Ken Loach speaks at a rally for low-paid cleaners in London's docklands. Photo: Bryce Edwards Ken Loach speaks at a rally for low-paid cleaners in London's docklands. Photo: Bryce Edwards

Britain’s best known socialist filmmaker has been under attack for weeks as part of the continued assault on our ability to organise for Palestinian rights, argues Sybil Cock

The Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD) has for several weeks been mounting a sustained and vicious attack on much loved film director, and patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Ken Loach.

The small educational charity Show Racism the Red Card (SRtRC) runs an annual competition involving thousands of children and hundreds of schools – the kids produce drama, film, artwork and more.  

When SRtRC announced that Ken Loach and Michael Rosen had been chosen as judges, the BoD and the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) launched a campaign for Ken to be dropped. Michael was also made subject to online smears. After SRtRC reaffirmed Ken’s appointment, the BoD lobbied MPs and football clubs seeking withdrawal of support from the charity. Senior government officials threatened them with loss of funding. Ken and his family and SRtRC staff were subjected to personal abuse.

Ken is on record as being highly critical of the controversial IHRA ‘working definition’ of antisemitism, which has been repeatedly used to stifle criticism of Israel and its apartheid occupation of Palestine. Ken has publicly supported Labour Party members who have been witch-hunted out of the party because of their insistence that Israel is a racist state. Ken made one mistake in 2019, by sending a single email of support to someone who, unbeknown to him was guilty of antisemitism – but he apologised when the circumstances were pointed out to him.

This does not make Ken Loach antisemitic. 

The BoD wanted SRtRC to declare Ken an antisemite, and to submit to antisemitism training from the JLM.

Ken got overwhelming public support, as did the charity when they reaffirmed Ken’s appointment in March. Football icons such as Eric Cantona and Alex Ferguson, along with many other public figures, spoke out to confirm Ken’s impeccable anti-racist credentials, and to support SRtRC.

In the end the pressure on Ken was too much. Last week he resigned as judge. After the SRtRC Board put out a statement disagreeing with the executive decision to defend Ken, it became evident that SRtRC was likely to fold under the pressure – that would have been a defeat for all of us.

The statement issued by the charity makes it very clear that they have the highest regard for Ken, and that he will remain in their Hall of Fame.   They do not believe that he is in any way antisemitic.

At this time, with the growth of the far right, racism, and antisemitism, it is vital that the anti-racist movement stays united and resists attempts to divide us.