Thursday, 22 June 2023 14:58

When Truth Becomes Silence: Glastonbury’s Cancelling Of A Powerful Film About Jeremy Corbyn

When Truth Becomes Silence: Glastonbury’s Cancelling Of A Powerful Film About Jeremy Corbyn

The Soviet dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko famously said that:

When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.’

In this country, as in other western ‘democracies’, important truths are effectively being silenced. As we have written on many occasions, antisemitism was used as a weapon to destroy the chances of Jeremy Corbyn becoming the British Prime Minister. Labour HQ staffers, and even Labour MPs, actively conspired against him. Al Jazeera’s powerful series, ‘The Labour Files’, which was blatantly blanked by the establishment media, has documented all this in considerable detail.

And now the Glastonbury Film Festival has succumbed to similar pressure and cancelled a screening of a new film, ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn: The Big Lie’.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews (BDBJ), a right-wing establishment organisation that claims to represent the British Jewish ‘community’, had written to Glastonbury organisers Michael and Emily Eavis, saying it would be ‘profoundly sinister’ if the festival platformed the film. Marie van der Zyl, president of BDBJ, said in a letter to the festival organisers:

‘It seems profoundly sinister for it to be providing a platform to a film which clearly seeks to indoctrinate people into believing a conspiracy theory effectively aimed at Jewish organisations.

‘We would request that you not allow your festival to be hijacked by those seeking to promote hatred with no basis in fact, in the same way as we would hope that your festival would not screen films seeking to promote other conspiracy theories, such as anti-vaccination, 9/11 truthers or chemtrails.’ 

The makers of the film, first shown in London in February, describe the film thus:

‘Produced by award-winning radical film-maker Platform Films, with contributions from Jackie Walker, Ken Loach, Andrew Murray, Graham Bash and Moshe Machover, and narrated by Alexei Sayle, this feature-length documentary film explores a dark and murky story of political deceit and outrageous antisemitic smears. It also uncovers the critical role played by current Labour leader, Keir Starmer and asks if the movement which backed Corbyn could rise again.’

Reviewer Diane Datson wrote:

‘The real message conveyed in this film is that the Labour Party is no alternative to the Conservatives – it serves the ruling class and is led by someone every bit as devious as Boris Johnson, if not more so.’

She added:

However, I for one felt uplifted, as the film ended optimistically. Many of the interviewees think that all is not lost – those millions of people who were inspired and given hope by the Corbyn project haven’t gone away – they are to be found supporting the picket lines, protesting and fighting for many causes such as public ownership of the NHS and the right to strike and the establishment is STILL petrified.’

But Paul Mason, formerly of BBC Newsnight and Channel 4 News, and now a would-be Labour MP under Starmer, attacked the film as presenting:

‘a full-blown conspiracy theory about Corbyn’s opponents, conflating Zionists, Jews and Israel as part of a force that “orchestrated” his overthrow.’

Mason gave a specific example:

‘Seventeen minutes in, after presenting evidence of an “orchestrated campaign” against Corbyn, the narrator, Alexei Sayle asks: “But if it was an orchestrated campaign, who was in the orchestra?” There follows a silent montage showing the Jewish Board of Deputies, the Jewish Labour Movement, Labour Friends of Israel, and the Israel Advocacy Movement.

‘As a professional film-maker I recognise this wordless presentation of a controversial idea not as an accident but as a technique: using captions and pictures to state what, if spoken aloud, could be accused of anti-Semitism.’

Mason’s description is a gross distortion. This section of the film does indeed address the role of the pro-Israel lobby in the UK, with the montage indicating key players. But prior to this section, ‘The Big Lie’ already emphasises the crucial point that it was the establishment as a whole that worked tirelessly to bring Corbyn down, even to the extent of an unnamed acting British army general threatening that the army would ‘mutiny’ and that ‘people would use whatever means possible, fair or foul’ to get rid of Corbyn (Sunday Times, 20 September 2015).

Sayle, as narrator, stated unequivocally that:

‘For the establishment, the sudden rise of Corbyn was terrifying.’

He continued:

‘Corbyn was anti-capitalist, anti-war, anti-nuclear weapons. A socialist, even.’

Mike Cowley, a Labour Party member, said:

I guess that’s what gave the establishment such a fright, to a degree, because they saw the numbers he was mobilising. And, as we began to see, it’s not actually Corbyn they’re afraid of. It’s us – he’s only one man. It’s us, they’re afraid of.’

Sayle then pointed out that:

‘From the start, Jeremy Corbyn’s biggest threat was from his own Labour MPs.’ 

After the 2017 election, the campaign against Corbyn ‘went into overdrive’:

‘The Tory press threw its all at Jeremy Corbyn. They tried smear after smear [front-page press montage]. But in the end, only one stuck [alleged antisemitism].’

In other words, the film overwhelmingly makes clear that the pro-Israel lobby was only one player in a much larger orchestra that was fundamentally establishment, not Jewish, in nature. Mason chose to ignore this in his review. And yet, he had himself accepted the wider conspiracy in 2020:

‘A senior group of Labour staffers actively conspired for the party to lose the 2017 election… this is a Watergate moment, not just for Labour but for British politics’              

 On Twitter, leftist singer Billy Bragg joined the attack on the film:

‘The problem with the film is that it implies there is a Jewish conspiracy behind Corbyn’s defeat. The fact that the film’s supporters have been blaming the Israeli lobby for the ban rather than the content of the film kinda underlines their lack of understanding of that problem’

As evidence, Bragg then cited Mason’s misleading quote (presumably, and ill-advisedly, because Bragg had not himself seen the film) as an attempted ‘Gotcha!’

Jackie Walker, a Jewish activist who is interviewed in ‘The Big Lie’, made an additional, relevant point when she responded to Bragg:

‘Labour Friends of Israel are overwhelmingly not Jewish, the Board of deputies do not hide their commitment to Israel, and the IAM [Israel Advocacy Movement] are exactly what they say on the tin – they ADVOCATE for Israel’

‘The Big Lie’ is, of course, right to address the important part played by the pro-Israel lobby. It includes clips from the Al Jazeera film, ‘The Lobby’, which exposed Israel’s determined attempts to interfere in Britain’s politics. In particular, Israeli embassy official Shai Masot was caught on film boasting that he could help ‘bring down’ pro-Palestinian MPs. A clip of Peter Oborne, former political editor of the Telegraph, from the same Al Jazeera film, is also shown in which he says:

‘It [the actions of the Israel lobby] is outrageous interference in British politics. It shouldn’t be permitted.’ 

On Twitter, Ben Sellers observed that:

‘I have worked in Parliament & been an anti-racist activist all my adult life. I’m not naive about these things. I watched the film very carefully for anything that could be deemed antisemitic. The idea that it implies a “Jewish conspiracy” defeated Corbyn is a distortion.’

He continued:

‘What it does is explain that organisations (with their own centrist & rightwing politics) inside & outside the party, worked to create a crisis for Corbyn’s leadership & in order to defeat the left in the party. This is well documented & evidenced (e.g in the Al Jazeera docs).’

Sellers concluded:

‘It’s not a conspiracy theory – it’s an argument. And what people [like Mason and Bragg] don’t like is that argument. They don’t want to hear it. So they’ve manage[d] to silence the voice of left-wing Jews (on the basis that the Jewish community is some sort of monolith). That’s dangerous & undemocratic.’

‘Anti-Racists Accused Of Racism By Racists’

‘The Big Lie’ also highlights the incessant establishment media attacks on Corbyn, particularly after the 2017 General Election which he came so close to winning. The ‘smear that stuck’ was the myth that antisemitism was supposedly rife in Labour under Corbyn. A ‘cancer’, as one despicable newspaper headline put it.  

In his distorted review of the documentary, Mason raised the spectre of legal action on the grounds that the film supposedly breaches the politically biased and much-disputed International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. Simply put, the film dares to criticise the apartheid state of Israel, its lobbyists and the media acolytes who campaigned to smear Corbyn and his supporters, including long-time grassroots Labour activists.

As journalist Jonathan Cook observed in 2021, a five-year campaign by highly partisan, pro-Israel lobby groups was able to mislead the international community about the nature of what has been wrongly described as the ‘gold standard’ definition of antisemitism. The definition has now become ‘a cudgel’ with which to beat critics of Israel and to suppress the rights of Palestinians.

Avi Shlaim, an emeritus professor at Oxford University, observed in the foreword of a 2021 report on how the definition of antisemitism has been misrepresented:

‘[A] definition intended to protect Jews against antisemitism was twisted to protect the State of Israel against valid criticisms that have nothing to do with anti-Jewish racism.’

In September 2018, Alexei Sayle had told a packed fringe meeting at the Labour party conference that:

‘There can be no greater injustice than anti-racists being accused of racism by racists.’

That is a precise and succinct summary of what has been happening in recent years.

Having watched the complete documentary, ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn: The Big Lie’, it is clear that it is thoroughly researched, relies on credible and articulate interviewees, and its arguments are expertly marshalled and presented. The notion that it is in any way ‘antisemitic’ is just a sign of how far down the road of totalitarian censorship we have travelled in this country.

Glastonbury Capitulates

Rather than spring to the film’s defence, Michael Walker of Novara Media criticised the film’s title:

‘Normally I’m v against clamping down on any open discussion about what happened in and to labour between 2015 and 2019. But calling your film “the big lie” is, at best, really really dumb.’

Why? Because Hitler had used the same phrase, ‘the big lie’. But, as several people pointed out in response to Walker’s ‘really really dumb’ comment, so have many others. In fact, ‘the big lie’ comes from one of the Jewish contributors to the film, Moshé Machover, in describing the smears against Corbyn. Moreover, Walker admitted he had not even seen the film.

This continued the shameful record of Novara – remember, supposedly an ‘alternative’ to the corporate media – in failing to critically appraise the weaponising of antisemitism; indeed, accepting the myth that antisemitism was endemic under Corbyn-led Labour.

Once they had caved in to pro-Israel pressure to cancel the film, the Glastonbury festival organisers then issued a statement in which they said:

‘Although we believe that the Pilton Palais [cinema] booked this film in good faith, in the hope of provoking political debate, it’s become clear that it is not appropriate for us to screen it at the festival.

‘Glastonbury is about unity and not division, and we stand against all forms of discrimination.’

What a contrast from 2017 when Corbyn had addressed a massive, appreciative crowd at Glastonbury, proclaiming a message of ‘unity, and not division’ and ‘standing against all forms of discrimination’.

The BDBJ crowed that the film had now been cancelled:

‘We are pleased that in the wake of a letter we sent earlier today, @glastonbury have announced the cancellation of the screening of this film. Hateful conspiracy theories should have no place in our society.’

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, a founding member of Jewish Voice for Labour who was expelled from Starmer’s Labour Party for being the ‘wrong type of Jew’said on Twitter:

‘Unbelievable that @glastonbury has bowed to demands from fans of Starmer’s @uklabour, banning a film exposing demonisation of @jeremycorbyn. The censors say the film conflates Zionists, Jews & Israel. No, actually, that’s what they do. See it & judge for yourself.’

US journalist Glenn Greenwald noted:

‘The @glastonbury Film Festival capitulated to pressure and cancelled the Corbyn documentary.

‘This illustrates the great crisis in the democratic world: an intense fixation on suppressing and silencing, rather than engaging, dissenting views.

‘Every solution now is censorship.’

It is indeed the ‘solution’ seen by established power, and it is utterly wrong.

There was minimal reporting by the British state-corporate media and, crucially, no uproar about censorship and yet another step being taken towards suppression of free speech. There was a handful of short news reports, including in the Independent, the Evening Standard, the Guardian (passed over in just three lines), the TimesDaily Mail and Telegraph.

These mainly led with the charges of ‘antisemitism’ and ‘conspiracy theory’. The Evening Standard also carried a smear piece, ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn: Glasto myth and a poisonous conspiracy theory’, by Tanya Gold.

The single significant piece refuting the specious, cynical charges was an article in the Independent reporting the reaction of Norman Thomas, the film’s producer. He said that the film’s cancellation had been caused by ‘vicious outside pressure’. He added:

‘An outside pressure group [BDBJ] has declared war on our film. They wrote to the festival’s sponsors… and whipped up huge storm of complaints about the film claiming, without any foundation whatsoever, that the film is antisemitic.’

He continued:

‘The claim that the film is antisemitic is a total smear.

‘The festival organisers even had a lawyer examine the film who pronounced it totally devoid of antisemitism. [Our emphasis]’

As we have also seen with the cruel persecution of Julian Assange and the treatment of Roger Waters, co-founder of Pink Floyd, the establishment is becoming ever fiercer in its attacks on those who challenge power.

It is ironic indeed that Glenn Greenwald, a US journalist, is far more vocal in defending UK freedom of speech than British journalists. A great silence has fallen over the media in this country.

Read 780 times Last modified on Thursday, 22 June 2023 15:17
David Cromwell and David Edwards

David Cromwell and David Edwards are co-editors of Media Lens, medialens.org.

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