|Subjects||Jeremy Corbyn, “antisemitism”, Labour party, Jackie Walker|
WitchHunt is a documentary film by Jon Pullman which deals with the way accusations of antisemitism have been used inside the Labour Party to attack Jeremy Corbyn and the anti-zionist left in particular. The ongoing case of Jackie Walker, a longstanding anti-racist militant who is black and Jewish, who is appealing against the draconian disciplinary action against her, is taken up in some detail.
|WitchHunt – how antisemitism is weaponised to attack Jeremy Corbyn and the anti-zionist left|
WitchHunt was premiered on Sunday 10 February 2019 at the Rio Cinema in Hackney, London and simultaneously in Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool and Cambridge. The London event was followed by a Q & A session with director Jon Pullman, anti-racist campaigner Jackie Walker, writer & comedian Alexei Sayle, media analyst Justin Schlosberg (Media Reform Coalition, Birkbeck) and chaired by executive producer Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi (Jewish Voice for Labour media officer).
Its screening at the House of Commons in a room booked by Chris Williamson MP on behalf of Jewish Voice for Labour was cancelled after a tweet from the Board of Deputies of British Jews and complaints from TIG MP Luciana Berger and Deputy Leader Tom Watson to Chief Whip Nick Brown and Labour General Secretary Jennie Formby.
WitchHunt was launched online on 17 March 2019.
In 2015, while the far right was gaining ground around the world, socialist MP Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader of the UK Labour Party in a landslide victory. Accusations of antisemitism within the party immediately began to circulate. Well-known anti-racists and left-wing Jews, such as Jackie Walker, were amongst the chief targets.
WitchHunt sets out to investigate the stories and the people behind the headlines, examining the nature of the accusations.
- Is this a witch hunt, as some claim?
- If so, who is behind it, and what is the political purpose of such a campaign?
- Has the media failed in its duty to fairness and accuracy in reporting on such serious allegations?
Through a series of interviews, analysis and witness testimony, WitchHunt explores the connections between the attacks on Labour, the ongoing tragedy of Palestine and the wider struggle against race-based oppression. It argues that if it is to mean anything at all, the fight against racism must be a shared one that includes all peoples.
Avi Shlaim, historian:
- "Anyone who speaks or writes in the public domain about antisemitism and the current state of the Labour Party has a duty to see this film and address the issues it raises.”
Mike Leigh (Peterloo, Mr Turner):
- "This impeccably-executed film exposes with chilling accuracy the terrifying threat that now confronts democracy, and the depressing intractability of the Israel-Palestine situation."
Ken Loach (I,DanielBlake):
- “The case of Jackie Walker is important. This film asks whether her lengthy suspension from the Labour Party and attempts to expel her are fair, or an injustice which should be challenged. She is not the only one in this position. See the film and make up your own mind.”
Peter Kosminsky (Wolf Hall, The Promise)
- "WitchHunt packs a powerful punch, telling a story we just aren’t hearing at the moment.”
- I had heard of Jackie’s artistic response to the often libellous attacks on her integrity but had not been able to seen them before the film. We were able to see extracts of her theatrical show "The Lynching" that talks about her background and links to the civil rights struggle in the United States and the importance of her mother. It even reminded me of Michelle Obama’s response to the Trump bigots – they aim low, we aim high. Jackie placed her particular case within the broader issue of racism and resistance. Using culture in this way has enabled her campaign to be broader.
- The film correctly focuses on the Walker case but contextualises it within the history of the establishment of Israel and its removal of the Palestinians. Given the number of new younger members inside Labour today this is very important. It shows how not all Jewish people agreed with the formation of a Zionist state when it described the Bund movement. The whole question of the internationally agreed definition of antisemitism is carefully dissected. Even the person who drafted it originally does not agree with how the pro-Israeli state examples were added to it.
- One of the most worrying ways in which people are accused of antisemitism is the way statements, often from rambling social media threads, are lifted out of context and contentious interpretations are deduced. The notorious example of Jackie talking about the role of Jewish traders in financing the slave trade is examined in the film. In no way did she intend to imply that the whole slave trade was financed just by Jewish merchants but you can prove anything if you chop and edit people’s texts.
- If a person openly defends the Israeli state which destroyed the rights of the Palestinian people then he or she can be politically and logically defined as a Zionist. However it is now considered to be antisemitic by the JLM and others leading the campaign against the left and Corbyn to define that position as Zionist in a political debate. Obviously those MPs who want to close down discussions about the Palestinians right to return or to have a state are happy with this state of affairs.
- The film also shows how the Israeli state uses its diplomats and other state agencies to provide information and resources to carry on attacks on pro-Palestinian Labour members. Extracts from the Al-Jazeera undercover film showing one of these agents operating is included in the film.
- Although the efforts of the JVL have meant there is resistance and some gains made against Margaret Hodge and her friends it must be recognised that they have made progress too in getting the leadership of Momentum, particularly Jon Lansman to fall in behind her understanding of the antisemitism issue inside Labour.
- Continually conceding to the JLM and their supporters has not helped the issue to go away. However much the Labour leadership thinks this is the best tactic, it does not work. The antisemitism issue is still used to fuel campaigns against the Corbyn leadership by a big layer of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Solidarity with the Palestinian people was demonstrated strongly at Annual Conference but practical steps that a Labour government could take to implement solidarity will come up against the well-organised MPs currently leading the attacks.
- Consequently this film and the campaign around it can help to deepen the debate and educate people about the real issues. It could be used to preface a discussion in ward, trade union or other meeting. Information about using the film is available on the JVL website.
|Document:British MPs won’t get to see ‘WitchHunt’ in the House of Commons – the very place it needs to be shown||Article||3 March 2019||Robert Cohen||The WitchHunt deserves to be widely seen. And it will be from Sunday 17th March 2019 when it goes online for free viewing.|
|Document:Labour expulsion hearing set for anti-Zionist Jackie Walker||Article||5 February 2019||Asa Winstanley||WitchHunt documentary: “We are determined to get it out whatever the threats,” Jackie Walker vows|
|Document:The witchfinders are now ready to burn Corbyn||Blog post||28 February 2019||Jonathan Cook||Jeremy Corbyn’s allies are being picked off one by one, from grassroots activists like Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth to higher-placed supporters like Chris Williamson and Seumas Milne. Soon Corbyn will stand alone, exposed before the inquisition that has been prepared for him.|
|Document:We condemn the suspension of Jo Bird and the appointment of Lord Falconer||Article||4 March 2019||As Ken Loach said: “If it looks like a witch hunt and behaves like a witch hunt – it may well be just that. This is intolerable and must end now.”|