Belgian Premier Opposes Honorary PhD for Ken Loach Over 'anti-Semitism'

The famous director denies that his long-standing support for the Palestinian cause is anti-Semitic, though he's come under fire for his comments before, the Guardian reports

Director Ken Loach, Palme d'Or award winner for his film "I, Daniel Blake", poses during a photocall after the closing ceremony of the 69th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 22, 2016.
REGIS DUVIGNAU/ REUTERS/ רז'

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel says British director Ken Loach shouldn't be honored by a leading Belgian university because of his anti-Semitic comments about Israel and his policy toward Palestinians, the Guardian reported on Thursday.

However, the Free University of Brussels is standing by its plan to award Loach an honorary doctorate today. Loach, 81, denies the charge that his long-standing support for the Palestinian cause is anti-Semitic, the Guardian reports.

Michel made his remarks at an event on Wednesday evening at the Brussels Grand Synagogue, at an event marking Israel's 70th Independence Day.

“No accommodation with anti-Semitism can be tolerated, whatever its form. And that also goes for my own alma mater," said Michel, who studied law at the Free University, Reuters reports.

Michel studied the case and feels that Loach's controversial statements warrant withdrawing the honorary doctorate, his office told the Belgian news site De Standaard on Wednesday.

It bears adding that the university doesn't need the premier's permission to honor anybody. Nor is it clear what remarks Michel meant specifically, though his record includes calling for a boycott of Israel, and excoriating Labor members of parliament for joining a protest against anti-Semitism.

Last year, Loach was criticized for calling on the popular band Radiohead to forgo appearing in Israel while his own films were being screened throughout the country, the Guardian reported. 

In 2014, Germany's Jewish community protested against an honorary award for Loach at the Berlin International Film Festival because of his urgent calls to boycott Israel, economically and culturally. "Loach belongs to the worst type of anti-Semites, as he is making anti-Semitism acceptable among the circles of intelligence He is not just another skinhead we can ignore," Ynet reported at the time.