Gilad Atzmon, the antisemitic author and jazz musician, has claimed that the Grenfell Tower tragedy was the responsibility of “Jerusalemites” who were “following mitzvot”.
Giving a talk at the Reading International Festival, he attempted to blame the tragedy, which killed at least 80 and left hundreds more injured, homeless and traumatised, on people who could be characterised as those who followed “commandments”.
Mr Atzmon discussed what he described as a difference between critical thinkers – who he labelled Athenites – and the Jerusalemites who followed “mitzvot”.
He said: “How is it related to Grenfell Tower? Very simple. People who think things through, who understand about responsibility and morality and ethics don’t clad buildings all over the country with flammable materials.
“But when it happens – it is we were following regulations, we were following mitzvot.”
He continued: “Athens and Jerusalem is not Jews versus goyim or Jews versus gentiles.
“Athens and Jerusalem is thinking things through as opposed to following regulations, mitvot, commandments, laws.
“The Ten Commandments is Jerusalem. I don’t need you to tell me I should not kill. Athens is ethics, Jerusalem is anti-ethics.”
“Jerusalemites” were not necessarily Jews, Mr Atzmon said.
”It’s not Jews and gentiles because Tony Blair is not a Jew and he’s a Jerusalemite.”
As the 90-minute speech continued the Israeli-born writer, who has previously challenged Holocaust denial legislation, said: “Even the democratic process does not really matter. If you vote Labour, the polices are shaped by Labour Friends of Israel., if you vote Conservative it’s CFI (Conservative Friends of Israel).
“The same thing happens in America, in France, and even Turkey is pro-Israeli now.”
He blamed “the Jews” for the collapse of the traditional left-wing politics that he said once appealed to him.
He said: “The Jewish lobby is a cosmopolitan lobby. It has turned every person in the universe into a tribe who operates like a Jew.
“Look at it – the gays are doing fine, the blacks are doing fine, the women are doing fine - but the Jews are doing really fine. They have a state, hundreds of atomic bombs, they have F16s, F35s [fighter aircraft].
“How many gays have a state, an atomic bomb, an army? How many blacks have a lobby that shapes American foreign policy so everyone is tribal like a Jew? But the Jews are doing way better than everyone else. “
Mr Atzmon said his Athens and Jerusalemite talk was inspired by the “very famous Jewish philosopher Leo Strauss, who is considered to be” the father of the neo-con movement – so he’s not necessarily a nice guy.”
Mr Atzmon’s talk took place on October 22 with congregants from the Jewish Community of Berkshire and members of Reading’s LGBT+ community holding a protest outside the event. They were joined by Rachel Eden, a Labour councillor, who organised the demonstration, as well as councillors Daya Pal Singh, Richard Davies, and Sophia James.
Rabbi Zvi Solomons, of Jewish Community of Berkshire, said the Jewish community was “horrified” by Mr Atzmon’s appearance and “gravely disappointed that it went ahead despite attempts to have it cancelled”.
He described Mr Atzmon as “a notorious antisemite. He has promoted Holocaust denial, compared Israelis to the Nazis.
“He is not the sort of person any liberal outfit should want to be connected to.”
Mr Atzmon also played two shows at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, central London, on Saturday October 28.
Pizza Express told the JC that the views expressed by Mr Atzmon ‘are not reflective’ of the company’s values.
A Pizza Express spokeswoman said: “Gilad Atzmon is a musician who has performed at our venues for over 20 years, and his gigs have always proven to be very popular with our customers.”