Saturday, December 09, 2017

Eight reasons not to let George Galloway back in the Labour Party


Back in 2015 I wrote a post with seven reasons to stop Galloway getting elected in Bradford West. As Andrew Murray, recent Communist Party of Britain member and close Jeremy Corbyn associate, has floated the idea that Galloway should be allowed back in the Labour Party, I've re-written that post, removing the two Bradford-specific reasons, but adding three more.

1. Galloway is a shill for dictators. Last time Galloway was an MP, he was , the third highest-earning MP in parliament. Why? Mainly, he is appearing on TV stations owned by authoritarian regimes: Iran's Press TV; the Kremlin-run RT (formerly Russia Today - on which see Nick CohenOliver BulloughJames Bloodworth); and the Lebanon-based Al Mayadeen, which is supports Assad's murderous regime in Syria and is linked to Hezbollah (in fact, some claim it is owned by a cousin of Assad, Rami Makhlouf). These stations are not just based in authoritarian countries; they are PR mouthpieces for authoritarian regimes. Not only do they systematically distort the truth in the geopolitical interests of these extreme right-wing regimes, but they also regularly host Holocaust revisionists, 9/11 deniers, British fascists and other cranks. Galloway's politics fit in well with this. Back in the 1990s, he praised the "indefatigable" Saddam Hussein. In 2006, he famosly "glorified" Hezbollah and the Shia insurrection in Iraq. In 2005, Galloway visited Syria praised Assad as a "reformer" and "the last Arab ruler". In 2013, when Assad used chemical weapons on Ghouta, Galloway denied it was possible, saying Assad wasn't "mad enough" - a phrase he apparently repeated this year when the regime used chemical weapons on Khan Shaykhun - and speculated that Israel was behind it. And more recently, he has fully endorsed the Russian airstrikes that have killed thousands more Syrians.

2. Whether or not Galloway is personally antisemitic, he contributes to an atmosphere in which antisemitic ideas move in to the mainstream. You'll know that a couple of months ago Galloway launched a libel claim against a Jewish journalist who suggested he might be antisemitic. I wouldn't suggest Galloway is personally antisemitic, but he seems to have a lot of time for people who are, and he seems very happy to cultivate an atmosphere around himself in which antisemitism can flourish. Galloway has championed antisemitic Holocaust denier Gilad Atzmon (he reads Atzmon's book to his wife in bed, apparently.)  Respect has had to apologise for antisemites again and again. In Bethnal Green in 2005, his opponent Oona King said "I have been told by several people that members of Respect have told them not to vote for me because I am Jewish". His supporters pelted her with eggs as she joined mourners at a memorial to the Jewish war dead in the East End. In Bradford in 2010-15, he declared an "Israel-free zone" and refused to debate Israelis. Before Galloway, Bradford Muslims saved its synagogue. By 2015, in an atmosphere nurtured by Galloway (and his Lib Dem twin in Bradford East) Bradford became a less comfortable place for Jews than it should be, as Ben Judah's amazing investigation showed. Galloway tweeted about Netanyahu celebrating his Muslim opponent's coming victory and retweeted his followers' aggressive tweets about the synagogueIn fact, many of his most active supporters - people he regularly retweets - come across as antisemites, Holocaust deniers and conspiracy theorists - and antisemites have been at the heart of his coterie for some time. Nasreen Khan, the ex-Respect activist who got onto a council candidate shortlist in Bradford before being revealed as an antisemite, was steeped in the culture Galloway created.

3. Galloway is a bully. Whether or not Galloway was being libelled when he was called an antisemitic, his response to the charge - immediately sending threatening legal letters - is a good example of his pattern of bullying. We can see this bullying in his interactions with Israeli students and his interactions with Syrian oppositionists. We can see it in his response to "ThingGate", the light-hearted tweet by a local small business which he threatened as if he the feudal boss of Bradford. In fact, we can see it throughout his pompous and testosterone-soaked social media style, including even his tweets to me

Most recently, we've seen his bullying in his interactions with his parliamentary opponent. Naz Shah was forced by her parents into marriage as a teenager, and her account of this has gone viral. At a very heated hustings event in Bradford, Galloway revealed that his agents in Pakistan had tracked down her marriage certificate, calling her a liar. 

4. Galloway is a rape apologist. His claim that Naz Shah's marriage was not forced because her parents consented (even though she didn't) was, as Huma Munshi puts it, "playing politics with Shah’s history as a forced marriage survivor." It indicates how reactionary Galloway's sexual politics are. Not surprisingly for someone with multiple overlapping marriages to increasingly young women (some civil, some Islamic), who works for Putin and the mullahs of Iran as his day job, and who is deeply soaked in socially conservative Catholic morals. The most striking incident was when he claimed that even if allegations against his fellow Russia Today employee Julian Assange were true, these would not constitute rape but rather just "bad sexual etiquette". Galloway just does not get that marriage without consent is rape, that sex with some not conscious and therefore not able to say no is rape. In short, he is effectively an apologist for rape.

5. Galloway is anti-Labour. While being anti-Labour isn't anywhere near of the same order of odiousness as misogyny, antisemitism or support for fascist dictators, it is a good reason not to let someone into the party. Galloway, recall, was expelled in 2003, not for opposing the Iraq war (several other party members, and indeed MPs, opposed the war without expulsion), but for inciting Iraqis to fight British troops, inciting British troops to defy orders, inciting Plymouth voters to reject Labour MPs, and threatening to stand against Labour. After his expulsion, he didn't try to fight his for Glasgow seat as an independent, but instead set about working with the fundamentally anti-democratic Socialist Workers Party to create a new party, Respect. Respect, building on the organisational reach of Islamist activists linked to Islamic Forum Europe (supporters of Jamaat-e-Islami, the South Asian fascist party which collaborated with the Pakistani army to conduct a genocide in Bangladesh in 1971, as Adam Barnett sums it up), created a rival party in Tower Hamlets and Bradford, based on social conservatism, corrupt patronage and anti-war and anti-Zionist rhetoric. Tower Hamlets is still recovering from the damage this caused at municipal level. He has stood against Labour multiple times since, typically against minority ethnic Labour candidates a black woman in Bethnal Green in 2005, an Asian man in Bradford in 2010, an Asian woman in Bradford in 2015, the first Muslim mayor of London in 2016, and an Asian man in Manchester Gorton in 2017. In the recent elections, he claimed to be have been the "real" Corbyn candidate, but it is striking that he announced his candidacies before Labour selected its candidates.  

6. Galloway's politics are divisive, communalistic and sectarian. Galloway has portrayed himself as a Muslim in Bradford and Bethnal Green, for instance in 2005 accusing Labour of pursuing a "war on Muslims" or in Bradford putting out a leaflet addressing: "Voters of the Muslim faith and Pakistani heritage in Bradford West", in which he said:
"God KNOWS who is Muslim. And he KNOWS who is not. Instinctively, so do you. Let me point out to all the Muslim brothers and sisters what I stand for... I, George Galloway, do not drink alcohol and never have. Ask yourself if the other candidate in this election can say that truthfully."
Although he reprised those themes in 2017, highlighting Kashmir and Palestine in his Gorton by-election campaign, since the Arab Spring, he has increasingly adopted Putin and Assad's Islamophobic and particularly anti-Sunni rhetoric, for instance denouncing the Syrian uprising as "the head-chopping, heart-eating maniacs of ISIS and al-Qaeda [who have] taken up arms against [the] regime." So even as he was talking about Kashmir to Muslim voters, he was dog-whistling to white voters that  "an all-Asian shortlist hand-picked by Keith Vaz is just not good enough for the people of Gorton", i.e. that the right man for the job is a white man.


7. Galloway belongs on the far right, not the left. This increasing anti-Sunni rhetoric, along with his hostility towards Jewish causes, admiration for Ba'athism, and intense social conservatism mean he has a lot in common with the hard right. So it was no surprise to see him getting along famously with Nigel Farage as they campaigned together for Brexit. It was no surprise to see him welcoming Donald Trump's inauguration in January.
It was no surprise that Farage associate Arron Banks' Westmonster magazine would bankroll his Gorton election bid in June.


8. The hat.



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Also read:
I almost didn't do this post, as Phil did one along similar lines earlier in the week. His is better of course.

Previously: