'I'm not an anti-Semite' - Jazz musician hits back ahead of appearance at Norfolk festival
PUBLISHED: 17:10 18 June 2019 | UPDATED: 17:38 18 June 2019
Jazz saxophonist Gilad Atzmon has denied claims he is an anti-Semite ahead of his appearance at the Wymondham Music Festival this week.
The Israeli-born star is due to perform at Wymondham Central Hall on June 21, but has attracted criticism over comments he has allegedly made in the past.
The Campaign Against Antisemitism and a local resident in the town have asked for organisers to drop the musician from the line-up.
However,the festival has confirmed he will still perform.
A spokesman from the Campaign Against Antisemitism confirmed it had provided organisers with evidence of some of Mr Atzmon's alleged comments.
The spokesman said: "[we have] suggested that the festival should not support such a virulent antisemite."
In a letter to the festival organisers, Wymondham resident JP Asher also accused Mr Atzmon of being a "Holocaust denier".
Mr Asher, who is of Jewish background, claimed Mr Atzmon has supported anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
Responding to the allegations, Mr Atzmon, who is also a political writer and novelist, said if any of the claims were true, he would have lost his job and would be banned from performing.
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He stressed he is not an anti-Semite and does not criticise Jewish people for being Jewish.
He said: "I criticise Jewish identify politics that are exclusive for Jewish people only.
"I criticise some aspects of Jewish political racism."
Mr Atzmon, who was born in Israel in 1963, posted on his blog that he was subject to an "international Zionist smear campaign".
He said accusations of him being a "bigot, racist and Holocaust denier" were all untrue.
"As a writer I have indeed criticised Israel and other manifestations of Jewish political exceptionalism," he said. "I critically analysed Zionism, Jewish politics, ideology and identity politics in general.
"I do believe that all states, ideologies and politics must be subject to criticism, but I have never criticized Jews (or anyone else for that matter) as people, as a race or as a biological entity."
In December last year, Islington Council stopped Mr Atzmon from performing on the basis it "might harm" relationships with the borough's Jewish community.
A spokesman for Wymondham Music Festival said they had researched the musician, but only for his music and not his political views.
The spokesman said: "We are running a music festival and not a political event."