Friday, October 10, 2014

10-Oct-14: UK government calls a halt to Galloway caravan

Not Galloway. WC Fields the Great
The immortal American comic Claude Dukenfield, better known as W.C. Fields, is thought to have been the source of one of life's more cynical truths: "It's morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep his money."

Fields, whose other skills included being an actor, a juggler and a writer, passed on in 1946. But it's reasonable to imagine him looking down approvingly at another juggler/comedian by the name of George Galloway who - it now appears - adopted the American's dictum literally.

The publicity-friendly Galloway is now in the news thanks to the disclosure yesterday that the UK Charity Commission has frozen the bank accounts of his charity Viva Palestina, known also as Lifeline for Gaza, and has replaced its trustees with an interim manager.

(Can we suggest that intending donors wanting to see their charity money do genuinely good work via an efficient British organization that actually does file reports with the authorities in accordance with its legal requirements, and fed up with charity money being squandered on non-charitable expenses) might consider this one.)

The Galloway charity was originally established in January 2009 to run aid convoys to Gaza, and only achieved official charitable status a little later, in April 2009. Sadly (inexplicably) it never filed a single annual return with the authorities since that time. And it appears to have raised much less than the sums of money its promoters claimed.

Galloway is a man of some standing in British politics, first via Britain's Labour Party (which expelled him in October 2003 after he had "been found guilty on four charges of bringing the party into disrepute") and more recently as the leader of the strangely-named Respect Party and since March 2012 the Honorable Member of Parliament for Bradford West on behalf of Respect. Ideologically, he defines his position thus:
"...the Palestinian cause has been central to my political activity for the last 40 years [Respect Party website]
Galloway in Gaza, January 2010 [Image Source]
The centrality of "Palestine" to his work may explain why two of the charges the Labour Party found proven against him in the 2003 expulsion hearing were that he "incited Arabs to fight British troops" and "incited British troops to defy orders".

The inquiry into the Viva Palestina charity began last year with the British government now calls “serious concerns relating to financial management, including a failure by the current and/or former trustees to account for charity funds since the inception of the charity”. [UK Government press release from yesterday]

Galloway observers who have followed his trajectory since before this week's decision will recognize certain recurring patterns as well as an unstoppable affection for totalitarians and the rhetoric they use:

April 2013: "Tramp dirt down", in a Tweet reacting to the death of former British prime minster Margret Thatcher [Source]

March 2010: "The Lifeline for Gaza appeal, founded by Respect MP George Galloway, was mismanaged and raised less than a fifth of the £1m it claimed to have raised, according to a Charity Commission inquiry report published yesterday." [Source]

January 2010: Galloway is deported from Egypt immediately upon entry from Gaza. 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”.

March 2009: Speaking in Gaza in front of video cameras [YouTube] as he hands something to the Hamas leadership:
Just in case the British government or the European Union want to face me in any court, let me tell them live on television: I personally am about to break the sanctions on the elected government of Palestine. By Allah we carried a lot of cash here. You thought we were all fat. We are not fat. This is money that we have around our waists... We are giving you now 100 vehicles and all of the contents, and we make no apology for what I am about to say. We are giving them to the elected government of Palestine, to the Prime Minister Ismail Haniya. Here is the money [holds up bag]. This is not charity. This is not charity. This is not charity. This is politics. [starts to take money out of the bag and hand it over]. [Source]
July 2007: The UK Parliament's Commons Standards and Privileges Committee, enquiring into an earlier Galloway charitable effort called the Mariam Appeal,
criticised Mr Galloway's conduct aimed at "concealing the true source of Iraqi funding" for a charity he set up and failure to cooperate with the parliamentary commissioner for standards... [and that] there was “strong circumstantial evidence” that the Oil for Food Programme was used by the Iraqi government, with Galloway's connivance, to fund the campaigning activities of the Mariam Appeal. The committee concluded that because of Galloway's attitude, his unwillingness to cooperate with the inquiry, and the "calling into question of the commissioner's and our own integrity", the MP had damaged the reputation of the House of Commons... The mammoth three-volume report has more than 20 conclusions, but only two recommendations - that Mr Galloway's use of parliamentary resources to aid the Mariam Appeal was "unreasonable" and would have resulted in a call for an apology. However, the report states that because of Mr Galloway's unwillingness to cooperate with their inquiry, and his attitude and "calling into question of the commissioner's and our own integrity", the MP had damaged the reputation of the House of Commons and should be suspended.
Galloway's response: "What really upset them [the committee] is that I always defend myself." [Source: The Guardian]

November 2005: Speaking at a university in Damascus, Galloway praises Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to the heavens:
He is “the last Arab ruler, and Syria is the last Arab country. It is the fortress of remaining dignity of the Arabs... The reason why Syria is being threatened is not because of anything bad which she did, but because of the good which she is doing. That's the reason why Syria is being threatened -- because she will not betray the Palestinian resistance, because she will not betray the Lebanese resistance, Hizbullah, because she will not sign a shameful surrender-peace with General Sharon, and above all -- more than any of these others -- because Syria will not allow her country to be used as a military base for America to crush the resistance in Iraq... So I say to you, citizens of the last Arab country, this is a time for courage, for unity, for wisdom, for determination, to face these enemies with the dignity your president [Al-Assad] has shown, and I believe, God willing, we will prevail and triumph, wa-salamu aleikum...” [Source: Al- Ahram]
September 2002:
“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.” [The Guardian]

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