Calls to cancel ‘anti-Semite’ Gilad’s gig fall on deaf ears at Dalston’s Vortex Jazz Club

Gilad Atzmon. Picture: Tali Atzmon

Gilad Atzmon. Picture: Tali Atzmon - Credit: Tali Atzmon

A protest has been planned outside the Vortex on Friday night after calls to cancel the gig of a famous jazz musician accused of being an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier fell on deaf ears.

Saxophonist Gilad Atzmon, who will be performing with New York guitarist Saul Rubin, was stopped from playing at Islington Council’s assembly hall at Christmas on the basis his appearance “might harm” relationships with the borough’s Jewish community.

Now members of the Jewish community, from groups including Momentum, want the club in Gillett Square, Dalston, to follow suit. They have written to Labour councillors and MPs calling on them to support their protest against the man they have dubbed a “hate preacher” – but only received two responses.

Atzmon, an author who was born in Israel to a Jewish family, but no longer identifies as Jewish, played at the Vortex 18 months ago when calls to cancel his gig were rebuffed. He urged the protesters to report him to the police if they genuinely felt he was guilty of racism.

Atzmon, who has likened the Israeli government’s “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians to the Holocaust, and describes himself as “critical of Jewish identity politics”, told the Gazette: “As an anti-racist I will be delighted to be punished once they manage to find a single comment made by me where I criticise Jews or anyone else as a race, ethnicity or biology. I am strongly criticising Jewish politics and culture – not Jewish people. I’m touring and teaching in Germany constantly, and Germany doesn’t tolerate any form of Holocaust denial. I would be behind bars, so it is a lie. Anti-Semites don’t play with Jews. Hitler wouldn’t form a jazz band with a Jew.”

But community activist Boaz Ben Hanoch, who expects about 100 people to turn up on Friday night, said: “The Vortex hails itself as a community venue but by hosting, promoting and giving a platform to Atzmon who mixes his politics with his music, the club is supporting his beliefs.

“In terms of reporting him to the police, no I haven’t. The laws around that kind of stuff are quite specific, and Gilad is a master of the art of shrouding a lot of what he says in psychobabble. It’s not easy to pin him down in those kinds of contexts.”