One of Israel's leading advocates in the UK has been dealt a major blow in their attempt to get renowned British filmmaker and anti-racism campaigner, Ken Loach, thrown off a panel of judges in a children's art competition.
Loach, whose uncompromising stance against racism has made him one of the most powerful voices in the film industry to support the Palestinian cause, came under fire from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, following Show Racism the Red Card's (SRtRC) decision to appoint him as a judge for the charity's 2020 school competition, which has more than half a million student participants.
The Board, a vocal anti-Palestinian group, which has been condemned by members of the Jewish community for what they described as its attempt "to justify the massacre of unarmed Palestinian people by the Israeli military", put pressure on SRtRC charity to reconsider its invitation.
Loach was attacked on grounds of alleged anti-Semitism, and the charity was put under pressure to withdraw his invitation. Sajid Javid, at the time British Chancellor of the Exchequer, even retweeted a hostile message from the Board of Deputies of British Jews to his 170,000 followers.
Their attempts to remove Loach has failed. SRtRC upheld its invitation to the 83-year-old, who will be a co-judge of the anti-racist competition with a former children's laureate Michael Rosen.
Rosen was also vilified in the press and subjected to online accusations of anti-Semitism. However, after careful consideration, SRtRC has reaffirmed its choice of Loach and Rosen as judges.
When launching the competition on 4 February, SRtRC CEO Ged Grebby said of the appointment of Loach and Rosen as panel judges: "I can't think of two people better qualified to choose the winners."
Loach's fellow film director Mike Leigh said: "The charity has unquestionably made the right moral decision. It is preposterous to call Ken an antisemite. Ridiculous, in fact."
John McDonnell MP said: "I am pleased that Ken Loach is now able to fully participate in this initiative. There should have been no questioning of his ability to do so. Ken is an outstanding, dedicated campaigner against racism in all its forms."
In a statement explaining their decision to keep Loach on the panel of judges, SRtRC said: "Many prominent figures in academia, the arts, education, law, media, politics, science and sport have contacted us to endorse our decision to work with Ken and Michael."
More than 200 public figures wrote to SRtRC urging it not to give in to pressure to remove Loach, saying it was "regrettable" that Loach and Rosen had been "subject to vilification", and warning it would be "damaging for the struggle against racism in all its forms if SRtRC were to succumb". The signatories include, Britain's most successful football manager, Sir Alex Ferguson and Eric Cantona.
Eric Cantona, Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Mark Rylance, Miriam Margolyes OBE, Dame Marina Warner, Baroness Blackstone, Steve Coogan and many other leading figures have backed Ken Loach & anti-racism charity Show Racism the Red Card#ShowRacismtheRedCard
— Artists for Palestine UK (@Art4PalestineUK) March 5, 2020
After Loach was reinstated the Board expressed outrage. "That a so-called anti-racist charity would ignore a minority community's concerns about racism is both astounding and shameful," it is reported saying in the Jewish Chronicle.
"The Jewish community will no longer have any confidence in Show Racism the Red Card's trustees, its CEO, or their ability to show antisemitism the red card."
Last month the Board suffered an equally humiliating blow when a UK mosque cancelled an event with the pro-Israel group following pressure from the Muslim community.