This week, despite opposition from Jewish groups, the Free University of Brussels is set to honour film director Ken Loach with a doctorate honoris causa in recognition of “his militant work on social conflicts and the fight for the right of workers or illegal immigrants”. A member of the Labour Party for many years, Mr Loach’s voice has been among the loudest of those who attempt to dismiss the antisemitism crisis currently afflicting the Party as non-existent and a right-wing smear campaign, despite the Labour leader himself having recently acknowledged the existence of the problem. This is hard to see as anything other than accusing the victims of antisemitism in the Party of acting in bad faith by fabricating or exaggerating their claims.
Last September, Mr Loach caused outrage when, during an interview with the BBC, he refused to denounce Holocaust denial. The interview took place shortly after the last Labour Party conference, where an activist at a fringe meeting attached to the event publicly stated that it should be legitimate to discuss whether the Holocaust happened. Mr Loach told the BBC interviewer: “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.”
The International Definition of Antisemitism states that “denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust)” is a manifestation of antisemitism.
Although Mr Loach later sought to clarify his remarks, he has continued to make inflammatory and provocative statements about Labour’s antisemitism scandal. Earlier this month, while speaking at a meeting of the Kingswood Constituency Labour Party, Mr Loach advocated the removal from the Party of those Labour MPs, some of whom are Jewish, who have taken a principled stand against antisemitism. Shortly after this incident, the Labour Party announced that it would no longer use Mr Loach as a producer of their election broadcasts.
By defending the right to deny the Holocaust, by dismissing the antisemitism crisis in Labour as a conspiracy to attack Jeremy Corbyn, and by demanding the expulsion of Labour MPs who fight against antisemitism, Mr Loach has rendered himself worthy of sanction, not honour. Campaign Against Antisemitism has written to Yvon Englert, the Rector of the Free University of Brussels, pointing out that to proceed with this week’s ceremony would be a slap in the face to Jewish people, not just in Britain but around the globe, and urging him to reconsider making this inappropriate award.
You may wish to add your voice to ours by contacting Professor Englert at [email protected].