WitchHunt – a film too dangerous to be seen

JVL introduction

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, JVL’s Media Officer and Executive Producer of the film WitchHunt, explores the response it has elicited from the political and media establishment.


WitchHunt – a film too dangerous to be seen

By Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi


Electronic Intifada on Sunday announced the online launch of WitchHunt, a documentary dealing with allegations of “institutional antisemitism” in the Labour Party and associated attempts to silence pro-Palestinian voices, describing it as “The film Labour MPs didn’t want you to see.”

EI was referring to the cancellation of a screening planned for March 4 in the House of Commons, following an outcry by members of the Parliamentary Labour Party led by arch anti-Corbynista Ruth Smeeth. Her onslaught began a process which led to the suspension from Labour of Derby North MP Chris Williamson, whose staff had booked a room for the film showing. The film’s promoters, Jewish Voice for Labour, had sent invitations to MPs and journalists. By the time Williamson was suspended, on Feb 27, none of them had seen the film. And yet they were determined that it should not be shown in Westminster’s hallowed halls.

A preview screening of an earlier version, then called “The Political Lynching of Jackie Walker”, had to be abandoned when bomb threats led to the evacuation of the building where it was being shown on the Labour Party conference fringe in Liverpool in September 2018.

Three venues booked to show WitchHunt in the first half of March, in Cambridge, Nottingham and Brighton, backed out because of behind-the-scenes pressure, requiring organisers to find alternatives.

This occurred despite high praise for WitchHunt from leading film directors who have seen it.

Mike Leigh: “this impeccably executed film exposes with chilling accuracy the terrifying threat that now confronts democracy.”

Peter Kosminsky: “packs a powerful punch” and tells “a story we just aren’t hearing at the moment.”

Ken Loach: “‘Everyone who opposes antisemitism should see this film. Everyone who opposes all racism should see it – and every Labour party member and trade unionist must see it.”

According to EI reporter Asa Winstanley, himself recently suspended from the Labour Party for pointing out the connections between the Jewish Labour Movement and its Israeli mentors, WitchHunt “tells a story about Israel’s alliance with the global far-right that Israel’s supporters would rather you not hear.”

Media reception – silence or distortion

Very few mainstream media outlets have acknowledged the film’s existence and none have so much as touched upon the interlocking elements brought together by WitchHunt’s director Jon Pullman.  There has been no reference to his juxtaposition of original interviews, mainly with expert Jewish commentators, and analysis and witness testimony exploring connections between the attacks on Labour, the ongoing tragedy of Palestine and the wider struggle against race-based oppression.

Instead there has been distortion and abuse directed at Black, Jewish anti-racist campaigner and trainer Jackie Walker, who is fully expecting to be expelled from the Labour Party at a hearing before a National Constitutional Committee panel on March 26/27.

The rebuttal of charges laid against her forms a key part of the film’s wider narrative.

Both Jewish News on February 26 and the Telegraph on March 9 concentrated on condemning Chris Williamson for booking a room in Parliament to screen the “offensive” film, and on recycling old antisemitism allegations against Jackie Walker. The Telegraph managed to twist one statement from a party official, acknowledging that they may have judged Walker a little too harshly in one instance, into a blanket allegation that “Labour officials minimised accusations of antisemitism” against her.

The Telegraph has declined to publish a letter from director Jon Pullman pointing out that this was “a perverse and entirely misleading interpretation” of his film.

Prior to the online launch of Witchhunt on March 17, discussion of the issues it raises has been confined to alternative platforms, such as Mondoweiss, the Canary and Al-Jazeera.

Robert Cohen commented in his review for Mondoweiss that Witchhunt “encourages the viewer to think more deeply about questions of race and politics and how political agendas work to silence opposition.”

Such deep thinking seems to be precisely what the political and media establishment is determined to prevent.

















Comments (1)

  • Norman Kennedy says:

    Dear Jewish voice,I got to congratulate you for telling the truth.
    I am not Jewish,I have a story tell you one day.
    Chris Williamson.
    Jackie Walker.
    Tony Greenstein.
    I hear these people speak up,as we all,should do,for injustice.
    And for doing so,they have become AntiSemite.
    False accusations should be called out.
    I.E where is there evidence.
    No human, Jewish or not,should be accused,of A/S
    Without proof.
    These people are good people, I followed over the last couple of years.
    When I read your posts on Twitter and on here.
    You speak the truth,that’s what all of us want.
    I am a ex shop steward,old union rep.
    If these lies, against the people, I am speaking of
    And this was said, via the police, and law.
    A statement would read,someone is bearing, false witness.
    If false witness, is proved,the person/s making these accusations, have to prove beyond doubt.
    If they can’t prove these accusation,they can be charged.
    Democracy is being stolen,by outside forces.
    And UK Labour, will suffer badly if this continues.
    What can I do to help?
    Best wishes to real genuine people.

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