Organisers of a Bradford festival of political song have defended the scheduled appearance of a controversial jazz musician.

Israeli-born jazz saxophonist Gilad Atzmon, who is also a novelist, political activist and writer, will be performing as part of an international concert with a UK singer, a Jewish bass player, a Palestinian Oud player and a black drummer on Friday.

But there have been calls for his appearance to be halted over claims he is a Holocaust denier and has anti-semitic views – claims that Mr Atzmon strongly rejected.

Bradford Trades Union Council has condemned the performance in a letter to festival organisers, and The Board of Deputies of British Jews has also protested to the Arts Council over its funding for the Raise Your Banners 2011 festival and asked it to intervene to stop him performing.

However, Mr Atzmon says the claims against him are “outrageous” and that if he were anti-semitic he would have been arrested under British law. He is also furious the TUC’s letter “stitched together” into one quote phrases from five separate paragraphs taken from his writings on the Holocaust and Jewish faith which he says was to make him look racist – and now he wants an apology.

Paul Meszaros, of Bradford TUC, described festival organisers in his letter as “useful idiots”, adding: “Bradford TUC has long been at the fore of the anti-fascist movement in the area and it is in this tradition we demand the withdrawal of Atzmon’s invitation.”

Raise Your Banners director Ludi Simpson said festival organisers had given much thought to Mr Atzmon’s planned appearance, adding: “We do not believe the claims of anti-semitism. If we did believe them then we would not have invited him.

“All our artists have signed up to our equal-opportunities policy. Our audience would not tolerate racist behaviour.

“He is taking part in an international night – he’s a world-renowned musician.”

Raise Your Banners organisers have also discussed the matter with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and said it was satisfied that PSC has no boycott of Mr Atzmon or events that he is involved in.

But Mark Gardner, communications director of the Community Security Trust, a charity protecting the Jewish community, said festival organisers should have consulted Jews first and he found it hard to believe the head office of the PSC would have given Mr Atzmon’s performance the “okay”.

He said: “He is a dangerous provocateur and anyone supporting him is helping spread anti-Jewish hostility.”

Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: “Atzmon is a man who fuels anti-semitism and questions the Holocaust. By hosting him the event clearly lays itself open to the charge of supporting and promoting his unsavoury views.”

A spokesman for the Arts Council, which gave a Lottery-funded grant of £4,000 to the festival, said: “It is not the Arts Council’s role to dictate artistic policy to a funded organisation, or to restrict an artist from expressing their views.

“What our policies and procedures do ensure is that we fund a wide range of organisations and individuals who, collectively, present a diverse view of world society.”

More than 600 people will descend on Bradford over the weekend for the festival, with tickets selling well.

There are still tickets left for the Friday night concert featuring Mr Atzmon at Kala Sangam, St Peter’s House, costing £14 on the door.

For more details of other concerts featuring the likes of Roy Bailey, Peggy Seeger, John Tams and Barry Coope go to