I arrived at today's annual Jewish music festival (Klezmer in the Park) at Regents Park London just in time to hear the presenter announce that the previous performer had been Gilad Atzmon.Shortly afterwards I got an email from the Jewish Musical Institute which simply said:
While I was aware that Atzmon considered himself a Jazz (not Klezmer) musician he is much better known as being one of the UK's leading anti-Semites. Describing himself as an "Israeli born ex-Jew" he is a Holocaust denier who believes in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and a world-wide Jewish conspiracy. You can see a summary of his profile here. He is, of course, also prominent in the anti-Israel movement, although his open anti-Semitism has been an embarrassment even to some of the most virulent anti-Israel fanatics. There's plenty more on him here and here, but if you think that is all one-sided criticism then just look at his own website.
So the question is: who made the decision to invite Azmon to play at this event, and why? And what irony that this should happen at a time when Atzmon's cohorts ensure that every performance by Israeli musicians or actors in the UK is disrupted or forcibly cancelled.
As can be seen by events like the Jewish book week, the Jewish Comedy festival and Jewish film festival there is a tendency among the cultural elite who organize these kinds of events to give prominence to those with strong anti-Israel views. But an invite to Gilad Atzmon surely trumps anything that's gone before. Perhaps we can look forward to a cameo role from George Galloway - or maybe even a few surviving SS officers - at future London Jewish cultural events.
Hello Edgar, I am events manager for the jmi. The Jewish music institute. What you have written about the event is not true. Please remove it from publication. Thank you GilI duly removed the posting and responded as follows:
Gil, I've removed the post. But can you explain why the announcement was made that he played?I got no response to that message or to two follow-up messages over the following two days. So I sent the following message on Wedneday:
I would be grateful if you could respond to either of the messages that I sent you yesterday. I want to know the answer to the following very simple question: -Why did the announcer say that the previous performer was Gilad Atzmon? I was considerate enough to remove the original blog posting when you said it 'was not true' (even though you did not specify what was not true in my article).
If you do not reply within 24 hours then I will put up a blog posting saying exactly what I heard and that the JMI can offer no explanation why the announcer said what he said (and hence leave it to readers to draw their own conclusions). I'm reasonably confident from your response that Atzmon was not formally invited to play. For what it's worth I'd say the most likely explanation for the announcement is that a recording of Atzmon was played. But I would like to be assured that Atzmon did not simply turn up and play.This finally prompted the following response today:
Gilad Atzmon did not perform at Klezmer in the Park nor was he invited to do so. A piece of his music was played at one point, which presumably is why you heard an announcer mention his name. Until your complaint on Monday we were unaware of Atzmon’s political views.
Regards The Jewish Music InstituteSo while I am very happy to put the record straight it does actually appear that - contrary to the original rather rude and abrupt message from the JMI - it is NOT the case that 'what I had written was not true'. I never said I saw Atzmon perform there; I made a perfectly reasonable assumption after hearing his name announced as the previous performer.
I find it very interesting that the JMI was unaware of Atzmon's political views. His anti-semitism - not his music - is what defines his public personna. It is difficult to be aware that Atzmon is a musician at all without being aware of his anti-Semitism. Indeed the only link to Atzmon and Klezma music at all can be found here. Note that every song title has a clearly implied anti-Israel theme; the first three are
- Dal'ouna on the return (trad. Palestinian) 4:45
- Al-Quds (Gilad Atzmon) 9:59
- Jenin (Gilad Atzmon) 5:50
While these kind of people seek to boycott and disrupt every cultural event involving Jewish performers from Israel (irrespective of their political beliefs) I would never dream of disrupting a performance by anybody because of their nationality or even their obnoxious racist views. But neither would I choose to go to - or even listen to - performers who are hypocritical Israel haters. Therefore having such people either invited to - or simply promoted - at main stream Jewish events is something I find both offensive and ironic.
Finally (and thanks to commenter amie for pointing this out) the JMI has serious form when it comes to an ambivalent attitude towards Israel. In March 2011 they rejected Israeli funding for one of their events when they came under pressure from the anti-Semitic boycott brigade. In fact the Jewish Chronicle report is rather too kind on Geraldine Auerbach the Head of the JMI. In this report by the boycotters themselves you get a much more detailed understanding of the extent to which the Auerbach bent over backwards to meet the boycotters demands:
In correspondence with the protesters, Geraldine Auerbach, the head of the Jewish Music Institute, stated “I confirm that there is no funding directly or indirectly from the Israeli Government or institutions”. Subsequently all reference to the Israeli- related organisations was removed from the conference’s online publicity materials. Similarly Ms Auerbach, who had stated in the Jewish Chronicle that the Israeli Embassy was helping to promote the Conference, now stated that no such promotion had taken place.