Labour MP for Derby North Chris Williamson tweeted a link to a petition in support of “vile antisemite” Gilad Atzmon, before quickly deleting and issuing an apology.
Atzmon is a Jazz musician and was banned from performing with rock band The Blockheads by Islington Council. The group have a concert at Islington Assembly Hall on Friday night. Atzmon will not perform following a complaint from the Jewish community.
Stephen Silverman, director of investigations and enforcement at Campaign Against Antisemitism said that the musician is a “notorious antisemite” and that he uses social media to “broadcast his hateful views”.
Atzmon calls himself “critical of Jewish identity politics and ID in general” on his biography on Twitter. However, he does deny that he is a holocaust denier despite accusations by Jews Against Zionism.
It is reported that Atzmon once said that burning down a synagogue is a rational act, and that “we must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously”.
A petition was set up to attempt to persuade Islington Council to reverse their decision, and at the time of writing has received 3,206 signatures.
Chris Williamson signed the petition, and tweeted a link to it, urging his followers to follow suit.
The Jewish Labour Movement, who have worked as a Labour party affiliate since 1920 say they expect Chris Williamson to be suspended from the Labour party.
“Gilad Atzmon is an antisemite. Chris Williamson is a jew baiter. Supporting Atzmon is baiting Jews. And Chris Williamson has been baiting Jews in the party for too long unchecked. No more ifs or buts. We expect Chris Williamson to be suspended from the Labour Party today. We await to hear from Jennie Formby.”Ivor Caplin
The Jewish Labour Movement wrote to Nick Brown, the Labour chief whip about Chris Williamson’s “consistent Jew baiting” on 2nd August 2018, but claim they received no response.
The letter says that Williamson has already been warned of his behaviour, which “includes repeatedly sharing platforms with expelled and suspended members of the Labour Party, claimed those speaking out against antisemtism within our party were Tories in disguise, and regularly denying that antisemitism exists within Labour”.
The group say that “to be silent in the face of antisemitism is to be complicit”, and called for his suspension.
Williamson deleted the tweet and issued an apology, in which he said he was not aware of Atzmon’s past and his antisemitic past.
“Earlier today I tweeted a petition about an Islington Council ban against the Blockheads performing with their chosen line up. The council has blocked jazz musician Gilad Atzmon from playing with the group.
“Since then I’ve learned that Atzmon, a former Israeli soldier, is not confined to the jazz world. I am told that in various blogs and in speeches he has adopted antisemitic language. I wasn’t aware of this until after I tweeted the petition.
“As soon as I was informed, I deleted the tweet. I’ve always condemned all forms of racism, including antisemitism, and strongly disassociate myself from Atzmon’s antisemitic views. I therefore apologise for tweeting this petition and any distress or offence it may have caused. “
A Labour party spokesperson told The Post:
“Gilad Atzmon is a vile antisemite. Chris Williamson has said he was not aware of Atzmon‘s appalling views and rightly apologised for his tweet.”
Updated 16:20 Friday 21st December 2018 to include a quote from a Labour party spokesperson.