Ken Loach withdraws from anti-racism competition following pro-Israel campaign
Loach, who directed critically-acclaimed films including as The Wind That Shakes The Barley and I, Daniel Blake, was last month announced as a judge for the 2020 School Competition, organised by British anti-racism charity Show Racism the Red Card (SRtRC).
The competition encourages young people to "produce creative work with an original anti-racism theme".
In its statement, Sixteen Films, a studio led by Loach, detailed the campaign that pressured the director to withdraw from judging the competition.
According to Sixteen Films, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, an organisation that bills itself as the "voice of the British Jewish community", accused Loach of antisemitism and called for his removal.
The director was targeted for his public support of pro-Palestine Labour Party politicians. He has also come under scrutiny for a brief emailed reply to an activist who was expelled from his union due to antisemitic behaviour. Loach later expressed regret, saying he was unaware of the man's "utterly reprehensible" record.
"Had I been aware of these views and behaviour when he approached me, I categorically would not have engaged with him," Loach stated.
For these reasons, Sixteen Films said, Loach, fellow judge and author Michael Rosen and SRtRC were targeted by "an aggressive and abusive campaign both on-line and in print media" over "baseless accusations of antisemitism" against Loach.
"[I]t became clear that the charity has been the subject of an aggressive campaign to persuade trade unions, government departments, football clubs and politicians to cease funding or otherwise supporting the charity and its work," the studio said.
"It also got personal," it added. "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."
According to Sixteen Films, more than 200 prominent figures - including Eric Cantona, Sir Alex Ferguson and Mike Leigh - expressed support for Loach in letters sent to the charity's trustees.
The signatories wrote that the Board's calls for Loach's removal as a competition judge "clearly reflect political differences, including over Israel-Palestine".When announcing Loach's mutually-agreed withdrawal from the competition, SRtRC expressed support for the director.
"We do not believe that he is an antisemite or that he supports antisemitic views," the charity said.
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