By Gilad Atzmon
On Thursday night, the Jewish charity, Campaign Against Antisemitsm (CAA) declared that it would “be selecting a number of future dates on which to picket the 606 [jazz] club over its decision” to present a jazz performance by yours truly. With this threat, CAA crossed the line. This time it wasn’t just going after me or my band, this time its threat encompassed an entire community of musicians and music lovers for whom the 606 club is a preeminent venue, and none of whom have anything to do with me or my ideas.
Such threats are anathema to the values of British and western culture: the way to counter ideas with which they don’t agree is to present their own position. The tactic of gross intimidation, of menacing an entire community over the legal speech of one member are more characteristic of organised crime than of a British charity.
Yesterday I reported the CAA’s actions to the police. They took my complaint very seriously and I was interviewed for two hours. I had the strong impression that the matter was already known to the police.
During the time the police interviewed me, I received a message that the CAA is under investigation by the Charities Commission.
I was advised that every musician, music venue, promoter or audience member who is or has been subject to any intimidation or harassment by the CAA should contact the police immediately.
No one should be harassed, especially by a charity, and I want to believe that the threats to British politicians, artists, intellectuals, journalists, venues and ordinary people are about to come to an end. Such a development will make life safer and more comfortable for Jews and Gentiles alike.
Gilad Atzmon is an Israeli-born British jazz saxophonist, novelist, political activist, and writer.
Atzmon’s album Exile was BBC jazz album of the year in 2003. Playing over 100 dates a year, he has been called “surely the hardest-gigging man in British jazz.” His albums, of which he has recorded nine to date, often explore the music of the Middle East and political themes. He has described himself as a “devoted political artist.” He supports the Palestinian right of return and the one-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
His criticisms of Zionism, Jewish identity, and Judaism, as well as his controversial views on The Holocaust and Jewish history, have led to allegations of antisemitism from both Zionists and anti-Zionists. A profile in The Guardian in 2009 which described Atzmon as “one of London’s finest saxophonists” stated: “It is Atzmon’s blunt anti-Zionism rather than the music that has given him an international profile, particularly in the Arab world, where his essays are widely read.”