Renowned British filmmaker and anti-racism campaigner, Ken Loach, has been forced to withdraw from the panel of judges in a children's art competition, as a result of "aggressive and abusive campaign" by some of Israel's leading advocates in the UK.
Loach was expected to co-judge the 2020 Show Racism the Red Card's (SRtRC) anti-racist school competition with a former children's laureate Michael Rosen, despite pressure on the charity from the pro-Israel Board of Deputies of British Jews.
The Board, a vocal anti-Palestinian group, which has been condemned by members of the Jewish community for what they described as attempts "to justify the massacre of unarmed Palestinian people by the Israeli military", tried to have Loach thrown out over allegations of anti-Semitism.
While Loach's position as a judge was being considered, more than 200 public figures wrote to SRtRC urging it not to cave in to pressure to remove the filmmaker. In a joint statement they said that was "regrettable" that Loach and Rosen had been "subject to vilification", and warned that 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.
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Earlier in the month SRtRC had manged to resist the first wave of pressure from pro-Israel lobby groups and upheld its invitation to Loach. The charity however has succumbed to what seems to have been a second wave of pressure to have Loach kicked out from the school competition, which has more than half a million student participants.
In a new statement yesterday, SRtRC said that they and Loach "have together agreed that Ken will not act as a judge" for this year's competition. The charity made the decision to part with Loach despite acknowledging that it did not "believe that he [Loach] is an antisemite or that he supports antisemitic views".
Loach's production company Sixteen Films shed more light on the vicious campaign to have him thrown out. They said in a statement that the anti-racist charity had been "subjected to an aggressive and abusive campaign" and that "threats and bullying lead to Ken Loach's withdrawal as competition judge."
The charity's very existence is said to have been threatened during behind the scene pressure. Trade unions, government departments, football clubs and politicians came under pressure to cease funding. SRtRC charitable status itself was endangered by the lobbying.
Members of the charity's staff were insulted and threatened according to the statement while Loach and members of his family were subjected to personal abuse online.