BRUSSELS—The Brussels Free University (ULB) has decided to honor British film director Ken Loach despite protests by Belgian Jewish organisations citing his “obsessive hatred of Israel.”
The Jewish organisations, which include the David Susskind Jewish Community Center (CCLJ), the Union of Belgian Jewish Deportees and the Union of Jewish Students, accuse Loach of being unable to denounce anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. They point to an ambiguous response he gave in an interview last September on the Holocaust.
Asked in a BBC interview if Holocaust denial was acceptable, Loach said: “History is for all of us to discuss. All history is our common heritage to discuss and analyze. The founding of the State of Israel, for example, based on ethnic cleansing, is there for us to discuss.”
He later clarified his comments saying that the Holocaust was “as real a historical event as World War II itself and not to be challenged.”
Brussels university defended his decision to award Loach with a doctorate honoris causa by saying that the film director had issued a statement formally denying any credit to the revisionist theses.
The university said : The filmmaker was chosen by the Academic Council of the ULB because of his “militant work on social conflicts and the fight for the right of workers or illegal immigrants”. “We do not want to shift the focus to the Arab-Israeli conflict, which would totally denature its meaning and dimension,” said the university. If Ken Loach’s positions in the context of this conflict attract the criticism of its opponents, the ULB sees no element of its course that would support accusations of anti-Semitism or revisionism. None of his works deals with this conflict.’’
In its statement, the university added that ‘’support for the academic boycott of Israel, which is blamed on him, is not ULB’s position, but it cannot be disqualified.’’
The institution concluded by reaffirming its commitment against all forms of racism, anti-Semitism and negationism.