Lottery cash funds Jew-hate jamboree
The Arts Council has defended its funding of a concert by the author of what the Community Security Trust has branded "quite probably the most antisemitic book published in this country in recent years" by saying that it helps to "present a diverse view of world society".
Israeli-born musician Gilad Atzmon, who calls himself "a proud self-hating Jew" in his new book The Wandering Who?, is due to play with his jazz ensemble at the Raise Your Banners political song festival in Bradford next Friday.
The Board of Deputies has protested to the Arts Council over its funding of the concert and urged it to intervene to halt Atzmon's appearance.
A spokesman for the council, which gave a Lottery-funded grant of £4,000 to the festival, said: "It is not the Arts Council's role to dictate artistic policy to a funded organisation, or to restrict an artist from expressing their views. What our policies and procedures do ensure is that we fund a wide range of organisations and individuals who, collectively, present a diverse view of world society."
She added that Atzmon was participating in the event "as a musician and not in his capacity as a political writer".
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport declined to comment, saying it was an Arts Council matter.
Organisers of Raise Your Banners said that they had previously reconsidered the invitation to Atzmon following requests from Jewish Socialist Group members and some supporters of the festival. RYB secretary Sam Jackson said at the time that "we have discussed the matter with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and are satisfied that PSC have no boycott of Gilad Atzmon or events that he is involved in."
The PSC said this week that it has "no links" with Atzmon.
The festival programme also includes a workshop entitled "Songs to Counter the Zionist bullies" led by the Strawberry Thieves choir, a radical choir from south London. One of its songs, War Crimes, describes Israel "as a state made for the chosen few, where lives of Palestinian folk are worth much less than lives of Jews".
Mark Gardner, communications director of the CST, said: "Gilad Atzmon claims 'Jewishness equals supremacy' and uses this lie to attack Jewish identity, culture and history. He says the 'great' Jews were 'self haters'. He is a dangerous provocateur and anyone supporting him is helping to spread anti-Jewish hostility. If he said this about Muslims or blacks, he would be immediately condemned as a racist."
Jon Benjamin, Board chief executive, said that Atzmon's embrace "by the organisers of a publicly-funded event should be a matter for profound concern, particularly as the event website caries a link to Atzmon's own, with all the divisive and bigoted invective that contains".
In a recent interview, Atzmon said that Nazi death marches were "actually humane", suggesting that Jews preferred to stay with the Germans rather than fall into Russian hands.