George Galloway says he will refuse to host Israeli counterparts if he is elected as mayor of London, writes Justin Cohen.
The former MP has said he would snub the mayors of cities such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, but didn’t believe the capital should be Israel-free, as he had urged for Bradford last summer when he was an MP.
“I would not be able to do that, but the mayoralty could,” he told the Jewish News. “The deputy mayor could.”
He also insisted there was nothing he admired about the state of Israel, despite being presented with a list of areas, including science and high tech, where the country is a world leader.
Asked what he would say to those in the community who would be “sickened” by the idea of him at City Hall, he said: “Anybody that’s sickened by the idea of the people of London’s choice has chosen to alienate themselves. So my answer to your question is ‘nothing’. Except I have all my life opposed all racism, including anti-Semitism, which is the most deadly form of racism. I have never – will never – think a thought, say a word or do a thing which can be described as racist or anti-Semitic.
“I realise that so pervasive is the Zionist ideology that you and your newspaper represent that that’s actually not all that important to many of your readers. They are more concerned about the defence of the policies of a foreign government. There’s nothing I can do about that. I certainly cannot start apologising or being silent on the policies of a foreign government.”
But Galloway – who will be stepping in for James O’Brien on LBC next week and launched the show at Speakers Corner on Monday by setting out his vision on transport and policing – insisted he would not “be using the London mayoralty to constantly talk about Israel. I will not. I’m not running to be the president, the pope, foreign secretary or prime minister. The word Israel didn’t cross my lips until you raised it”.
Galloway, one of the most prominent critics of Israel during his time as an MP, provoked widespread anger last summer when he called for the constituency he represented to be Israel-free. Parliament has a remit over foreign policy whereas City Hall does not, he argued.
Put to him that many British Jews are proud Zionists, he said: “Jews and Israel are not the same thing. My views on Israel are an absolutely different thing from my views on British Jews, whether they’re Zionists or not. Any person in Britain is allowed to have any view that they want about the actions of a foreign country. What they’re not allowed to do is have discriminatory impulses against British people whatever their religion.
“So these are two entirely different things. It is entirely a dichotomy, and one which I am happy to seek to navigate. You may make it impossible to navigate. I suspect you’re going to try. But I’m absolutely cast iron on this. I hate racism.”