UK

Israeli Ambassador Pays A Visit To George Galloway's 'Israel-Free Zone'

19/08/2014 12:30 BST | Updated 19/08/2014 12:59 BST

Israel’s UK ambassador has taken a trip to Bradford after local MP George Galloway said citizens of the Jewish state were not welcome in the city.

Daniel Taub popped over to the Yorkshire city on Monday at the invitation of community members who disagree with the Respect MP's attitude towards Israelis.

Yorkshire Police have since said they will investigate the comments made by Galloway, who was caught on video standing in front of a Palestinian flag, declaring Bradford an "Israel-free zone".

Taub met with local lawmakers, faith leaders and representatives of other community organisations after Bradford's MP said that he wanted his city to ban Israeli academics, tourists, goods and services.

Taub said his first impressions of Bradford was of a city with different attitudes to those promoted by Mr Galloway, the Telegraph And Argus reported.

"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," Taub told the newspaper.

“I don’t believe George Galloway is the real voice of Bradford. There is a long history of cooperation between Bradford and Israel.”

Hitting back at Galloway, Taub said in a press statement: "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."

Another controversial Bradford MP, David Ward, also waded in to the argument saying the ambassador's visit was "a good opportunity to let him know the strength of feeling here about the Israeli attack on Gaza."

Ward was accused of inciting violence following a post on Twitter last month in which he said: "The big question is - if I lived in Gaza would I fire a rocket? - probably yes."

Ambassador Taub also had strong words for Ward, saying his tweets were an insult "to all those Palestinians who try to stand up against the terrorists and raise their kids to reject violence."

Ward was cleared of bringing his Lib Dem party into disrepute after an investigation ruled his comments were not "in any way anti-Semitic".

A dozen "Israeli tourists" have also made a pilgrimage to Bradford after Galloway said they were not welcome in the city.

Former Ukip candidate Shneur Odze, who lives in Manchester but has an Israeli passport, took a small contingent of Israelis to spend the weekend in the city earlier this month.

"We didn't do much sight-seeing," he previously told HuffPost UK. "We had a picnic in front of the town hall but we went mainly to make the gentle point that you can't make a city and Israel-free zone. We didn't want it to be too provocative, people suggested we plant an Israeli flag at his office but we wouldn't do that."

Odze told HuffPost UK that he had a warm reception from many people, even pro-Palestinians. "Actually that was more touching than people who came up to use who were obviously pro-Israel. People came over and said that, they disagree with me on Gaza, they hate the photos coming out of the war, but they didn't think Israelis should be banned from Bradford, that they were ashamed of what he had said.

"I was surprised how many had actually heard of his speech and knew what he said and were embarrassed. I don't think he has as much supports as he thinks. Later in the day, some pro-Palestinian demonstrators came from another demo happening at the same time. We spoke about the conflict, and even though one side is never going to convince the other, it was a respectful discussion and we shared our biscuits."

Michael Dickson, the director of the pro-Israel activist group Stand With Us also tweeted a picture of an Israeli friend in the city.

The Israelis held up their passports at sites around the city: