The up­side to Gal­loway’s win

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment - Ge­of­frey Al­der­man

ON THE mor­row of Ge­orge Gal­loway’s vic­tory in Brad­ford West, a col­league phoned to ask me whether this was “a good thing”. For a mo­ment I won­dered what was meant by this ques­tion. “Democ­racy,” I said, “is a good thing, and if Brad­ford West wants a cun­ning, ex­tro­vert, smooth-talk­ing, pub­lic­i­ty­seek­ing mav­er­ick po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tor as its MP, so be it.” This re­sponse didn’t sat­isfy my in­ter­roga­tor. “Hadn’t Gal­loway ex­ploited the Mus­lim vote? Wasn’t this in­tro­duc­ing eth­nic­ity and re­li­gion into pol­i­tics? Wasn’t this di­vi­sive and rep­re­hen­si­ble?’

Well, of course Gal­loway ex­ploited the Mus­lim vote. He’d have been a fool had he not done so (a show­man Gal­loway might be, but he’s no fool). Much of his cam­paign was fo­cused on ex­ploit­ing An­glo-mus­lim feel­ings of alien­ation from the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment and pris­ing Brad­ford’s Mus­lim vot­ers away from their his­toric iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with Labour. One of the levers he used to achieve this was to play on Labour’s sup­port for mil­i­tary ac­tion in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many — per­haps most — An­glo-mus­lims re­gard this ac­tion as an at­tack on Is­lam. Of course, we can all agree that the man­ner in which Gal­loway played this par­tic­u­lar card was en­tirely cyn­i­cal — he was a sup­porter (in­deed a friend) of the mass mur­derer Sad­dam Hus­sein and he has been on friendly terms with an­other Arab mass mur­derer, Bashar As­sad. But to the short-sighted vot­ers of Brad­ford this clearly sig­ni­fied noth­ing.

The choice at Brad­ford West was be­tween a Mus­lim Labour can­di­date who could be trusted only to play to Ed Miliband’s tune (did Ed’s Jewish­ness also, I won­der, play a part?), and an in­fi­del (Gal­loway is a Catholic) who could be guar­an­teed to op­pose ev­ery­thing Miliband stood for. A “no-brainer”.

As for Gal­loway’s cam­paign be­ing “di­vi­sive and rep­re­hen­si­ble,” so what? All of pol­i­tics is di­vi­sive and much of it is rep­re­hen­si­ble. The smug, sec­ond-rate po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment with which the UK is cur­rently sad­dled likes to feel that it alone has the right to set the boundaries of po­lit­i­cal de­bate. Now it has re­ceived a well-de­served kick in the pri­vates. And a good thing, too.

I was about to put the phone down when the col­league who’d had the good sense to con­tact me bowled the goo­gly I sus­pected would come down the wicket. “Surely,” he pleaded, “as a Jew, you must feel un­happy at Gal­loway’s vic­tory.”

Of course, in one sense, I am. Frankly, I would rather the show­man and Arab na­tion­al­ist had not been granted yet an­other op­por­tu­nity to grace the Palace of West­min­ster with his pres­ence. But an elec­tion out­come is an elec­tion out­come. And within the cloud that will now move south from the West Rid­ing of York­shire to that Palace by the Thames there is — cer­tainly for us Jews — a sil­ver lin­ing.

Gal­loway’s cam­paign was suf­fused with pro-pales­tinian rhetoric. In a re­mark­able let­ter that his Re­spect Party dis­trib­uted in mosques through­out the con­stituency, he de­clared: “I, Ge­orge Gal­loway, came to the side of the peo­ple of Pales­tine in their agony.” Whether he did or did not is be­side the point, which is that he and his ad­vis­ers clearly thought this a point worth mak­ing. In this sense, Gal­loway not only played the Mus­lim card. He played the anti-is­raeli card. And won. Not for noth­ing did he feel com­pelled to tweet, post-elec­tion: “Long live Pales­tine, free, Arab, dig­ni­fied.”

His pres­ence at West­min­ster will be more sig­nif­i­cant than that of Baroness Tonge. She is un­elected. Gal­loway can right­fully claim, from his con­sid­er­able Mus­lim elec­torate, a man­date that en­com­passes many things, in­clud­ing a primeval hos­til­ity to the Jewish state. Don’t take my word for this. Trawl through ma­te­rial on­line — for in­stance his nasty com­ments about Is­rael and Zion­ism re­port­edly made dur­ing an Amer­i­can ra­dio in­ter­view in 2005.

And re­mem­ber that, be­hind Gal­loway, is his party. On its web­site, Re­spect cur­rently ad­ver­tises a “sum­mer univer­sity,” to be held in Beirut in Septem­ber, at which “the Pales­tinian right of re­turn” will be the ma­jor theme. This is — of course — a proxy for the destruc­tion of the Jewish state.

So Gal­loway’s sen­sa­tional woo­ing of the Mus­lims of Brad­ford has cleared the air. And for that I for one am very grate­ful.

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