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Israel-hater George Galloway returns to Britain's Parliament

Once Saddam-supporter who urged British soldiers to defy orders in Iraq wins election in Rochdale, a town with a 30% Muslim population, with campaign capitalizing on Israel-Hamas war sentiments; Jewish groups call it 'dark day,' while PM Sunak warns of extremist attacks

George Galloway, known for his strong criticism of Israel and accusations of antisemitism, has been reelected to Britain's Parliament, leveraging the discontent within his base over the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
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Galloway, 69, who was first elected to Parliament in 1987 and has been elected seven times, is returning to the House of Commons for the first time since 2015, after winning on Friday the seat assigned to him in Rochdale in northwest England, a constituency where 30% of the residents are Muslim.
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בריטניה חבר פרלמנט אנטי ישראלי אנטישמי ג'ורג' גאלוויי
בריטניה חבר פרלמנט אנטי ישראלי אנטישמי ג'ורג' גאלוויי
George Galloway, who for years lobbed harsh criticism of Israel and has been accused of antisemitism, was reelected to Britain's Parliament
(Photo: Oli SCARFF / AFP)
Galloway, who belongs to the Socialist Party of Great Britain, won almost 40% of the vote, taking advantage of the fact that Labour withdrew its support for its candidate, Azhar Ali, after he promoted a conspiracy theory that Israel knowingly allowed Hamas to carry out the attack on October 7.
Galloway, who has been accused for years by his critics of sowing tension and dividing the public, has placed the Gaza issue at the center of his campaign in Rochdale, while winking at the large Muslim minority that lives there. In his victory speech, he turned to Labour leader Keir Starmer, who is racing to a historic victory in the elections to be held in Britain later this year, and attacked him for siding with Israel.
"Keir Starmer, this is for Gaza. You have paid and will continue to pay a high price for the role you played in enabling, encouraging and covering up the catastrophe which is now taking place in occupied Palestine and the Gaza Strip," he said.
Although Starmer's Labour Party is a center-left party that is made up of many Palestinian supporters, Starmer refrained for months from calling for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, emphasizing Israel's right to defend itself.
Only two weeks ago, after constant pressure, he agreed to support the call for a cease-fire, but even then he emphasized that such a call must also include a demand for the release of the hostages and a mention of Hamas' responsibility for the outbreak of the war.

'Conspiracy theorist who brings only division and hatred'

Galloway, born in Scotland, is a politician with a rich history of controversial statements. In 1994, for example, he caused a stir when he visited the ruler of Iraq at the time, the dictator Saddam Hussein, and said to him: "Sir, I salute you for your courage, your strength, your perseverance."
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בריטניה חבר פרלמנט אנטי ישראלי אנטישמי ג'ורג' גאלוויי
בריטניה חבר פרלמנט אנטי ישראלי אנטישמי ג'ורג' גאלוויי
George Galloway placed the Gaza issue at the center of his campaign
(Photo: Niklas HALLE'N / AFP)
In 2003 he was expelled from the Labour Party after he called on British soldiers to "refuse to obey illegal orders" in Iraq. Since then he has been a constant nuisance for the party.
The harsh things he is saying now - and will likely say after he is sworn into Parliament on Monday - are expected to cause a political headache for Starmer, who is trying to present himself as a moderate centrist, but without alienating voters from the far-left.
The question being asked now in Britain is whether Galloway's success in Friday's election teaches anything about the undercurrents in British politics ahead of the general election expected later this year. The election in which Galloway won was a special election for a House of Commons seat vacated due to the death of a Labour lawmaker, and none of Britain's three traditional major parties made it into the top two.
However, some emphasize that his achievement should not be exaggerated, and that it is important to remember that his victory was largely made possible thanks to Labour's withdrawal from the race in Rochdale.
"George Galloway won only because Labour did not contest the race, and all he cares about is sowing fear and division," said the Labour Party spokesman over the weekend, in a message in which he apologized to the residents of Rochdale for the fact that the party did not field a candidate there in the end. "As a member of Parliament, Galloway will be a damaging factor in our communities and public life."
Galloway's return to Parliament this weekend provoked reactions in the Jewish community as well. The Campaign Against Antisemitism organization emphasized that Galloway has a "horrific past of incitement in the Jewish community" and that "considering his inciting words over the years and the current situation facing the Jewish community in this country, we are very concerned about how he might use the stage in the House of Representatives in the remaining months of this parliamentary term."
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בריטניה חבר פרלמנט אנטי ישראלי אנטישמי ג'ורג' גאלוויי
בריטניה חבר פרלמנט אנטי ישראלי אנטישמי ג'ורג' גאלוויי
Galloway's victory is a dark day for the Jewish community of Great Britain
(Photo: Oli SCARFF / AFP)
Community Security Trust, the largest Jewish organization in the kingdom, said that Galloway's victory was a dark day for the Jewish community of Great Britain. "George Galloway is a demagogue who believes in conspiracy theories and has brought politics of division and hatred wherever he has ever stood in Parliament," according to the organization.

Sunak on Islamists and far right: 'Two sides of same coin'

Hours after the announcement of Galloway's victory on Friday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, a member of the Conservative Party, gave a speech outside his residence at Downing 10, stressing that Britain is facing an extremist attack. He pointed to the Galloway victory as an example of this, and said that it is extremely worrying that the voters returned to parliament a candidate who "rejects the atrocities that took place on October 7 and glorifies Hezbollah."
Sunak made the remarks against the backdrop of a long series of violent incidents against lawmakers and public figures from the left and right in recent months against the war in Gaza, events for which increased security has been assigned to members of Parliament in recent days.
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רישי סונאק
רישי סונאק
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of the Conservative Party
(Photo: Reuters)
"Our democracy is under attack by extremists," Sunak said, emphasizing that Islamist extremists and right-wing extremists feed and strengthen each other, and are "two sides of the same extremist coin."
The British prime minister specifically came out against some of the participants in the pro-Palestinian demonstrations that have been held in recent months in London and other cities, and where there have been, among other things, expressions of support for Hamas.
"What started as demonstrations in our streets has degenerated into acts of intimidation, threats and planned acts of violence," he said. "Jewish children are afraid to wear their school uniforms and reveal their identity. Muslim women were attacked in the street due to the actions of a terrorist organization to which they have no connection," Sunak said.
He called on the protesters against Israel's actions in Gaza to do so in a dignified manner, emphasized that the government would back up the police, and also warned that people living in Britain by virtue of a residence visa granted to them may suffer a visa denial "if they choose to spread hatred."
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