Analysis Breaking Exclusive

Exclusive: Unite branch accuses Unite of banning film and book to appease ‘Zionist lobby’

Withering letter to Unite official lists ‘pretexts and lies’ used to justify decision for ban on Unite premises before pro-Israel ‘charity’ boasted of pressuring Unite into move, and accuses union of ‘full scale attack’ on Unite members’ ‘freedom of speech and debate’

The Unite Brighton and South Coast union branch – who had complained to Unite after the union’s Community branch in Portsmouth was banned from showing a film on union premises that exposes the Labour right’s weaponisation of antisemitism and its abuse of left-wing members in what was eventually confirmed as a union-wide ban – has accused the union of imposing the ban to appease a right-wing pro-Israel group and of covering up the real reasons for the ban, until the lobbying group publicly claimed credit for it.

The ban was first imposed on a showing of the film ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn/The Big Lie’ by the Portsmouth branch on the pretext that the union did not want to involve itself in ‘internal’ Labour party matters and wished to save its resources for what it considered to be union purposes. But an email, revealed exclusively by Skwawkbox, from the union’s assistant general secretary on behalf of her boss to the organisers banning an event in Bristol to showcase both the film and a book exposing the same issues in forensic detail, confirmed not only that the ban was union-wide (as Skwawkbox had already revealed), but that it had been imposed because of supposed ‘deep hurt’ to British Jews.

And a boast by the so-called ‘Campaign Against Antisemitism’ (CAA) showed that Unite’s management had issued the clampdown in response to its demand.

Now Unite Brighton and South Coast SE6246 has written to Unite regional officer Sarah Carpenter:

1 August  2023
To Sarah Carpenter
Regional Secretary
Unite – South East

Dear Sarah,

Thank you for your email of 6 July 2023 regarding your decision to cancel the showing of Jeremy Corbyn – The Big Lie at the Unite premises in Portsmouth. You stated:

‘I can be clear that Unite has not been contacted by any group in regards to the decision made.’

It is clear that there was no truth in this statement. The right-wing Zionist Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, boasted of its role in having Unite ban the film. The CAA wrote:

‘Following correspondence with CAA, the Unite union has cancelled the screening of a propaganda film about the antisemitic former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn that was due to be shown alongside a book signing and talk from Asa Winstanley.’

This followed the statement of Gail Cartmail, Unite’s Assistant General-Secretary, justifying Unite’s decision to ban the film and prevent Asa Winstanley speaking about his book because

“Asa Winstanley’s publication has already caused deep hurt among Jews in Britain.”

Cartmail was speaking at the request of General Secretary, Sharon Graham, who “has numerous industrial commitments at the moment.”

It is clear that what you wrote in your e-mail of 6 July that the decision was ‘grounded in our focus to prioritise resources to fight for members pay, terms and conditions and issues facing our local communities.’ is simply untrue. The decision was political not resource based.

You also wrote on 8 June that you had asked for the screenings to be cancelled whilst you sought further guidance whilst stressing that ‘I have not had any instructions to cancel.’ Despite requests for clarification you have refused to explain why you should have sought guidance about instructions you never received.

You also told Portsmouth Community branch about your ‘concerns’ about the film.

In your email of 13 June to Damian McCarthy you wrote:

‘The issues covered in the film are pertinent to internal Labour Party matters and that is not the focus of our union…  union resources are prioritised in these areas.  Resources include use, maintenance and security of Unite buildings.’

The suggestion that ‘internal Labour Party matters’ such as the support for increased privatisation of the NHS and the refusal to countenance renationalisation of the public utilities and rail, to say nothing of providing free school meals or lifting the benefit cap are internal Labour Party members is risible.

All these are excuses, pretexts and lies for banning a film and book. What you and Unite officials have done is launch a full scale attack on the right to free speech and debate of Unite members and you have done this at the behest of Keir Starmer and the Zionist lobby.

The real reason for the hostility of groups like the CAA to Jeremy Corbyn – The Big Lie and Winstanley’s book has nothing whatsoever to do with causing ‘deep hurt’ to British Jews. As someone who is Jewish I know of no protests by members of the Jewish community.  It is the Israel lobby that has objected to the film and book.

If these bans remain then Unite policy on Israeli Apartheid and its support for BDS is a nullity. Everytime that we call out Israeli Apartheid and its domestic political involvement, Israel’s supporters will cry ‘anti-Semitism’ and you will jump accordingly.

The real reason for these bans was the invitation to Starmer to address Unite’s policy conference. The very same Starmer who refuses all support to striking workers.

Starmer and Streeting have made it clear that they support increased private involvement in the NHS. This directly affects our members. It is shameful that you and other Unite officials are complicit in the efforts of Starmer to silence and expel all dissent in the Labour Party.

You cite Rule 17.3 that  ‘no general purposes funds shall be used for political objects.’ We reject your interpretation that ‘a donation to Platform Films… can be described as political.’

If your interpretation of Rule 17.3 is correct then this would mean that our support for the Working Class Movement Library in Manchester is also ultra vires. There is a clear difference between using funds for ‘a political object’ and supporting groups and organisations whose work can be described as political in a broad sense.

What you and Graham/Cartmail are saying is that Unite members have no interests in protecting civil liberties, fighting racism, opposing poverty and giving solidarity to those fighting imperialism. All struggles for democracy or to protect the environment are also prohibited. Is this really the myopic vision of Unite’s senior officers?

Platform Films has a long record of producing films for trade unions and campaigning organisations including Unite. Amongst these films are The T&G Story.

As Tony Benn observed that

By making these brilliant films over the years, Platform has filled a gap that is so obvious in the media – that it doesn’t cover labour and progressive causes properly.

You asked about the route we wish, if any, the motion to follow. We will decide what is the most effective way to campaign against your dictat, not you. We want you to withdraw the penultimate paragraph of your letter as it was clearly made in error.

We are not willing to allow the motion to be kicked into the long grass of Unite’s labyrinthine procedures. This issue needs to be resolved quickly.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Greenstein

Visit the Platforms Films site to find out where and when the film will be shown near you. For an excerpt from Asa Winstanley’s forensically-detailed exposé of the weaponisation of antisemitism by the Labour right, pro-Israel groups and UK media against Jeremy Corbyn, as well as details of where to buy the book, read this exclusive extract.

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