30 August 2023

Open Letter to Sharon Graham – How does support for the Palestinians square with working with the Israeli-state funded Campaign Against Anti-Semitism?

 Why have your officials lied and lied about the banning of ‘Jeremy Corbyn – The Big Lie’? 

Who has given you the right to decide what Unite members can or cannot see?

Dear Sharon Graham,

Correspondence with Unite officials reminds me of David Low’s cartoons which depicted the TUC as a carthorse. Slow-witted, disingenuous, impervious to reason and incapable of rational thought. As Low noted, ‘STUPIDITY has no frontiers.’

I refer to the ban on Jeremy Corbyn – The Big Lie and Asa Winstanley’s Weaponisation of Anti-Semitism. On 22 August Gail Cartmail wrote to David Plank of Cambridge Community Branch:

Unite has not “banned” the film mentioned nor the book, however we have declined to use our buildings for its showing and a related book launch.

That sounds like a ban. The film and talk were due to be held at Tony Benn House, Bristol on 24 July. They were cancelled. Organisers were told by a union official that the event was cancelled after “discussion with senior colleagues.” Unite’s leadership did not want to “be drawn into contentious political debate.”

The Ventriloquist & her Puppet

Skwawkbox editor Steve Walker attributed the decision to ‘the growing cosiness between Unite’s management and the current hard-right Labour regime.’

In an email Gail Cartmail claimed on your behalf that Winstanley’s book had “caused deep hurt among Jews in Britain.”. This evidence-free assertion is ironically an anti-Semitic lie, assuming as it does that British Jews are hurt by criticism of Zionism and Israel.

Since the buck stops with you as General Secretary I am replying directly to you rather than the ventriloquist’s puppet.

Cartmail’s ‘explanation’ came after Sarah Carpenter, Regional Secretary for SE Unite wrote on 8 June regarding the showing of the film by Portsmouth Community Branch:

I have asked for the screenings to be cancelled whilst I seek further guidance. I have not had any instructions to cancel.

Carpenter refused to clarify why she needed to take ‘further guidance’ about instructions that she hadn’t received. On 13 June Carpenter sent another email stating that

we will not be showing the film in the Portsmouth office, and I will alert the relevant branch of this.’

That also sounds like a ban.

In Carpenter’s email to me of 5 July Rule 17.3 was invoked to prevent Unite SE 6246 branch from donating to Platform Films, which produced the film. Over the years Platform Films has made a host of films for the trade union movement including Unite and history of the T&GWU. Given that the overwhelming majority of the media is anti-trade union what kind of mule headed idiocy is it that possesses a union official to ban donations to a pro-trade union film company?

As Tony Benn observed By making these brilliant films over the years, Platform has filled a gap that is so obvious in the media.’ Bob Crow, the legendary RMT leader wrote that:

RMT is proud to be associated with a film company that unashamedly knows which side it is on, and is carrying the tradition of gutsy, agitprop, socialist film-making to a new generation in the 21st century

If Platform Films knows which side it’s on the same cannot be said for you or your officials. In an email of 13 June Carpenter gave a variety of excuses for the ban:

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.

Although Unite has increased the amount of money it gives to the Labour Party, despite your assurances to the contrary, it isn’t able to afford the cost of security for a union building to show a film. As David Plank wrote

Frankly, this beggars belief. The unions founded the Labour Party to achieve the political voice that is essential to the best interests and welfare of our members. It is neither possible nor desirable to make such a flimsy, artificial distinction.

The suggestion that privatisation of the NHS and renationalisation of rail and the utilities are internal Labour Party matters is risible.

The real reason for these bans is to appease Starmer who has repeatedly refused to support striking workers. No sooner had he left Unite’s policy conference than he tore up his pledge to repeal the latest Tory anti-union legislation.

It is shameful that you are complicit in the efforts of Starmer to silence and expel those who disagree with his neo-liberal agenda.

In her email of 5 July Carpenter wrote:

I can be clear that Unite has not been contacted by any group in regards to the decision made…. the decision taken was grounded in our focus to prioritise resources ….

This was clearly a lie. On 23 July the far-right Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, boasted of its role in the banning of the film:

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.

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism has one purpose - to smear supporters of the Palestinians and opponents of Zionism as anti-Semitic. It openly boasted of its role in removing Jeremy Corbyn.

Lest you have any doubt that Israel is an apartheid state you should be aware that this is the unanimous view of human rights groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem.

Israel is a state whose official police is one of ‘Judaising’ the Galilee and Negev. The Koenig Memorandum of April 1976 by Yisrael Koenig, a senior member of the Israeli Labor Party, proposed to:

Expand and deepen Jewish settlement in areas where the contiguity of the Arab population is prominent, and where they number considerably more than the Jewish population; examine the possibility of diluting existing Arab population concentrations.

Imagine the outcry if there was a proposal to ‘dilute’ the Black population of London. Koenig spoke about the duty of ‘those dealing with the Arab sector… to familiarize themselves with the Arab mentality.’ I suggest you substitute ‘Jewish’ for ‘Arab’.

If anyone harboured any doubts that Palestinians live under an Apartheid regime then Israel’s neo-Nazi Police Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir laid these to rest when he told an Israeli Arab journalist:

“My right, the right of my wife, of my children to move around on the roads in the West Bank is more important than the right to freedom of movement of the Arabs – sorry, Mohammed, this is the reality, this is the truth,”

Moshe Yalon, the ex- Likud Defence Minister termed Gvir ‘Mein Kampf in Reverse.

The CAA has been at the forefront of attacks on pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist academics such as Bristol University’s Rachel Gould and David Miller, Warwick University’s Goldie Osurie, Shahd Abusalama of Sheffield Hallam and Exeter University’s Malaka Shwaik.

The CAA demanded that Gould, a Jewish professor, publicly retract an article Defining Anti-Semitism and if she refused then she should be dismissed “and her dismissal should be made public so as to clearly signal the University of Bristol’s values”.

The CAA has used the IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism as a political weapon. Even American academic Kenneth Stern, who drafted the IHRA, said, in testimony to the US Congress, that the CAA’s attack on Gould was ‘chilling and McCarthy-like’.

Gideon Falter, Chair of the CAA, has also supported Hindu racists in opposing protection against racial discrimination for Dalits (Untouchables), which is dressed up as racism against Hindus.

The CAA posted this story before quickly taking it down - Jackie Walker's 'holocaust' story was based on her quoting David Ben Gurion, Israel's first Prime Minister

The CAA has deliberately tried to stir up fear of anti-Semitism amongst Jews. Anshel Pfeffer in Ha’aretz, commenting on the CAA’s 2015 Anti-Semitism Barometer wrote of the CAA’s:

eagerness to see anti-Semitism in Britain… as much more widespread than it really is….

If the majority of British Jews and the authors of the CAA report actually believe that [anti-Semitism in Britain today resembles that in the 30s], then it’s hard to take anything they say about contemporary anti-Semitism seriously…. To compare today’s Britain… with the Jews’ situation in 1930s exhibits a disconnect from reality which borders on hysteria.

This is the organisation that you take your advice from when deciding what Unite members can and cannot see.

The CAA is Islamophobic and also Anti-Semitic

The CAA was formed in 2014 during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge when 2,200 Palestinians, including 551 children, died. Its purpose was to undermine solidarity with the Palestinians.

This is the racist CAA's new definition of anti-Semitism

The CAA is not interested in genuine anti-Semitism. In 2019 it redefined anti-Semitism with 6 questions, all about Israel. If you weren’t comfortable spending time with supporters of Israel that made you an anti-Semite. I was uncomfortable in the company of supporters of Apartheid in South Africa. Did that make me a racist? Amongst the other 5 questions was “Israel makes a positive contribution to the world.” If  you disagree that makes you an anti-Semite!

Anti-Semitism as defined in the OED, which most people understand anti-Semitism as ‘hostility to or prejudice against Jews as Jews’. By constructing these fraudulent questions, the CAA was able to pretend that anti-Semitism is a problem of the left not the right.

When it comes to genuine anti-Semitism the CAA is not interested - it's only Israel that concerns it

When Jacob Rees-Mogg attacked two fellow Jewish Tories, Oliver Letwin and John Bercow, as “Illuminati who are taking the powers to themselves.” the CAA said nothing. As Michael Berkowitz, Professor of Modern Jewish History at UCL wrote:

‘Rees-Mogg is knowingly trafficking in the portrayal of Jews as underhanded and sinister. … he has exhumed, embellished, and rebroadcast one of the most poisonous antisemitic canards in all of history.

Mogg also retweeted comments by Alice Wiedel, leader of the neo-Nazi AfD but all you will find is a neutral article Jacob Rees Mogg defends sharing German far-right leader’s speech on Twitter.

Why is this? Because Mogg is ardently pro-Israel and the AfD is the most pro-Zionist party in Germany. All the CAA said was that the ‘AfD has a long history of problematic language and policies’. The Nazi Party also had a history of 'problematic language and policies'.

The CAA’s 2016 Report British Muslims and antiSemitism had a picture of a Muslim man holding a ‘Hitler was right’ poster. The implication is clear. Muslims are Nazi supporters.

The Report included a full colour drawing of a ‘typical’ Muslim man. If this had been a ‘typical Jew’ the air would have been thick with accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’. The report accused Muslims of being

more likely by far than the general British population to hold deeply antisemitic views…. many British Muslims reserve a special hatred for British Jews …

Who Gives You the Right to Decide What Unite Members Can or Can’t See or Hear?

No one has alleged that The Big Lie is anti-Semitic. This would be surprising since Jews feature prominently in it. Yet Cartmail says that it will offend ’ and ‘rake up issues’ that you want to bury.

Zionists may be offended. So? what? Are you opposed to offending racists? As George Orwell said: ‘If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.’ Freedom of speech is meaningless without the right to offend. Cartmail does not understand this but I would expect you to.

Lord Justice Sedley ruled in DPP v Redmond-Bate (1999) that

Free speech includes not only the inoffensive but the irritating, the contentious, the eccentric, the heretical, the unwelcome and the provocative provided it does not tend to provoke violence. Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having.

You have no grounds to ban this film or the book. This is censorship carried out on behalf of the same Israeli state that is currently waging a campaign of terror against the Palestinians. B ranches have the right to show films about what happened during Corbyn and make up their own mind without Big Sister interfering. Offending those who support pogroms and murder of children should be welcomed.

When Muslims attacked Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses the media proclaimed If we don’t defend free speech, we live in tyranny. When Charlie Hebdo mocked the Prophet Muhammad, it was a case of Je Suis Charlie. But when anti-Zionists criticise the tactics of supporters of Israeli Apartheid ‘preventing hurt’ to racists is your priority.

As Ken Loach noted:

Asa Winstanley’s book has been widely praised, including by noted Jewish commentators, for its rigorous and authoritative research.

By banning the author from discussing it in this way, Unite has shown the title to be accurate – anti-Semitism has indeed been weaponized. This is a critical political issue. Buy this important book and judge for yourself.

Cartmail, in her email of 22 August to David Plank, said

Unite is proudly anti-racist and stands with all minorities in our communities who face prejudice and discrimination.’

Prehistoric is Cartmail and Graham's View of Zionism - They Have Learnt Nothing and Forgotten Nothing

Does this apply to billionaires who are undoubtedly a minority? Have ordinary words lost their meaning for you too? All minorities? Are we not allowed to offend fascists? Cartmail’s ready resort to clichés and hackneyed phrases is embarrassing, even for a union bureaucrat.

What possible connection does Cartmail’s statement have to the film? How was the film supporting prejudice and discrimination? 

The clear implication of Cartmail’s words, on your behalf, is that the Big Lie is racist. In essence you have chosen to take the word of a far-right Zionist, an officer of an organisation that spearheaded the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in 1948 over Jewish socialists.

The role of an Ambassador is to lie on behalf of their country. Is that Cartmail’s role? She has adopted the stratagem Orwell described in 1984 whereby the constant repetition of lies become the truth. In her email to Plank, Cartmail boasted that

Unite has a longstanding commitment to international solidarity and has for decades supported the Palestinian cause and will continue to do so.  No union has done more on Palestinian solidarity than Unite.

This too is a lie. The union which has done most for the Palestinians is the FBU. The late Ken Cameron, its General Secretary, worked tirelessly to win the trade union movement to the Palestinian cause. Cartmail’s boasts are designed to conceal the truth of your support for the Zionism and Israel’s apartheid state.

Cartmail quoted the EHRC Report into Labour ‘antisemitism’ in support of the ban. She assumes that the EHRC is an anti-racist body. Nothing could be further from the truth. In July 2020, two former EHRC commissioners — Simon Woolley, previously the only black person on the Commission, and Meral Hussein-Ece, the only Muslim — told Newsweek that they had not been reappointed to their posts in 2012 because they were “too loud and vocal” on questions of racism.

The EHRC Report was produced by Alisdair Henderson who was caught tweeting in support of Roger Scruton, the fascist founding editor of Salisbury Review. Henderson combined racism, homophobia and misogyny in one.  See The Labour Antisemitism Report Has Always Been a Politically Motivated Travesty]

The Report was legally flawed and is currently subject to judicial review proceedings. Yet Cartmail relies on this worthless report much like a drunk leans on a lamppost, for support not illumination.

The EHRC has an appalling record of discrimination against its own Black members of staff. Successive governments have stuffed its Board with Tory appointees such as David Goodhart who argued that the “hostile environment” should not be watered down in the wake of the Windrush scandal or Jessica Butcher who believes that modern feminism disempowers women.

The EHRC's first Chair, Trevor Philips is a bigot who was suspended from the Labour Party for comments such as Muslims are a ‘nation within a nation’. Starmer quietly reinstated him.

Cartmail mentioned that Labour List had published an article on the film but didn’t mention that it was by Paul Mason, a lapdog for the security services, who declared that he was waging war against anti-imperialist academics. That you should cite Mason’s attack shows the lengths to which you will go in order to appease Starmer.

What this shameful decision demonstrates is that your militant talk and support for strikes takes place in the context of your own right-wing, chauvinist pro-capitalist politics.

The Objection to A Big Lie Comes from Zionists not Jews

Between 2015 and 2019, a campaign was waged by the British Establishment to paint Corbyn as an anti-Semite and the Labour Party as anti-Semitic. Politicians like Tom Watson, who had spent their careers demonising refugees, overnight became anti-racists.

The dishonest nature of this campaign was exposed by the Labour Leaked Report which detailed how senior Labour staff had sabotaged Labour’s election chances in 2017.

Because of the British media’s complicity it was Al Jazeera’s “The Lobby” and the “Labour Files” which exposed the confected nature of the ‘anti-Semitism’ allegations. The Forde Report later confirmed that anti-Semitism had been weaponised by the Right.

Gideon Falter, Chair of the Jewish National Fund & Vice-Chair of JNF-UK which refuse to lease or rent land to non-Jews - this is Sharon Graham's comrade-in-arms

You Sharon Graham have banned an anti-racist film at the behest of an organisation whose Chair, Gideon Falter, is Vice-Chair of the Jewish National Fund, an organisation which refuses to rent or lease the 93% of land in Israel that it owns or controls. It makes Unite party to the JNF’s continuing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

In 2004 the Adalah Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel petitioned the Supreme Court demanding the cancellation of the allocation of JNF lands to Jews only. The JNF’s response was that

The JNF is not the trustee of the general public in Israel. Its loyalty is given to the Jewish people in the Diaspora and in the state of Israel... The JNF… is not a public body that works for the benefit of all citizens of the state. The loyalty of the JNF is given to the Jewish people and only to them is the JNF obligated. The JNF, as the owner of the JNF land, does not have a duty to practice equality towards all citizens of the state.

Electronic Intifada has just revealed that the CAA is directly funded by JNF-UK. In 2018 and 2019 it received $450,000 from an Israeli para-state organisation. Far from upholding ‘a longstanding commitment to international solidarity’ you Sharon Graham have been holding hands with the practitioners of Israeli apartheid.

Look Who's Just Dropped In To Support Israel

Cartmail states that Unite has for decades supported the Palestinian cause. So let us get this correct. On the one hand you are working with lobbyists for Israeli apartheid and on the other hand you support Palestinian liberation. Do you not see the contradiction?

It would have been like saying you support Black people under apartheid in South Africa whilst at the same time vetoing anything that was critical of apartheid on the grounds that it ‘might give offence’ to White South Africans. It is shameful.

‘Anti-Semitism’ has been the principal defence of the racist regime in Tel Aviv. Everytime someone calls out the murder of Palestinian children, the demolition of homes or theft of land up goes the cry of ‘anti-Semitism’. Have you learnt nothing in the past 7 years?

‘Anti-Semitism’ is the only defence the Zionists have left. Such cries are themselves anti-Semitic. To see you going along with this brands you an utter hypocrite and a collaborator with apartheid.

If these bans remain then Unite policy on Palestine will be worthless. Every time that we call out Israel’s crime of apartheid Israel’s supporters will cry ‘anti-Semitism’ and you will jump to attention.

See Unite’s ‘disgraceful’ response to branch about film and book ban and

The Banning of Corbyn - The Big Lie & Asa Winstanley’s ‘Weaponising Anti-Semitism’ because they ‘caused deep hurt among Jews in Britain” Renders Unite's Policy on Palestine Meaningless

Correspondence Between David Plank, Cambridge Community Branch & Gail Cartmail


  1. A brilliant letter.
    Sharon Graham out out out!

  2. As a Muslim, I sent Sharon the CAAs islamophobic images. It's a pity she's a racist and has zero care how it affects us Muslims. The hierarchy of racism is here for all to see. She didn't even bother to reply to me.

  3. The CAA had nothing to do with this - as was confirmed by Unite. Unite has total support for Palestinian Solidarity Campaign. What Unite shouldn’t do is get involved with internal LABOUR PARTY politics between different elitist factions. Unite is for its members and under the GS it prioritises the workplace. Screen the film in a community hall and have your internal LP fight away from Unite.

    1. What Unite should also do, is disaffiliate from Labour - its a party that offers absolutely nothing for the working class.

  4. Except that the CAA claim that they did have something to do with it and that they have exchanged correspondence with Unite leaders.

    I do not know who this anonymous fool is but what it calls 'internal LABOUR PARTY politics' is about minor things like privatisation.. To prioritise workplace struggles over political struggles highlights the stupidity and bankruptcy of the Sharon Graham leadership and more generally of syndicalism.

  5. Theres some good analysis over at the Marx Engels Institute on unions and the Labour Party here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZZpQTjGrgk


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