of the House of Commons in the remaining months of this parliament”.

The election was thrown into turmoil three weeks ago after Labour was forced to suspend its candidate, Azhar Ali for antisemitism. He had been recorded at a meeting claiming that Israel had deliberately dropped its defence on October 7 in order to create a pretext for invading Gaza.

Ali came a distant fourth, with just 7.7 per cent of the vote.

The pressure in Labour to soften its support for Israel will now be intense. Tony Blair’s former strategy director John McTernan told the BBC Today programme that the party should “take the result incredibly seriously”, and that it was partly a result of the chaotic scenes in Parliament over calls for a ceasefire.

A Labour spokesperson said: “We deeply regret that the Labour party was unable to field a candidate in this by-election and apologise to the people of Rochdale. George Galloway only won because Labour did not stand.

“Rochdale deserved the chance to vote for an MP that would bring communities together and deliver for working people. George Galloway is only interested in stoking fear and division. As an MP he will be a damaging force in our communities and public life.

“The Labour Party will quickly begin the process to select a new Labour candidate for the general election, and will be campaigning hard to deliver the representation and fresh start that Rochdale deserves.”

Mike Katz, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, commented: “George Galloway’s election is bad for politics, Parliament and social cohesion. His politics of division, fear and hate have no place in society. He can’t be allowed to divide our communities. We will campaign at the General Election to make sure Rochdale has the MP it deserves.”

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