LONDON (AFP) – A man who attacked British pro-Palestinian lawmaker George Galloway in a London street while calling him “anti-Semitic” was jailed for 16 months on Thursday.
Neil Masterson, 39, admitted to attacking Galloway in August in a frenzied assault while wearing a pink t-shirt with a logo of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), and shouting “anti-Semitic little man, I… despise you.”
A recovering drug addict, Masterson told police he felt “morally justified” in attacking Galloway, who weeks earlier had called Israel “illegal, barbarous and savage” and declared his constituency an “Israel free zone”.
An MP for the left-wing Respect party, the 60-year-old Galloway was hospitalised for one night for cuts and bruises to his head and ribs.
He welcomed the sentence but said that an original charge against Masterson of religiously aggravated assault should not have been dropped.
“I fail to see why that charge was dropped given that he was wearing an IDF T-shirt and screaming about Israel and me,” Galloway said.
“If an Asian man wearing a Palestinian T-shirt had attacked a pro-Israeli MP would the sentence have been the same?”
Masterson’s lawyer told the court that his client had recently converted to Judaism, and was angry about what he felt was “a rising tide of anti-Semitism dressed up as anti-Zionism”.
“He felt Mr Galloway was at the epicentre of those that were attempting to justify their anti-Semitism in that way,” defence barrister Jonathan Mann said.
“The defendant felt that..he was almost attempting to make these views trendy and fashionable (and) he was dangerous because he has a fashionable cachet.”
Masterson has been offered flights to Israel and a place in a Kibbutz and plans to spend a year doing voluntary work after serving his sentence, Mann added.