Questions are being asked over the wisdom of the decision by Belfast City Council to let divisive Member of Parliament George Galloway hire the city’s taxpayer-funded main hall to give a speech this weekend.
Writing in an op-ed for the Belfast Telegraph, journalist and historian Ruth Dudley Edwards concluded that the council was right to allow him to speak, but urged the authorities to hold him accountable for his words. She said: “Let the scoundrel speak, but make sure that the police not only keep the peace, but record the event and take swift action if he crosses the legal boundary into hate speech.”
But councillors from a number of political parties have written to the council objecting to the event.
Democratic Unionist councillor Brian Kingston was one of them. In an interview with the BBC he said “We have asked for that booking to be reviewed, we think it is inappropriate at this time of tension in light of his highly controversial comments. He goes far beyond calling for a boycott, he is rejecting and demonising an entire country and its people.”
Galloway is due to appear at the council owned Ulster Hall this Saturday at an event entitled “Saturday Night with George Galloway”, which was booked by a promoter. The event has already sold out, fulfilling the MP’s predictions that the controversy would make tickets “sell like hot cakes”.
Controversy is rife because there have been numerous calls for Galloway to be charged with hate crimes following his declaration of Bradford as an “Israel free zone”.
A petition on Change.org demanding that Galloway be held accountable for the words he spoke earlier this month at a town hall meeting currently has over 18,500 signatures at the time of writing, and Yorkshire police say they are investigating his remarks.
His proposed ban has so far been unsuccessful. Last week Breitbart London reported that Ukip candidate Rabbi Shneur Odze had led a group of Jews and Israelis on a trip to the Yorkshire town in an act of gentle defiance, and received a very positive response from local people, including some on a Pro-Palestinian march. He reported that locals were keen to distance themselves from their MPs remarks.
Israel’s UK Ambassador Daniel Taub also visited Bradford at the invitation of community members who disagree with Galloway’s stance. Speaking to the local paper The Telegraph and Argus, Taub said “My sense, even from a short visit, is that the real voice of Bradford is not the voice of exclusion we hear from George Galloway, but the voice of inclusion. I don’t believe George Galloway is the real voice of Bradford. There is a long history of cooperation between Bradford and Israel.”
In a press statement he added “It’s not an Israel-free zone you are talking about, George… It’s a tolerance-free zone, a progress-free zone, a future-free zone.”
It is understood that the city has also not been emptied of Intel Pentium and Celeron processor chips, mobile phones and a vast range of medicinal drugs, all of which were developed in Israel.