The controversial jazz musician whose Royal Northern College of Music gig was cancelled has hit back at the Jewish group behind the protest – branding them 'enemies' of Manchester and the British public.
Gilad Atzmon was scheduled to perform at the venue last night but had his gig cancelled due to protests from the North West Friends of Israel.
The group put pressure on the college by accusing him of being anti-Semitic for what they claimed were his 'criticisms of Zionism, Jewish identity and Judaism generally, as well as his controversial views on Holocaust denial and Jewish history'.
Mr Atzmon insists Manchester and Britain are being repeatedly intimidated by Jewish lobbies, citing them as disloyal to the country and describing the occurance as 'extremely concerning'.
He told MM: “[Jewish lobbies] are not friends of Manchester or Britain or British people. They are serving the interests of another country [Israel] that many people around the world believe to be a criminal state.
“This lobby have come to Manchester and intimidated one of the most prestigious music schools to the point where the school cannot even guarantee the safety of its students.
“If I am subject to intimidation by a foreign lobby that is disloyal to this country and in total dismissal of British manners, this is a serious concern.”
The RNCM stated that the cancellation was entirely related to the safety of their students and not a political issue.
There were security guards at the entrance of the building yesterday. They checked anyone that tried to enter for student or staff ID in order to prevent any potential acts of violence.
Contrary to reports, the college looked into Mr Atzmon’s history and realised that he was a well-known humanist who worked with numerous Jews and was respected by followers of the religion.
The 51-year-old has also played with British musicians such as Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Robbie Williams, and Sir Paul McCartney. Therefore, the college claimed to have felt embarrassed by forcing the closure.
Mr Atzmon was born a Jew but has since developed controversial views on the religion. He admitted however, that he has no problem with the college but seemed concerned about the nature of the events that occured prior to his visit.
He added: “We send British soldiers all over the world to fight so called terrorism, we got ourselves involved in criminal war in Iraq and we see the state of the Middle East and at the same time no one is willing to tackle terrorism in one of the most important cities in Britain.
“We cannot have universities talking about jazz as part of the Civil Rights movement in America and then at the same time stop me from playing in an academic institution.”
A campaign group called Respect the People set up an online petition stating that the RNCM were constraining freedom of expression – which has accumulated nearly 2,000 signatures in 24 hours.
A statement from the group read: “Music is one of the few spaces where anything and everything is able to be expressed without the threat of censorship or intimidation."
Mr Atzmon hopes that he will be free to perform in Manchester one day.
“I came to live in this country because I tended to believe this is a free country and I really like British manners and I really like the way British people debate,” said the saxophonist.
“I’m not used to seeing a group that has alliance with a different state and I am unhappy with it. I want to have a festival to celebrate my freedom and one of these we hope will be in Manchester.”
Image courtesy of Richard Kaby, with thanks.