British Labour lawmaker Chris Williamson apologized Friday for a tweet in support of Gilad Atzmon, a musician his own party has in the past called “a vile anti-Semite,” the BBC reported.
Atzmon was due to play at a London venue on Saturday evening, but the local authorities barred his appearance, saying it “might harm” relationships with religious communities.
Atzmon was born in Israel and served in the IDF before emigrating to the UK and renouncing his Israeli citizenship.
His past statements have included, “Jewish ideology is driving our planet into catastrophe” and “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,” the Jewish News reported.
The musician has also said that people should “take seriously” the idea that “Jews are trying to take over the world.”
Williamson, a close ally of party leader Jeremy Corbyn, himself no stranger to controversy relating to accusations of anti-Semitism, tweeted a petition calling for Atzmon to be allowed to perform.
The politician immediately came under fire for his support of the musician, with the Board of Deputies of British Jews calling for the Labour party to withdraw his whip, and deleted the post before issuing an apology.
“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,” Williamson wrote.
“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 anti-Semitic 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 anti-Semitism, and strongly disassociate myself from Atzmon’s anti-Semitic views.
“I therefore apologize for tweeting this petition and any distress or offence it may have caused,” said Williamson.
Williamson, the Labour leader’s loudest backbench cheerleader, has long claimed criticism of anti-Semitism in the party is a right-wing plot aimed at discrediting Corbyn and has called it “positively sinister.”
The former frontbencher, who has argued that such claims are a “dirty lowdown trick” being used for “political ends,” appeared in March at an event alongside Jackie Walker, who is suspended from the party over allegations of anti-Semitism. Williamson has called for the party to reinstate both Walker and former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who was similarly suspended and has since quit the party.
Earlier this year, Williamson was slammed for expressing support for a conspiracist blogger who has claimed Zionists rule France, has shared platforms with Holocaust deniers, and staunchly supports Syrian President Bashar Assad’s bombing campaigns in civilian areas.
The fresh controversy followed countless recent revelations involving the embattled Labour party, under fire for what many see as a failure to address anti-Semitism within its ranks, and its leader Corbyn’s support for the Hamas terror group.