|George Galloway (Photo credit: DavidMartynHunt)|
George Galloway (born 16 August 1954) is a British politician, author, journalist, and broadcaster, and the Respect Member of Parliament (MP) forBradford West.
After first coming to public attention as the General Secretary of War On Want (1983-87), Galloway was elected a Labour Party MP (until 2003) in the1987 general election representing Glasgow Hillhead and (from 1997) its successor constituency Glasgow Kelvin. He remained the MP for the later seat until 2005. In October 2003, Galloway had been expelled from the Labour Party after being found guilty of four of the five charges of bringing the Labour Party into disrepute.
He became a founding member of the left-wing Respect in 2004, and was elected as the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow at the general election the following year. In 2010, Galloway unsuccessfully contested the seat of Poplar and Limehouse, and in 2011 he unsuccessfully contested theGlasgow list for the Scottish Parliament, before being returning as a Westminster MP at the 2012 Bradford West by-election.
In the late 1980s Hansard records him delivering a ferocious assault on the Ba’ath regime, and Galloway opposed Saddam’s regime until the United States-led Gulf War in 1991. Galloway visited Iraq in 1994 and delivered a speech to Saddam Hussein which ended in English with the statement “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.” He has always stated that he was addressing the Iraqi people in the speech.Galloway testified to the United States Senate in 2005 over alleged illicit payments from the United Nations‘ Oil for Food Programme.
Galloway is a campaigner supporting the Palestinian side of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict who advocates an anti-Zionist stance.
Early life and career
Galloway was born in the Lochee area of Dundee, to a Scottish trade unionist father and Irish republican mother. He describes himself as “born in an attic in a slum tenement in the Irish quarter of Dundee, which is known as Tipperary”. He grew up in Charleston and attended Charleston Primary and then Harris Academy, a non-denominational school. During his school years at Charleston Primary and Harris Academy, he used to play football for the school team. As an amateur footballer, he went on to play for West End United U12s, Lochee Boys Club U16s and St Columbus U18s.
Labour Party organiser
Galloway joined the Labour Party at 13 years old and, within five years, was secretary of the Dundee West Constituency Labour Party. His enthusiasm led him to become Vice-Chairman of the Labour Party in the City of Dundee and a member of the Scottish Executive Committee in 1975. On 5 May 1977, he contested his first election campaign in the Scottish district elections, but failed to hold the safe Labour seat at Gillburn, Dundee. He was defeated by the Independent candidate Bunty Turley. Galloway became the secretary organiser of Dundee Labour Party—the youngest ever Scottish chairman—in March 1981 at 26 years old.
In his mid-20s after a trip to Beirut in 1977, he became a passionate supporter of Palestine stating “barely a week after my return I made a pledge to devote the rest of my life to the Palestinian and Arab cause”. He supported Dundee City Council which flew the Palestinian flag inside the City Chambers and was involved in the twinning of Dundee with Nablus in 1980, although he did not take part in the visit of Lord Provost Gowans, Ernie Ross MP and three City Councillors to Nablus and Kuwait in April 1981.
In 1981, Galloway wrote an article in Scottish Marxist supporting Communist Party affiliation with the Labour Party. In response, Denis Healey, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, tried and failed to remove Galloway from the list of Prospective Parliamentary Candidates. Healey lost his motion by 13 votes to 5. Galloway had argued that this was his own personal viewpoint, not that of the Labour Party. He once quipped that, in order to overcome a £1.5 million deficit which had arisen in the city budget, he, Ernie Ross and leading Councillors should be placed in the stocks in the city square: “we would allow people to throw buckets of water over us at 20p a time.”
Galloway stood for a place on the Labour Party National Executive Committee in 1986; in a large field of candidates he finished second from the bottom. At the 1986 Labour Party Conference, he made a strong attack on the Labour Party’s Deputy Leader and Shadow Chancellor Roy Hattersley for not favouring exchange controls.
War on Want
From November 1983 to 1987, Galloway was General Secretary of War on Want, a British charity that campaigns against poverty worldwide. In this post he was much travelled, writing eye-witness accounts of the famine in Eritrea in 1985 which were published in The Sunday Times and The Spectator.
The Daily Mirror accused him of living luxuriously at the charity’s expense. An independent auditor cleared him of misuse of funds, though he did repay £1,720 in contested expenses. He later reportedly won £155,000 from “The Mirror in an unrelated libel lawsuit.
More than two years after Galloway stepped down to serve as a Labour MP, the UK Charity Commission investigated War on Want. It found accounting irregularities from 1985 to 1989, but little evidence that money was used for non-charitable purposes. The commission said responsibility lay largely with auditors, and did not single out individuals for blame.
Member of Parliament for a Glasgow seat
In the 1987 election, Galloway won Glasgow Hillhead constituency for the Labour Party from Roy Jenkins of the Social Democratic Party (who had briefly led that Party earlier in the decade) with a majority of 3,251. Although known for his left-wing views, Galloway was never a member of Labour’s leftist groupings of MPs, the Tribune Group or the Socialist Campaign Group. In 2002, Galloway stated “I am on the anti-imperialist left… If you are asking did I support the Soviet Union, yes I did. Yes, I did support the Soviet Union, and I think the disappearance of the Soviet Union is the biggest catastrophe of my life.”
Asked about a War on Want conference on Mykonos, Greece during his previous job, the new MP replied “I travelled and spent lots of time with people in Greece, many of whom were women, some of whom were known carnally to me. I actually had sexual intercourse with some of the people in Greece.” By then separated from his first wife, the statement put Galloway on the front pages of the tabloid press and in February 1988 the Executive Committee of his Constituency Labour Party passed a vote of no confidence in him.
He gained re-selection when challenged by Trish Godman (wife of fellow MP Norman Godman) in June 1989, but failed to get a majority of the electoral college on the first ballot. This was the worst result for any sitting Labour MP who was reselected; 13 of the 26 members of the Constituency Party’s Executive Committee resigned that August, indicating their dissatisfaction with the result.
In 1990, a classified advertisement appeared in the Labour-Left weekly Tribune headed “Lost: MP who answers to the name of George”, “balding and has been nicknamed gorgeous”, claiming that the lost MP had been seen in Romania but had not been to a constituency meeting for a year. A telephone number was given which turned out to be for the Groucho Club in London, from which Galloway had recently been excluded (although subsequently readmitted). Galloway threatened legal action and pointed out that he had been to five constituency meetings. He eventually settled for an out-of-court payment by Tribune.
The leadership election of the Labour Party in 1992 saw Galloway voting for the eventual winners, John Smith for Leader and Margaret Beckett as Deputy Leader. In 1994, after Smith’s death, Galloway declined to cast a vote in the leadership election (one of only three MPs to do so). In a debate with the Leader of the Scottish National Party Alex Salmond, Galloway responded to one of Salmond’s jibes against the Labour Party by declaring “I don’t give a fuck what Tony Blair thinks.”
Although facing a challenge for the Labour nomination for the seat of Glasgow Kelvin in 1997, Galloway defeated Shiona Waldron. He was unchallenged for the nomination in 2001.
In the 1997 and 2001 elections Galloway was the Labour candidate for the seat of Glasgow Kelvin, winning with majorities of over 16,000 and 12,000 respectively. During the 2001 Parliament, he voted against the Whip 27 times. During the 2001–02 session he was the 9th most rebellious Labour MP.
Expulsion from the Labour Party
Galloway became the Vice President of the Stop the War Coalition in 2001. He is actively involved, often speaking on StWC platforms at anti-war demonstrations. From this position Galloway made many aggressive and controversial statements in opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He reportedly said in a 28 March 2003 interview with Abu Dhabi TV that Tony Blair and George W. Bush had “lied to the British Air Force and Navy, when they said the battle of Iraq would be very quick and easy. They attacked Iraq like wolves….” and added, “… the best thing British troops can do is to refuse to obey illegal orders.” This incitement was later among the formal reasons for his expulsion from the Labour Party.
He called the Labour Government “Tony Blair’s lie machine.” The Observer reported in 2003 that the Director of Public Prosecutions looked at a request by the solicitor Justin Hugheston-Roberts to pursue Galloway under the Incitement to Disaffection Act, 1934, though no prosecution occurred.
On 18 April, The Sun published an interview with Tony Blair who said: “His comments were disgraceful and wrong. The National Executive will deal with it.” The General Secretary of the Labour Party, citing Galloway’s outspoken opinion of Blair and Bush in their pursuit of the Iraq war, suspended him from holding office in the party on 6 May 2003, pending a hearing on charges that he had violated the party’s constitution by “bringing the Labour Party into disrepute through behaviour that is prejudicial or grossly detrimental to the Party”. The National Constitutional Committee held a hearing on 22 October 2003, to consider the charges, taking evidence from Galloway himself, from other party witnesses, viewing media interviews, and hearing character testimony from former Cabinet Minister Tony Benn, among others. The following day, the committee decided in favour of the charge of Galloway “bringing the party into disrepute”, and expelled Galloway from the Labour Party. According to Ian McCartney, then Labour Party chairman, Galloway was the only Labour MP who “incited foreign forces to rise up against British troops” in the Iraq War. Galloway said after the NCC had decided on his expulsion: “This was a politically motivated kangaroo court whose verdict had been written in advance in the best tradition of political show trials.”
In January 2004, Galloway announced he would be working with members of the Socialist Alliance in England and Wales, and others, under the name Respect – The Unity Coalition, generally referred to simply as Respect.
Galloway later announced that he would not force a by-election and intended not to contest the next general election in Glasgow. Galloway’s Glasgow Kelvin seat was split between three neighbouring constituencies for the May 2005 general election. One of these, the new Glasgow Central constituency, might have been his best chance with a relatively large Muslim vote. However, his long-time friend Mohammad Sarwar, the first Muslim Labour MP and a strong opponent of the Iraq War also intended to go for it; Galloway did not wish to challenge him. After the European election results became known, Galloway announced that he would stand in Bethnal Green and Bow, the area where Respect had its strongest election results and where the sitting Labour MP,Oona King, supported the Iraq War. On 2 December, despite speculation that he might stand in Newham, he confirmed that he would be the candidate for Bethnal Green and Bow.
The ensuing electoral campaign in the seat proved to be a difficult one with heated rhetoric. The BBC reported that Galloway had himself been threatened with death by extreme Islamists from the banned organisation al-Ghurabaa. All the major candidates united in condemning the threats and violence. On 5 May, Galloway won the seat by 823 votes and made a fiery acceptance speech, saying that Tony Blair had the blood of 100,000 people on his hands and denouncing the returning officer over alleged discrepancies in the electoral process. When challenged in a subsequent televised interview by Jeremy Paxman as to whether he was happy to have removed one of the few black women in Parliament, Galloway replied “I don’t believe that people get elected because of the colour of their skin. I believe people get elected because of their record and because of their policies.” Jeremy Paxman during the same BBC interview accused Galloway of being a demagogue.
Oona King later told BBC Radio 4‘s Today programme that she found Paxman’s line of question inappropriate. “He shouldn’t be barred from running against me because I’m a black woman. … I was not defined, or did not wish to be defined, by either my ethnicity or religious background.”
“It’s good to be back”, Galloway said on being sworn in as MP for Bethnal Green after the May election. He pledged to represent “the people that New Labour has abandoned” and to “speak for those who have nobody else to speak for them.”
Parliamentary participation statistics
After he was suspended and later expelled from the Labour Party, Galloway’s participation in Parliamentary activity fell to minimal levels. After speaking in a debate on Iraq on 25 March 2003, Galloway did not intervene in any way in Parliamentary debates or ask any oral questions for the remainder of the Parliament and his participation in House of Commons divisions was among the lowest of any MP.
Following the 2005 election, his participation rate remained low, and at the end of the year he had participated in only 15% of Divisions in the House of Commons since the general election, placing him 634th of 645 MPs. Of the eleven MPs below him in the rankings, one was the then Prime Minister Tony Blair, five were Sinn Féin members who have an abstentionist policy toward taking their seats, three were the speaker and deputy speakers and therefore ineligible to vote, and two had died since the election. Galloway claims a record of unusual activity at a “grass roots” level. His own estimate is that he made 1,100 public speeches between September 2001 and May 2005.
In September 2009, he still had one of the lowest voting participation records in parliament at 8.4% as a total of 93 votes out of a possible 1,113 divisions.
Winding up the debate for the government in the last moments allotted, Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram described Galloway’s remarks as “disgraceful” and accused Galloway of “dipping his poisonous tongue in a pool of blood.” No time remained for Galloway to intervene and he ran afoul of the Deputy Speaker when trying to make a point of order about Ingram’s attack. He later went on to describe Ingram as a “thug” who had committed a “foul-mouthed, deliberately timed, last-10-seconds smear.” The men had previously clashed over claims in Galloway’s autobiography (see below).
In an interview with Piers Morgan for GQ Magazine in May 2006, Galloway was asked whether a suicide bomb attack on Tony Blair with “no other casualties” would be morally justifiable “as revenge for the war on Iraq?”. He answered “Yes it would be morally justified. I am not calling for it, but if it happened it would be of a wholly different moral order to the events of 7/7. It would be entirely logical and explicable, and morally equivalent to ordering the deaths of thousands of innocent people in Iraq as Blair did.” He further stated that if he knew about such a plan that he would inform the relevant authorities, saying: “I would [tell the police], because such an operation would be counterproductive because it would just generate a new wave of anti-Muslim, anti-Arab sentiment whipped up by the press. It would lead to new draconian anti-terror laws, and would probably strengthen the resolve of the British and American services in Iraq rather than weaken it. So yes, I would inform the authorities.” Christopher Hitchens claimed this to be a call for an attack while appearing not to.
Pakistan coup of 1999
At the time of the 1999 Musharraf coup in Pakistan, he wrote, “In poor third world countries like Pakistan, politics is too important to be left to petty squabbling politicians. Pakistan is always on the brink of breaking apart into its widely disparate components. Only the armed forces can really be counted on to hold such a country together… Democracy is a means, not an end in itself and it has a bad name on the streets of Karachi and Lahore.” Nonetheless, on his TalkSport talk radio show, Galloway has been outspoken in criticising the former Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf.
Record on LGBT issues
In 1994, Galloway voted in support of the equalisation of the age of consent for homosexuality (which was then 21 years) with that for heterosexuality at 16 years. He also voted against a reduction of the homosexual age of consent to 18. He voted in favour of permitting unmarried and gay couples to adopt children. Critics have claimed that his involvement in the leadership ofRespect – which made no explicit mention of gay rights in its 2005 election manifesto and accepted donations from Islamic Party members – raise questions about commitment to those issues, as does his rather poor voting record in parliamentary divisions, 80% of which he missed, during the 2001-5 parliament while still a Glasgow MP. However, Respect’s 2005 conference, in which Galloway took part, resolved that explicit defence of equal rights and calls for the end to all discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people would be made in all of its manifestos and principal election materials.
Galloway’s assertion on The Wright Stuff chat show (13 March 2008) that the executed boyfriend of homosexual Iranian asylum seeker Mehdi Kazemi was executed for sex crimes rather than for being homosexual received criticism from Peter Tatchell, among others. Galloway also stated on The Wright Stuff that the case of gay rights in Iran was being used by supporters of war with Iran. In February 2013, he voted in favour of same-sex marriage.
In 1998 Galloway founded the Mariam Appeal, intended “to campaign against sanctions on Iraq which are having disastrous effects on the ordinary people of Iraq”. The campaign was named after Mariam Hamza, a child flown by the fund from Iraq to Britain to receive treatment for leukaemia. The intention was to raise awareness of the suffering and death of hundreds of thousands of other Iraqi children due to poor health conditions and lack of suitable medicines and facilities, and to campaign for the lifting of the Iraq sanctions that many maintained were responsible for that situation.
The fund received scrutiny during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, after a complaint that Galloway used some of the donation money to pay his travel expenses. Galloway said that the expenses were incurred in his capacity as the Appeal’s chairman. Although the Mariam Appeal was never a registered charity and never intended to be such, it was investigated by the Charity Commission. The report of this year-long inquiry, published in June 2004, found that the Mariam Appeal was doing charitable work (and so ought to have registered with them), but did not substantiate allegations that any funds had been misused.
A further Charity Commission Report published on 7 June 2007 found that the Appeal had received funds from Fawaz Zureikat that originated from the Oil For Food programme, and concluded that: “Although Mr Galloway, Mr Halford and Mr Al-Mukhtar have confirmed that they were unaware of the source of Mr Zureikat’s donations, the Commission has concluded that the charity trustees should have made further enquiries when accepting such large single and cumulative donations to satisfy themselves as to their origin and legitimacy. The Commission’s conclusion is that the charity trustees did not properly discharge their duty of care as trustees to the Appeal in respect of these donations.” They added: “The Commission is also concerned, having considered the totality of the evidence before it, that Mr Galloway may also have known of the connection between the Appeal and the Programme”. Galloway responded: “I’ve always disputed the Commission’s retrospective view that a campaign to win a change in national and international policy—a political campaign—was, in fact, a charity.”
Viva Palestina aid convoy
In response to the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict, in January 2009 Galloway instigated the Viva Palestina aid convoy to the Gaza Strip. On 14 February 2009, after raising over £1 million-worth of humanitarian aid in four weeks, Galloway and hundreds of volunteers launched the convoy comprising approximately 120 vehicles intended for use in the Strip, including a fire engine donated by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), 12 ambulances, a boat and trucks full of medicines, tools, clothes, blankets and gifts for children. The 5,000-mile route passed through Belgium, France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.
On 20 February, Galloway condemned Lancashire Police after they arrested nine of the volunteers under the Terrorism Act a day before the convoy’s launch. Galloway said: “The arrests were clearly deliberately timed for the eve of the departure of the convoy. Photographs of the high-profile snatch on the M65 were immediately fed to the press to maximise the newsworthiness of the smear that was being perpetrated on the convoy.” Viva Palestina reported an 80% drop in donations following the broadcast of the arrests and the police allegations on the BBC.
The convoy arrived in Gaza on 9 March, accompanied by approximately 180 extra trucks of aid donated by Libya’s Gaddafi Foundation. All the British aid was delivered with the exception of the fire engine and boat which were blocked by the Egyptian government. The boat is to be delivered later in a flotilla of craft which Viva Palestina intends to take into Gaza harbour. On 10 March 2009, Galloway announced at a press conference in Gaza City attended by several senior Hamas officials: “We are giving you now 100 vehicles and all of their contents, and we make no apology for what I am about to say. We are giving them to the elected government of Palestine,” adding he would personally donate three cars and 25,000 pounds to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya.
The Charity Commission opened a statutory inquiry into Viva Palestina on 23 March 2009, citing concerns over the finances, use of funds for non-charitable purposes, and the lack of “substantive response” to their repeated requests. George Galloway admitted that the appeal had not responded to the requests, but argued that a substantive response was anyway due to be passed to the Charity Commission only hours after they launched the inquiry. He argued that the Charity Commission’s actions were suspicious, hinting that they might be politically motivated. On 8 April 2009, Galloway joined Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic to launch Viva Palestina US.
A third Viva Palestina convoy began at the end of 2009. On 8 January 2010, Galloway and his colleague Ron McKay were deported from Egypt immediately upon entry from Gaza. They had been attempting to help take about 200 aid trucks into the Gaza Strip. They were driven by the police to the airport and put on a plane to London. The previous day an Egyptian soldier had been killed during a clash at the border with Hamas loyalists. Several Palestinians were also injured.
The Foreign Ministry of Egypt released a statement reading: “George Galloway is considered persona non grata and will not be allowed to enter into Egypt again”. Shortly after his deportation Galloway said, “It is a badge of honour to be deported by a dictatorship” and “I’ve been thrown out of better joints than that.” He also vowed to go back to the Gaza strip. The Daily Recorddescribed his mood as “defiant”.
Daily Telegraph libel case
On 22 April 2003, the Daily Telegraph published news articles and comment describing documents found by its reporter David Blair in the ruins of the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. The documents purported to be records of meetings between Galloway and Iraqi intelligence agents, and state that he had received £375,000 per year from the proceeds of the Oil-for-Food Programme. Galloway completely denied the story, and pointed to the nature of the discovery within an unguarded, bombed-out building as being questionable. He instigated legal action against the newspaper, which was heard in the High Court from 14 November 2004.
On 2 December, Justice David Eady ruled that the story had been “seriously defamatory”, and that the Telegraph was “obliged to compensate Mr Galloway … and to make an award for the purposes of restoring his reputation”. Galloway was awarded damages of £150,000 plus, after a failed appeal in 2006, legal costs of about £2 million.
The libel case was regarded by both sides as an important test of the Reynolds qualified-privilege defence. The Daily Telegraph did not attempt to claim justification (where the defendant seeks to prove the truth of the defamatory reports): “It has never been the Telegraph’s case to suggest that the allegations contained in these documents are true”. Instead, the paper sought to argue that it acted responsibly because the allegations it reported were of sufficient public interest to outweigh the damage caused to Galloway’s reputation. However the trial judge did not accept this defence saying the suggestion such as Galloway was guilty of “treason”, “in Saddam’s pay”, and being “Saddam’s little helper” caused him to conclude “the newspaper was not neutral but both embraced the allegations with relish and fervour and went on to embellish them”. Additionally Galloway had not been given a fair or reasonable opportunity to make inquiries or meaningful comment upon the documents before they were published.
The issue of whether the documents were genuine was likewise not at issue at the trial. However, it later transpired that the expert hired by Galloway’s lawyers, a forensic expert named Oliver Thorne, said “In my opinion the evidence found fully supports that the vast majority of the submitted documents are authentic.” He added “It should be noted that I am unable to comment on the veracity of the information within the disputed Telegraph documents, whether or not they are authentic.”
Other libels and claims
The Christian Science Monitor also published a story on 25 April 2003, stating that they had documentary evidence that he had received “more than ten million dollars” from the Iraqi regime. However, on 20 June 2003, the Monitor reported that their own investigation had concluded the documents were sophisticated forgeries, and apologised. Galloway rejected the newspaper’s apology, asserted that the affair was a conspiracy against him, and continued a libel claim against the paper.
The Christian Science Monitor settled the claim, paying him an undisclosed sum in damages, on 19 March 2004. It emerged that these documents had first been offered to the Daily Telegraph, but they had rejected them. The documents’ origin remains obscure.
In January 2004, a further set of allegations were made in Al-Mada, a newspaper in Iraq. The newspaper claimed to have found documents in the Iraqi national oil corporation showing that Galloway received (through an intermediary) some of the profits arising from the sale of 19.5 million barrels (3,100,000 m³) of oil. Galloway acknowledged that money had been paid into the Mariam Appeal by Iraqi businessmen who had profited from the UN-run programme, but denied benefiting personally, and maintained that, in any case, there was nothing illicit about this:
|“||It is hard to see what is dishonourable, let alone “illicit”, about Arab nationalist businessmen donating some of the profits they made from legitimate UN-controlled business with Iraq to anti-sanctions campaigns, as opposed to, say, keeping their profits for themselves.||”|
In May 2005, a US Senate committee report accused Galloway along with former French minister Charles Pasqua of receiving the right to buy oil under the UN’s oil-for-food scheme. The report was issued by the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Senator Norm Coleman, a Republican from Minnesota. The report cited further documents from the Iraqi oil ministry and interviews with Iraqi officials.
Coleman’s committee said Pasqua had received allocations worth 11 million barrels (1,700,000 m3) from 1999 to 2000, and Galloway received allocations worth 20 million barrels (3,200,000 m3) from 2000 to 2003. The allegations against Pasqua and Galloway, both outspoken opponents of U.N. sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s, have been made before, including in an October report by US arms inspector Charles Duelfer as well as in the various purported documents described earlier in this section. But Coleman’s report provided several new details. It also included information from interrogations of former high-ranking officials in US custody, including former Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz and former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan. Among the claims is that there is new evidence to suggest that the Mariam Appeal, a children’s leukaemia charity founded by Galloway, was in fact used to conceal oil payments. The report cites Ramadan as saying under interrogation that Galloway was allocated oil “because of his opinions about Iraq.”
Socialist Worker reported what they say is evidence that the key Iraqi oil ministry documents regarding oil allocations, in which Galloway’s name appears six times (contracts M/08/35, M/09/23, M/10/38, M/11/04, M/12/14, M/13/48) have been tampered with. They published a copy of contract M/09/23 and allege that George Galloway’s name appears to have been added in a different font and at a different angle to the rest of the text on that line. In these documents (relating to oil allocations 8–13), Galloway is among just a few people whose nationality is never identified, whilst Zureikat is the only one whose nationality is identified in one instance but not in others. Galloway combatively countered the charges by accusing Coleman and other pro-war politicians of covering up the “theft of billions of dollars of Iraq’s wealth… on your watch” that had occurred under a post-invasion Coalition Provisional Authority, committed by “Halliburton and other American corporations… with the connivance of your own government.”
On 17 May 2005, the committee held a hearing concerning specific allegations (of which Galloway was one part) relating to improprieties surrounding the Oil-for-Food programme. Attending Galloway’s oral testimony and enquiring of him were two of the thirteen committee members: the chair (Coleman) and the ranking Democrat (Carl Levin).
Upon Galloway’s arrival in the US, he told Reuters, “I have no expectation of justice from a group of Christian fundamentalist and Zionist activists under the chairmanship of a neo-con George Bush”. Galloway described Coleman as a “pro-war, neo-con hawk and the lickspittle of George W. Bush”, who, he said, sought revenge against anyone who did not support the invasion of Iraq.
In his testimony, Galloway made the following statements in response to the allegations against him:
|“||Senator, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader. and neither has anyone on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one – and neither has anyone on my behalf. Now I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice. I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And you call that justice.||”|
He questioned the reliability of evidence given by former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan, stating that the circumstances of his captivity by American forces call into question the authenticity of the remarks. Galloway also pointed out an error in the report, where documents by The Daily Telegraph were said to have covered an earlier period from those held by the Senate. In fact the report’s documents referred to the same period as those used by The Daily Telegraph, though Galloway pointed out that the presumed forgeries pertaining to the Christian Science Monitorreport did refer to an earlier period.
Galloway also denounced the invasion of Iraq as having been based on “a pack of lies” in his Senate testimony. The US media, in reporting his appearance, emphasised his blunt remarks on the war. The British media gave generally more positive coverage; TV presenter Anne Robinson said Galloway “quite frankly put the pride back in British politics” when introducing him for a prime time talk show.
A report by the then-majority Republican Party staff of the United States Senate Committee on Investigations published in October 2005 asserted that Galloway had given false or misleadingtestimony under oath when appearing before them. The report exhibits bank statements it claims show that £85,000 of proceeds from the Oil-for-Food Programme had been paid to Galloway’s then-wife Amineh Abu-Zayyad. Galloway reiterated his denial of the charges and challenged the US Senate committee to charge him with perjury. He claimed Coleman’s motive was revenge over the embarrassment of his appearance before the committee in May.
Stance on the Islamic Republic of Iran
Galloway has attracted criticism from both the Left and the Right for his comments relating to the regime in Iran, and his work for the state-run satellite television channel, Press TV. Scott Long, writing in The Guardian, criticised Galloway’s claim that “homosexuals are not executed in Iran, just rapists”, pointing out that current law in the country stipulates that “Penetrative sex acts between men can bring death on the first conviction”. Long-time Gay Rights activist Peter Tatchell, also writing in The Guardian, accused Galloway of spouting “Iranian Propaganda”, continuing: “His claim that lesbian and gay people are not at risk of execution in Iran is refuted by every reputable human rights organisation, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and the International Lesbian and Gay Association.” Galloway argued that Western governments should accept theelection of the conservative President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Clashes with the News of the World
Galloway says that the Metropolitan Police Service told him they had evidence he was targeted by Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator working for the News of the World who was jailed for phone hacking in 2007. In 2010 Galloway began legal action for breach of privacy. In 2012 it was reported that Galloway had settled out of court, along with many other victims of phone hacking. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but he had previously claimed to have been offered “substantial sums of money” by NOTW to settle out of court.
The settlement with News International in respect of phone-hacking is understood not to cover a legal dispute regarding the activities of Mazher Mahmood, an undercover reporter for the News of the World. In March 2006 Galloway claimed in a statement that Mahmood, who uses a disguise as a sheikh to frame celebrities, targeted him in an alleged sting operation. Galloway claims that Mahmood and an accomplice tried but failed to implicate him in illegal party funding, and to agree with antisemitic statements. Galloway wrote to the Metropolitan police commissioner and theSpeaker of the House of Commons about the incident. He also released photographs of Mahmood and revealed other aspects of his activities. The News of the World lost a High Courtaction to prevent publication of photographs of Mahmood.
Forbidden to enter Canada
On 20 March 2009, Galloway was advised by the Canada Border Services Agency he was deemed inadmissible to Canada on “security grounds” due to his involvement in the Viva Palestina aid convoy to the Gaza Strip following the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict. The Gaza Strip is governed by Hamas, which is on Canada’s list of terrorist organisations. This resulted from a personal donation of £25,000 made by Galloway ten days earlier. The Canadians ruled (and maintained on appeal) that this constituted explicit support for Hamas, although Galloway argued it was not the case as the money was intended to be used for aid purposes.
Galloway was on a lecture tour of North America, and was due to speak on war prevention and Gaza for a United Church congregation in Toronto, as well as for events in Mississauga, Ottawa andMontreal. Galloway was also described as an “infandous street-corner Cromwell” by Alykhan Velshi, communications director for Jason Kenney, Canada’s Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. Galloway described the ban as “idiotic” and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was accused by Jack Layton, leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP), of being a “minister of censorship.” Toronto Coalition to Stop the War, the group who invited Galloway to Canada, sought an emergency injunction to allow for his entry into Canada for the first speech in Toronto citing their rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression. On 30 March 2009, the Federal Court of Canada upheld the decision of the Canada Border Services Agency. Justice Luc Martineau cited non-citizens “do not have an unqualified right to enter in Canada. The admission of a foreign national to this country is a privilege determined by statute, regulation or otherwise, and not as a matter of right.” The judge also noted “a proper factual record and the benefit of full legal argument…are lacking at the present time.” Subsequently, Galloway cancelled his Canadian tour and instead, delivered his speech over video link from New York to his Canadian audiences.
Galloway was allowed entry into Canada in October 2010, after a judge concluded that the original ban had been undertaken for political reasons. He continued to criticise Jason Kenney, saying that the minister had “damaged Canada’s reputation” and had used “anti-terrorism” as a means of suppressing political debate. Galloway has also threatened to sue the Canadian governmentfor the banning incident.
Julian Assange comments
On 20 August 2012, Galloway provoked controversy and criticism with his comments on the legal case against Wikileaks’ Julian Assange. Galloway stated that the allegations, even if true, “don’t constitute rape” because initiating sex with someone who is asleep after a sexual encounter the previous night isn’t rape. According to The British barrister, Felicity Gerry, this is not correct under English law. Galloway’s comments were criticised by anti-rape campaigners as ‘ignorant’ and ‘very unhelpful’. Respect leader Salma Yaqoob described Galloway’s comments as “deeply disappointing and wrong”. Galloway was then fired from his job as a columnist on Holyrood, a Scottish political magazine, for refusing to apologise for his remarks.
Israel and Zionism
On 27 November 2012, Galloway has branded Zionism “a blasphemy against Judaism and against God”, praised the legitimacy of Hamas and publicly called for the dismantling of Israel. This call was made during an anti-Israel demonstration. Galloway has said: “We do not hate Jews. We hate Zionism, we hate Israel, we hate murder and injustice. Israel blasphemes against the Torah by calling itself a Jewish state.” This call was followed by a call for the outlawing of dual British-Israeli citizenship as well.
On 20 February 2013 Galloway walked out of a publicized debate when he found out his opponent was Israeli. The debate, hosted by Christ Church, part of Oxford University, was on the topic, “Israel should withdraw immediately from the West Bank.” His opponent in the debate was Eylon Aslan-Levy. While Levy was speaking, Galloway interrupted him, saying “Are you an Israeli?” When Levy, a third year PPE student at Brasenose College acknowledged this, Galloway stood up and stated “I don’t recognize Israel and I don’t debate with Israelis” and walked out of the room. Explaining his actions on his Facebook page, Galloway wrote:
|“||“I refused this evening to debate with an Israeli, a supporter of the apartheid state of Israel. The reason is simple: no recognition, no normalisation. Just boycott, divestment and sanctions, until the apartheid state is defeated. I never debate with Israelis nor speak to their media. If they want to speak about Palestine – the address is the PLO.”||”|
Aslan-Levy later stated “I am appalled that an MP would storm out of a debate with me for no reason other than my heritage. To refuse to talk to someone just because of their nationality is pure racism, and totally unacceptable for a Member of Parliament”. Aslan-Levy later told the Daily Mail that “[Mr Galloway] clearly had a problem not because I am Israeli – I’m sure he would have talked to an Israeli Arab, he didn’t want to talk to me because I am an Israeli Jew.” Julian Huppert, who is the Member of Parliament for Cambridge also sharply criticized Galloway, stating that “It is pretty pathetic that George Galloway walked out of the debate when he found out that another speaker was Israeli.”
The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee subsequently released a statement indicating that while it does support a “boycott of Israel”, the campaign rejects “a boycott of individuals because she or he happens to be Israeli or because they express certain views.”
Galloway later claimed on his Twitter feed that he had been “misled”, writing that “Christ Church never informed us the debate would be with an Israeli. Simple.” However, the debate’s organizer, Mahmood Naji, flatly denied Galloway’s claim that there was an attempt to mislead him. In an open letter to Galloway, Naji stated: “At no point during my email exchange with Mr Galloway’s secretary was Eylon’s nationality ever brought up or mentioned…nor do I expect to have to tell the speaker what his opponent’s nationality is.” In the letter, Naji stated that “I was not intending on replying until I saw you once again attempt to, in my opinion, slander me on Press TV.” Naji also released a series of email correspondences with Galloway’s secretary.
His autobiography, I’m Not The Only One, was published on 28 April 2004. The book’s title is a quotation from the song “Imagine” by John Lennon. Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram applied for an interim interdict to prevent the book’s publication. Ingram asserted that Galloway’s text, which stated that Ingram “played the flute in a sectarian, anti-Catholic, Protestant-supremacist Orange Order band”, was in bad faith and defamatory, although Ingram’s lawyers conceded that for a year as a teenager he had been a member of a junior Orange Lodge in Barlanark, Glasgow, and had attended three parades. The Judge, Lord Kingarth, decided to refuse an interim interdict, that the balance of the arguments favoured Galloway’s publisher, and that the phrase “sectarian, anti-Catholic, Protestant-supremacist” was fair comment on that organisation. Although Ingram was not and never had been a flute-player, the defending advocate observed that “playing the flute carries no obvious defamatory imputation … it is not to the discredit of anyone that he plays the flute.” The judge ruled that Ingram should pay the full court costs of the hearing.
Galloway has also published the Fidel Castro Handbook, a biography of the former Cuban President in 2006 (MQ Publications. ISBN 1-84072-688-1).
In August 2011, Galloway’s book entitled Open Season: The Neil Lennon Story which explores anti-Irish and anti-Catholic racism and bigotry in Scotland and describes many of the related hardships which have befallen Celtic manager Neil Lennon throughout his footballing career. Galloway himself has claimed that he was the victim of a sectarian attack at Glasgow Airport on 10 June 2007. He believes that his attackers were on the way home from attending an Orange Order parade in London and that they attacked him because he is a Celtic fan. No arrest was made in connection with this incident.
Galloway has been involved in several publishing companies. He owned Asian Voice, which published a newspaper called East from 1996. It later transpired that the Pakistan Government was funding Galloway’s company Asian Voice with several hundred-thousand-pounds. “Documents show that the Pakistan government agreed an initial budget for the weekly newspaper of £547,000. According to a memorandum dated 2 January 1996, the Pakistan government proposed to “covertly sponsor” the publication, with money allocated to “the Secret Fund of the High Commissioner for Pakistan in the UK as a special grant for the project”. The Commons Committee cleared Galloway of any wrongdoing in this matter.
In 2005 Galloway established Friction Books, an imprint for fiction and non-fiction, with longstanding associate Ron McKay. Friction claimed its purpose was to publish “books that burn, books that cause controversy and get people talking”. As of 2009 it has released at least two books: Paco Ignacio Taibo II novel An Easy Thing and Topple the Mighty by Leon Kuhn andColin Gile.