Celebrated film director Ken Loach wrongly condemned by Oxford students

We are alarmed that students at Wadham College and St. Peter’s College, Oxford have condemned trailblazing anti-racist film director Ken Loach by applying the discredited and discriminatory IHRA definition of antisemitism to quotations which they have taken out of context and which Loach has clarified comprehensively. 

These moves are part of a wider attempt across the UK and abroad to use the IHRA to silence discussion of Britain’s well-documented historical role in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, as well as its ongoing support for Israeli apartheid, occupation and settler-colonialism. Without openly discussing and reckoning with this history, we cannot hope to alter its course.

Ken Loach’s work has, over decades, consistently exposed inhumanity, inequality and injustice, from Cathy Come Home (1966) and Kes (1969), to I, Daniel Blake (2016). His award winning films have shone a light on the struggles against fascism in Spain, austerity in Britain, British colonial rule in Ireland and movements for justice in Latin America.

Yesterday #IStandWithKenLoach was trending on Twitter.  It is heartening to see such expressions of support for the celebrated director who has stood with so many others.

As dozens of artists wrote in a statement of support for Ken Loach on Monday:  ‘We cannot fight racism, including antisemitism, by demonising and silencing supporters of Palestinian rights.”

Artists for Palestine UK

Artists stand with Ken Loach and against McCarthyism

“We are deeply troubled to learn of a McCarthyite campaign demanding Oxford University cancel a public event with director Ken Loach discussing his distinguished career in film. The campaign to silence a world-renowned artist, which has been active behind the scenes and which became public at the last minute, is using the controversial IHRA definition of antisemitism to try to prevent a cultural event from taking place. If any further evidence were needed to demonstrate how a vaguely worded definition is being deployed to silence critics of Israeli policy towards Palestinians — then this is it. We have been warned by respected Palestinian academics, Israeli scholars, leading experts on antisemitism, dozens of progressive Jewish groups, and others that this definition is being used as a political weapon. We cannot fight racism, including antisemitism, by demonising and silencing supporters of Palestinian rights.”

Signed:

Hany Abu-Assad, filmmaker

Raed Andoni, filmmaker

Hanan Ashrawi, Palestinian parliamentarian, scholar and civil society leader

Nahed Awwad, filmmaker

Victoria Brittain, journalist, author, playwright

Judith Butler, philosopher and gender theorist

David Calder, actor

Dame Carmen Callil, publisher, editor

Julie Christie, actor 

Caryl Churchill, playwright

Steve Coogan, actor, comedian, producer

Dror Dayan, filmmaker, senior lecturer 

Raymond Deane, composer, author

Esther Ruth Elliott, actor, director

Brian Eno, musician, producer

Peter Gabriel, musician, founder Womad music festival

Tony Graham, theatre director

Ohal Grietzer, composer and mixed-media performer

Barbara Harvey, civil rights and labor lawyer

Trevor Hoyle, novelist and radio dramatist

Ronnie Kasrils, former South African Government Minister

Mike Leigh, screenwriter, director

Zwelivelile “Mandla” Mandela, South African Parliamentarian

Jean Said Makdissi, writer

Samir Makdissi, Professor Emeritus of Economics, AUB

Kika Markham, actor

Mai Masri, filmmaker

Thurston Moore, musician

David Morrisey, actor

Rebecca O’Brien, producer 

Ruth Padel, poet

Maxine Peake, actor

Mark Rylance, actor

Alexei Sayle, comedian

Eyal Sivan, filmmaker 

Rosemary Sayigh, journalist and scholar

Ahdaf Soueif, author, founder PalFest

Rima Tarazi, Palestinian pianist, composer and social activist

Harriet Walter, actor

Roger Waters, musician

Samuel West, actor, director 

Rabbi Alissa Wise, deputy director of Jewish Voice for Peace