Chris Williamson MP has apologised for sharing a petition supporting antisemite Gilad Atzmon, after being branded a “Jew baiter” by the Jewish Labour Movement.
The controversial left-wing politician was facing calls to have the Labour whip withdrawn, after sharing and signing a petition titled “hands off Gilad Atzmon.”
This comes after Jewish News exclusively revealed that Islington Council banned Atzmon from performing with legendary band The Blockheads on Friday night – following a complaint from a member of the Jewish community.
Atzmon, has been accused of antisemitism due to past statements, which have included, “Jewish ideology is driving our planet into catastrophe” and “I’m not going to say whether it is right or not to burn down a synagogue, I can see that it is a rational act.” He has also argued that we should “take seriously” the idea that “Jews are trying to take over the world.”
Williamson was branded “a Jew baiter” by chair of the Jewish Labour Movement Ivor Caplin.
“Supporting Atzmon is baiting Jews. And Chris Williamson has been baiting Jews in the party for too long unchecked. No more ifs or buts. We expect Chris Williamson to be suspended from the Labour Party today. We await to hear from Jennie Formby”, the General Secretary of the party.
A Labour Party spokesperson said: “Gilad Atzmon is a vile antisemite. Chris Williamson has said he was not aware of Atzmon‘s appalling views and rightly apologised for his tweet.”
Labour Friends of Israel Director Jennifer Gerber said: “Sadly this is the latest in a long line of despicable actions and comments by Chris Williamson. Unfortunately, an apology alone cannot and will not absolve him from the hurt he has repeatedly caused to the Jewish community.
The fact that he continues to hold the Labour whip tells you everything you need to know about Corbyn’s Labour Party in 2018.”
After complaints, Chris Williamson took to Twitter to apologise, saying that since tweeting the petition “I’ve learned that Atzmon, a former Israeli soldier, is not confined to the jazz world. I am told that in various blogs and in speeches he has adopted antisemitic language. I wasn’t aware of this until after I tweeted the petition.”
“As soon as I was informed, I deleted the tweet. I’ve always condemned all forms of racism, including antisemitism, and strongly disassociate myself from Atzmon’s antisemitic views.