A popular and well-known pizzeria and jazz music venue is hosting an alleged racist and anti-Semitic musician, with the appearance to be filmed by Al-Jazeera.
From Wednesday, and for four nights, the Pizza on the Park in Knightsbridge, part of the Pizza Express restaurant chain, is hosting Gilad Atzmon, who is accused of racist and anti-Semitic statements and Holocaust denial. The Jerusalem-born Atzmon, an Israeli Jew, served in the IDF.
On Atzmon's Web site he includes his essay "The Open Society and its Enemies: The Story of Auschwitz" in which he writes: "As it seems, without engaging ourselves with the many questions concerning the validity of the widely accepted Holocaust narrative, we can safely ask what the Auschwitz Narrative is there to serveâ€¦Is it a result of highly sophisticated and orchestrated Jewish propaganda?"
An article entitled "The J word, the J people and the J spot" states that the Jewish people are responsible for Bolshevism and capitalism.
"The J's [Jews] are the ultimate chameleons, they can be whatever they like as long as it serves as some expedientâ€¦They are always at the cool side of game, when it was right to be a Socialist they were right there in the forefront of the Bolshevik revolution, now when it is hard capitalism that sets the tone, you read about them in the Wall Street Journalâ€¦" He adds, "When you scrutinize their racist and supremacist religious law [Talmud] they remind you that most of them are in fact secular (true by the way), but then, when you question their secular philosophy, they would immediately confess that, in fact, there is no such philosophy."
In a 2003 article on anti-Semitism, Atzmon wrote: "We must begin to take the accusation that Zionists are trying to control the world very seriously... American Jewry makes any debate on whether the Protocols of the elder of Zion [sic]are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews (in fact Zionists) do control the world..."
He then goes on raise the age-old accusation that the Jews killed Jesus. "I would suggest that perhaps we should face it once and for all, the Jews were responsible for the killing of Jesus, who by the way, was himself a Palestinian Jew."
The Board of Deputies of British Jews has lodged a complaint with the pizza chain. Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: "Atzmon has associated himself with the most extreme views about Jews, the Holocaust and Israel generally and he makes no secret of the fact that his politics and his music are equally important to him.
"He frequently uses the platforms he is given as a musician to propagate his strident political views and his Web site is complete with his musings on Jewish conspiracies and Israeli criminality. This is quite unacceptable and we will be protesting to Pizza Express in the strongest terms," he added.
A spokesperson for Pizza on the Park said: "Gilad Atzmon has been hired for his musical talents as an internationally recognized, respected and award-winning saxophonist and composer and who has performed to audiences all over the world as well as London's premiere jazz venues. His performances at Pizza on the Park have attracted great interest."
The Observer newspaper reported in an article in April 2005 that at a conference at London University's School of Oriental and African Studies, Atzmon said, "I'm not going to say whether it is right or not to burn down a synagogue, I can see that it is a rational act." He also repeatedly spoke of Jewish and Zionist influence around the world and referred to the US as the "Jew-nited States of Jew-merica."
In April of this year, in an article called "Self-Haters Unite," he wrote: "It is always the proud self-hating Jews who transform Jewishness into an ethical message." "Jews are capable of anything. They run the show, they own the world, and they are brutal, monstrous cannibals," he added.
Sue Blackwell, a Birmingham University academic who led the 2005 campaign to boycott Israeli academic institutions, has blacklisted Atzmon. On her Web site, in the aptly named section titled "Nazi Alert," she has severed all ties to him, saying: "Some notorious far-right individuals and organizations are jumping onto the Palestinian bandwagon in an attempt to hijack the cause of the Palestinian people for their own anti-Semitic ends."
Atzmon also peddles conspiracy theories. In a 2005 address at the Marxism conference in London he said that MI6 and the CIA were there among the IDF units who "flattened Jenin Refugee Camp" in 2002 and that Israeli officers were advising the American and British armies in Basra and Fallujah.
He also called Tony Blair a white supremacist. "The UK (following the US) is operating as a Zionist mission force. It fights the last pockets of Arab resistance. Let's face it, we were pulled into this Zionist-led 'cultural clash.' In the name of the 'Judeo-Christian' myth, we are fighting the Muslim world. We are daily engaged in the destruction of Iraqi lives and as it seems, this clash is about to expand."
He added, "We all agree that Israel is operating as a colonialist state motivated by racial supremacist views. But then, isn't the case of Blair's Britain very similar? If Blair isn't a white supremacist how dare he suggest that democracy is the right way forward for the Muslim world. How come he knows better than the Muslims what is good for them? When you come to determine other people's lives you must believe that you know better. You must assume that you are better."
Prior to both this and last year's Marxist Conference, protesters called for Atzmon's exclusion and an argument broke out between the organizers and prospective participants who called for Atzmon's invitation to be rescinded because of his racist views.
A statement released by the Socialist Workers Party, who organize the conference, read, "The SWP does not believe that Gilad Atzmon is a Holocaust denier or racist. However, while defending Gilad's right to play and speak on public platforms, that in no way means we endorse all of Gilad's views."
Atzmon said in response: "This is to confirm that I'm not a Holocaust denier, I have never denied the Nazi Judeocide and I do not have any intentions to do so. For me racism and Nazism are categorically wrong and it is that very realization that made me into a devoted opponent of Israel and Zionismâ€¦For me, Zionism, being a racist expansionist movement, is no different from Nazi ideology."
Tony Greenstein, from Alliance for Workers' Liberty, said at the time: "Are you really saying that you are happy to have someone who openly admits to circulating Holocaust denial material perform at Marxism 2005? What kind of Marxism is this? I understand that David Irving is quite good at blowing his own trumpet. Will you invite him too?"
The material Greenstein refers to is an article by Paul Eisen, entitled "The Holocaust Wars" which Atzmon described as "a very important text." The article is a defense of the neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, who says that there was no Nazi plan to exterminate European Jewry and no gas chambers.
Voicing her opinion on the argument, Guardian journalist Linda Grant, said, "When Atzmon performs, he often riffs about his views on Jews and Israel. That's part of his performance. Atzmon should not be prevented from performing. What we should do is expose his ideas for what they are, so the audience is aware that what it's listening to is essentially race hate."
David Aaronovitch, a journalist with the Times, discussed Atzmon in an article entitled "How did the far Left manage to slip into bed with the Jew-hating Right?" In it he told the story of a Palestinian musician who told him that she would no longer work with Atzmon because, in her opinion, he was "an anti-Semite" and had, somewhere, "crossed the line."