OPINION: Why we stopped Gilad Atzmon, the ‘devoted political artist’

OPINION: Why we stopped Gilad Atzmon, the ‘devoted political artist’

Stuart Ailion
Stuart Ailion

By Stuart Ailion, Vice-Chair North West Friends Of Israel (NWFOI)

Gilad Atzmon describes himself as a “devoted political artist” (Spectator Aug 9, 2003) and, as such, he relinquishes all claims to performing only as an artist. He cannot choose to play the “cultural” boycott card simply in those instances where it happens to suit him to do so.

  • This article is a response to this article: “OPINION: Ugly irony of using boycott tactics to stop Gilad Atzmon”  – CLICK HERE.

NWFOI campaigned against Gilad Atzmon performing in Manchester at the Royal Northern College of Music as a protest against his views, which have regularly been considered as anti-Semitic. You see it is in our mission statement that we fight anti-Semitism in all its guises, irrespective of whether it manifests itself on the football pitch, in city centres or in concert halls.

Make no mistake – this was not a cultural boycott. Nor is it a “book burning” as claimed by George Galloway. Gilad Atzmon did not write “The Wondering Who?” as a jazz musician.

Described as “quite probably the most anti-Semitic book published in this country in recent years” by the CST, Atzmon writes as someone who had the misfortune to be “born in the Jew-land” (Feb 21, 2010) and who has renounced his Judaism, preferring to be known as a “committed secular humanist”.

Remember, this is a man that said “to regard Hitler as the ultimate evil is nothing but surrendering to the Zio-centric discourse” (Gilad Atzmon on Al-Jazeera 2010).

Atzmon writes on page 179 of his book “we, for instance, can envisage a horrific situation in which an Israeli so-called ‘pre-emptive’ nuclear attack on Iran that escalates into a disastrous nuclear war, in which tens of millions of people perish. I guess that amongst the survivors of such a nightmare scenario, some may be bold enough to argue that ‘Hitler might have been right after all.’

Do we really want this person to feel free to hide behind a saxophone and go about his daily business as though he was not a Jew-hater?

And here is another good one for his apologisers to contemplate. On page 27 he argues “Throughout the centuries, some Jewish bankers have gathered the reputation of backers and financiers of wars and even one communist revolution.”

Oh, the old International Jewish Conspiracy controlling all the money trope.

Did Gilad say this as a jazz musician? “I think that 65 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, we must be entitled to start to ask the necessary questions. We should ask for some conclusive historical evidence and arguments rather than follow a religious narrative that is sustained by political pressure and laws. We should strip the holocaust of its Judeo-centric exceptional status…” (Truth, History and Integrity, 2010) – No mention of jazz.

The really interesting thing is you never hear Atzmon define himself as a jazz musician. He prefers to define himself as “a self-hating Jew” – and one who sympathises with the burning of synagogues “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.” (Guardian Education, 2010).

Atzmon condemns “Jewishness” as “very much a supremacist, racist tendency” and he does so as a “British, Hebrew Speaking Palestinian” – and one that we don’t want in our town plying his other trade.

The thing is we would not care if Gilad Atzmon was an accountant, a dentist or a bin collector, anyone with such obnoxious views would not be welcome in any workplace in this country. It just so happens his workplace is the stage and we unashamedly campaigned to deny him access to it. Who would not seek to bring to the attention of a racist’s employers the poisoned world view of an employee? All credit then to the RNCM for cancelling.

It is interesting to note that NWFOI are not alone in seeking to deny Atzmon a platform. After a cancellation of a scheduled performance at Bradford Cathedral in 2011 Gerry Sutcliffe, the Labour MP for Bradford South, said: “I am extremely concerned about Gilad Atzmon’s presence at what should be a celebration of music and art. His previously stated views are extremely offensive and the organisers of the festival were wrong to invite him.” (JC Nov 24, 2011)

Even the Palestine Solidarity Campaign deny Atzmon a platform to perform. Sarah Colborne, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign told the sponsors of the Bradford event “PSC has made clear to Raise Your Banners that we have no links with Gilad Atzmon, and that Palestine Solidarity Campaign does not work with him.” (JC Nov 24, 2011)

NWFOI fought to prevent Atzmon performing in Manchester because we consider him to engage in an anti-Semitic behaviour, and because he is an anti-Zionist propagandist. We didn’t prevent him as a jazz musician.

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