RNCM face backlash after cancelling jazz musician over ‘anti-Semitic’ fears

A controversial jazz musician branded ‘anti-Semitic’ by a protest group has had his concert at The Royal Northern College of Music​ cancelled due to pressure from Manchester’s Jewish community.

Gilad Atzmon, an Israeli who has been vocal in his challenges to Jewish identity and Judaism in general in the past, had been scheduled to play at the venue tonight along with his Orient House Ensemble.

However, after a campaign by lobby group North West Friends of Israel, the college decided to scrap the performance on the grounds of ‘safety’ fears following a ‘significant’ amount of negative correspondence.

Campaign group Respect the People immediately set up an online petition protesting the decision on the grounds of constraining the freedom of expression, which has gathered nearly 2000 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.

“We ask the RNCM to not set a precedence in succumbing to pressure and bullying from external forces.”

It is the second time in recent weeks that Mr Atzmon has had a show pulled, following the cancellation of his performance at Nottingham’s Bonington Theatre in January after 13 complaints were made.

However Mr Atzmon said that the Jewish group were ‘terrorising’ the venue and the city in general through the pressure they put on RNCM.

He told MM: “The fact that a lobby group is managing to bully and intimidate one of the most important music schools in the country is shocking and is a terrifying story.”

He tweeted that the college had bowed to ‘extremist zionist pressure’.

Bradford West MP George Galloway also weighed in on the debate, describing the cancellation of the concert as a ‘book-burning’.

Lee Harris from France, who signed the petition, said: “I have worked with Gilad for 14 years . I am a Jew and think of him as one of the most caring people I know as well as a fantastic father to his children and a loving husband.

“The way in which he chooses to put his views across is certainly controversial, but we live in a democracy – please reverse this decision.”

Nina Trott from Bath, who also signed the petition, said: “I’m signing because Gilad Atzmon is a fantastic musician and a philosopher with the highest standards of humanitarianism.

“I think it was the wrong decision for the RNCM to succumb to pressure from a frankly dubious entity to whom the bombing of Gaza causes less disquiet than Atzmon’s views.”

A statement from RNCM read: “After careful consideration, and to ensure the safety of all involved, the RNCM decided to withdraw the concert.

“This decision was taken and actioned prior to the launch of an associated petition and in no way reflects any political view of the College.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

Image courtesy of Bryan Ledgard, with thanks.

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