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Protest held at ‘disgusting’ antisemite Gilad Atzmon’s Reading cultural festival appearance

Jonathan Arkush, the president of the Board of Deputies, said no “reputable event should feature Gilad Atzmon”.

    More than 30 people staged a protest over the appearance of an antisemitic author at a cultural festival.

    Gilad Atzmon, an Israeli jazz musician and writer who has challenged Holocaust denial legislation, gave a talk at the Reading International Solidarity Centre on Sunday.

    Congregants from the Jewish Community of Berkshire and members of Reading’s LGBT+ community held a protest outside the event and were joined by Rachel Eden, a Labour councillor, who organised the demonstration.

    She was joined by councillors Daya Pal Singh, Richard Davies, and Sophia James.  

    Rabbi Zvi Solomons 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.”

    Rabbi Solomons had contacted Reading Borough Council leader Jo Lovelock to express his concern ahead of the event.

    However the council chose to distance itself from the event claiming it was not responsible for what happened.

    In a statement a spokesperson said: “We passed on those concerns directly to the Reading International Development Forum, who were responsible for co-ordinating the Reading International Festival.

    “There is no council funding related to the organisation of this event. The council has no role in the organisation or co-ordination of the event.”

    Rabbi Solomons said: “The council’s logo was all over the programme. I believe in making a neutral statement it has abdicated responsibility.

    “How can any minority expect to feel safe in the face of such avoidance?”

    “He should never have been allowed to speak at an event or in a building that promotes the message of solidarity.”

    Rabbi Solomons’ son, Gavriel attended the protest.

    The 16-year-old said: “Gilad Atzmon tried to talk to people to convince them of his views but we did not want to listen.

    “We handed out leaflets about antisemitism. I was there to show we were united against a disgusting man.”

    Jonathan Arkush, the president of the Board of Deputies, said no “reputable event should feature Gilad Atzmon”.

    He said the Board was “extremely concerned that the Solidarity Centre and the festival organisers appeared happy to host someone with such a track record for openly racist views.”

    Mr Arkush pointed out “Atzmon’s appearance at events is routinely cancelled when organisers learn about his views and track record”.

    The centre and Reading Friends of Palestine were unavailable for comment.

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