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Atzmon and the Dean of Bradford

On Tuesday of this week, David Ison, the Dean of Bradford issued a statement about Gilad Atzmon, which was published on the website of the anti-racist campaign group, Hope not Hate.

Read it in full, again, to remind yourself of what he said. Here is an extract:

We do not countenance or give permission for any form of racism or fascism, including anti-Semitism, to be given hospitality at Bradford Cathedral. Having asked for more information about Gilad Atzmon, it has only been in the last few days that we have received clear evidence of the nature of his public statements. In the event, the concert in the Cathedral had already been cancelled due to poor ticket sales; but it seems to be taking place in a smaller venue in Kala Sangam which is not connected with the Cathedral and over which we have no control.

“I am writing to the authorities at Kala Sangam to ensure they are aware of the issues raised by hosting a concert with this musician.

I am sorry to say that the Dean appears to have changed his position on Atzmon, completely. This is what he now says [reproduced on Atzmon's blog only]:

Raise Your Banners booked the Cathedral for a concert some months ago, but did not notify us of any controversial issues to do with any of the performers. I have become aware of the controversial nature of Gilad Atzmon and the statements made about him, since being contacted by the Council for Christians and Jews a few weeks ago. The concert was recently withdrawn from the Cathedral owing to slow ticket sales, but had the venue not changed I would have considered not allowing it to take place as, although I have had no clear evidence of anti-semitism or racism, the perception of this around Gilad Atzmon would have made it an inappropriate concert to hold in a religious building.

David Ison, the Dean of Bradford has entirely changed his position. Having first objected to Atzmon’s open antisemitism and promotion of Holocaust denial, he now does not accept that Atzmon is an antisemite and supporter of Holocaust denial.

Atzmon has published another piece which explains how David Ison came to change his mind from opposition to, to support of, Gilad Atzmon:

David Ison is clearly made of stronger stuff because today, the Dean was in touch with both a member of his congregation and myself and confirmed that he has become “aware of the controversial nature, not only of Gilad Atzmon”, but also of the statements made about Atzmon. The Dean also confirmed that he had asked those who had contacted him to provide proper evidence of anti-Semitism on the part of Mr. Atzmon, but, as he says, he “received very little, some of which I could identify as being mis-reporting out of context of the kind to which you and Mr Atzmon have drawn attention.”

So, that’s clear. David Ison was lobbied by a “member of his congregation” and by Atzmon, and now regards Atzmon’s views as being insufficient to establish his racism. The Dean apparently accepts Atzmon’s argument that, in context, his statements are not objectionable, and accuses Hope not Hate of misreporting them.

I’m sure that many of you will be unsurprised to find senior office holders in the Church of England who are relaxed about, and fail to identify racism directed against Jews. This is particularly so when theological approaches to Jews and pro-Palestinian activism collide. You will probably be aware that David Ison is reported to have said:

‘The Old Testament is a horrifying picture of genocide committed in God’s name …And genocide is now being waged in a long, slow way by Zionists against the Palestinians.’

Hope not Hate has a piece up this morning, which explains in great detail, precisely why Britain’s leading anti-racism organisation is standing firm against the racist provocateur, Gilad Atzmon. Read it in full.

In the introduction, Nick Lowles discusses the pro-Atzmon lobbying campaign which has been launched against Hope not Hate:

Our decision to ask Raise Your Banners to withdraw its invitation to Gilad Atzmon has caused a lot of controversy from his small, but very vocal, band of supporters. In all the years of writing this blog I don’t think I have received as many abusive and angry emails as I have over this issue, though it must be stressed that many of the emails are from the same two or three people.

I’m sticking to my position – namely that Gilad Atzmon flirts with Holocaust Denial, has supported Holocaust Deniers and is a racist antisemite. I will not be bullied or threatened into silence. HOPE not hate stands for decency, tolerance and equality. I will speak up against racism and antisemtism just as I will campaign against fascism and anti-Muslim prejudice.

Gilad Atzmon supports Holocaust deniers and claims that the established history of the Holocaust is misleading. He attacks Jewish identity in a way that would clearly be recognised as racist if it were about any other minority identity, and claims that because of how Jews behave, in the future people might think Hitler was right about Jews. He tells crude antisemitic jokes and mocks any concerns about antisemitism.

Much of the criticism against our position stems from those who believe that we are part of some Zionist plot which seeks to silence criticism of Israel. Nothing can be further from the truth. To me, this has nothing to do with the Israel/Palestine conflict but merely opposition to a man who makes racist and antisemtic comments.

If David Irving or Nick Griffin voiced Atzmon’s opinions then the Left would be up in arms – and rightly so. Virtually no-one on the left supports Atzmon though most prefer to stay silent than speak out publicly. Even the most strident anti-Zionist Jews in Britain believe Atzmon is antisemitic. The Socialist Workers Party, who used to have an association with Atzmon, have long since distanced themselves from him and even the leadership of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign have let it be known in the last few days that they want no public connection with him.

I, however, am not going to stay silent. Wrong is wrong, from whatever quarter it comes from.

Now, excuse me for engaging in a little speculation.

There is a Palestine Solidiarity Campaign activist called Karl Dallas who is also one of the performers at Raise Your Banners. You can read about him here.

Karl Dallas has come out strongly in support of Gilad Atzmon. He writes on Twitter:

Extraordinary Zionist virulence twds Raise Your Banners, Bradford, cos we’ve invited anti-Zionist Israeli jazzman Gilad Atzmon to play Fri.

As The CST points out:

The “extraordinary Zionist virulence” has been from many places: including local trade unionists, anti-racists, the mainstream Jewish community, and Jewish anti-Zionist groups. The concerns were not about anti-Zionism, nor premised upon the Zionist identity of the complainants.

This use of the word ’Zionist’ is the kind of stupid, debased, self-serving language that you get after so many decades of fervid distrust and hatred against the mythical Zionist bogeyman. If veteran Jewish anti-Zionists – some of whom have likely campaigned against Israel even at the expense of their own familial relationships – are now to also be branded as Zionists, then we have reached (yet) another absurd new low.

I cannot be certain, but I think it likely that Karl Dallas played a role in getting the Dean of Bradford to attack Hope not Hate and to defend Gilad Atzmon. Perhaps he was the “member of his congregation” to whom Atzmon refers. Karl Dallas organises something he calls the Church of Liberation (also here).

Karl Dallas was the very first person to report the Dean’s change of position, well before Atzmon published the Dean’s second statement. Here is his Twitter announcement:

Statements that Dean of Bradford Cathedral has called for Gilad Atzmon concert to be cancelled are UNTRUE.

That announcement went up at 12 noon. Atzmon posted the full statement at 2 pm.

If that’s right, we’re seeing a PSC organiser persuading a senior Anglican churchman to attack a leading anti-racist campaigner in order to defend an outspoken antisemite.

That’s pretty unimpressive.