Threats to funding force football charity to dump Ken Loach

Ken Loach has long been a supporter of Show Racism the Red Card. (European Parliament)

Show Racism the Red Card has capitulated to demands it drop Ken Loach as a judge in its schools competition, after an Israel lobby intimidation campaign said to have threatened its “very existence.”

However the charity, which works against racism in football, emphasized that Loach remains “a member of our Hall of Fame, in tribute to the work he has done over many years in combating racism and his support is greatly appreciated.”

Earlier this month the charity announced that it was standing by its appointment of the socialist filmmaker as a judge of their annual schools competition, alongside children’s poet and author Michael Rosen.

But in a new statement on Wednesday, the charity said that they and Loach “have together agreed that Ken will not act as a judge” for this year’s competition.

Loach’s production company Sixteen Films said in a statement that the anti-racist charity had been “subjected to an aggressive and abusive campaign” threatening its funding.

Sixteen Films said that this had been “an aggressive campaign to persuade trade unions, government departments, football clubs and politicians to cease funding or otherwise supporting the charity and its work.”

This has included behind the scenes pressure “including from government” and pressure on football clubs with links to the charity. “Threats were also made to its charitable status,” Sixteen Films said.

Loach and Rosen had first been appointed in February.

The charity soon came under attack from Israel lobby groups, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Labour Movement.

Loach has long been a supporter of the Palestinian cause.

His production company said on Wednesday that allegations against Loach rely on “attempts to redefine anti-Semitism so as to conflate it with criticism of Zionism and of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.”

After the charity announced it was standing by Loach earlier this month, the campaign against it intensified, and “threatened to wreck not only the competition and Ken Loach’s reputation, but the charity’s very existence,” Sixteen Films said.

“Members of the charity’s staff were insulted and threatened, and 83-year-old Ken Loach and members of his family were subjected to personal abuse online,” they said.

But the Board has not been placated by the new decision to drop Loach.

On Twitter, it posted more demands on Monday, including that Loach should have no further involvement in the charity, and that it now apologize “to the Jewish community.”

Wednesday’s statement from the charity seems to rule that out, saying of Loach that, “We do not believe that he is an anti-Semite or that he supports anti-Semitic views.” It accused Loach of a “mistake” in replying to an email from former GMB union member Peter Gregson, who it accused of anti-Semitism.

“Misplaced accusations of anti-Semitism”

Show Racism the Red Card’s decision earlier this month to stand by Loach and Rosen despite the attacks, had come after a massive show of support for the pair from more than 200 prominent figures in sport, the arts, academia and the law.

“We believe that demands for Ken Loach’s removal as a competition judge reflect political differences, including over Israel-Palestine,” stated a letter of support to the charity. “Misplaced accusations of anti-Semitism against Ken Loach risk degrading the real threat of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism.”

The letter was signed by football legend Eric Cantona, former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, the UK Labour Party’s outgoing shadow finance minister John McDonnell, civil rights lawyers Geoffrey Bindman and Michael Mansfield, former government minister Clare Short, British-Palestinian campaigners Ghada Karmi and Ben Jamal, Israeli academics Ilan Pappe and Avi Shlaim and many others.

The charity’s statement announcing its decision to stand by Loach and Rosen has now been deleted from their website.

You can read a full copy below.

Loach and the charity’s outward display of unity on Wednesday comes in contrast to how matters stood earlier in the week.

On Monday, a cryptic Show Racism the Red Card statement said that “following new information, the Board of Trustees have decided not to endorse the Executive decision” to appoint Ken Loach as a judge.

The one-line statement pointed to division at the top of the charity on the issue. It was deleted on Wednesday following release of the new statement, but can still be read in some online archives.

The “new information” referred to in Monday’s deleted statement seems to relate to Gregson.

New expressions of support for Ken Loach came in on Thursday, including from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and from Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister.

Updated after publication.

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In the occupied territories, every time the Palestinians resist the settlers wreak havoc, rampaging through villages, vandalising, destroying. They call this 'price tag'. Perhaps we need to learn some lessons from this and adapt this concept in a non-violent, lawful way. I am sick of tbe blatant racism of pro-ethnic cleansing forces in the UK, and the misuse of charities to further an apartheid rogue state's agenda. We must attach a price tag to every subversion of the term 'anti semitism' to suppress calls for justice for Palestinians.

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Anyone on twitter outraged by this is being bullied by the same people that claim this is 'good'

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Same nastiness by Jewish Zionists here in the US... Sadly, those attacks are effective as a vast majority of Americans don't differentiate anti-Semitism from justified critique of Israel's racist policy towards the Palestinian people, result of decades of pro-Israel indoctrination by the country's mainstream media, ignorance of history and geography in general and shockingly low educational standards of a broad section of the American society. To US presidents and the Congress (both parties), Israel as a bridgehead in the Middle East in support of US imperial pursuits has a much higher priority than inalienable human rights, justice and adherence to international law.

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And yet we are told, it's Russia, always Russia we must fear. Russia, which corrupts our elections and uses its media to deform public consciousness in western nations. Russia, which sets the agenda, interferes in our voluntary activities, and controls our leaders. Russia, with its sock puppets, its bots, its spies and infiltration. Russia, Russia, Russia.

And all the while, Israel operates in plain sight, even boasting of its power to write our laws and silence our voices, demanding and receiving absolute obeisance from our elected bodies, blacklisting and smearing and jailing opponents around the world. So that even an association of sporting fans formed to fight racism must bend the knee and repudiate its own choice of a man who's always been exemplary in his defense of oppressed people.

What a rotten time we live in. We're marched daily into the square for our Two Minutes Hate. The Board of Deputies, or the Campaign Against Antisemitism, or one of the other priesthoods, presides over the miserable profanation. We're shown the face of our enemy, which is in truth the face of our common humanity, and we are warned to revile them or risk becoming tomorrow's target.

Because that's what they do in Russia, Russia, Russia.

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No surprise the Zionists employ intimidation. They always have. They killed Lord Moyne and began the policy of murdering Palestinian leaders with the assassination of Ghassan Kanafani in 1972. Arafat, of course, died of the 'flu. Or was it measles? Or maybe just a common cold? In any case, the polonium in his toothbrush probably got there by natural means. But this is happening in the UK where there are roughly 300, 000 Jews. The B o D represents a minority of that minority. What about the rest of us? What about democracy? How come a small group of ideological Zionists for whom Israel means absolute virtue and any criticism Nazism, can get a widely admired film-maker, whose reputation among millions stands very high, removed from the anodyne position of judge in a kiddies' competition? It's an affront to democracy. It's the technique of totalitarians and thugs. It is plain, vicious intimidation and subversion of the independence of a body doing vital work to keep racism out of sport. On what grounds does the B o D think Loach a poor choice? They should be required to declare and defend them publicly and they must be open to criticism without bleating that every rational objection is anti-Semitism. They have dubbed Corbyn a racist. Now Loach is consigned to the same category by bigots who support every action of the Israelis in tyrannising the Palestinians. 1.8 million people are imprisoned in the Gaza strip because they are Arabs. That is racism. Racism is the reason for the Israel/Palestine problem. The Zionists will not accept Arabs as their equals and admit, even in principle, they should enjoy the same human rights. We are seeing that vile ideology at work in our national life. Reinstate Ken Loach to his role as judge at once. That is our democratic demand. Let the people decide, not an unelected cabal of messianic ideologues. Showing racism the red card means dismissing Israeli racism. Make your voice heard.

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Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He lives in London. Biography here.