Thursday, February 11, 2021

  • Thursday, February 11, 2021
  • Elder of Ziyon

Film director Ken Loach has long ago proven that anti-Zionism and antisemitism are two sides of the same coin. 

His first controversy with Jews came when he directed a play called Perdition that alleged Zionist collaboration with Nazis. it included lines like “To save your hides, you practically led them to the gas chambers of Auschwitz,” “Israel was founded on the pillars of Western guilt and American dollars” and “Israel was coined in the blood of Hungarian Jewry." Historians decried the play as wholly false and antisemitic.

This is of course patently offensive and false, but when Jews complained and the play was canceled, Loach whined about the "Zionist lobby" and its "extraordinary arrogance," adding that "they" want to suppress any discussion about clear lies.

Then he denied there was anything antisemitic about it.

Later, in 2009, Loach blamed antisemitism on Israel: “Nothing has been a greater instigator of antisemitism than the self-proclaimed Jewish state itself... Until we deal with that, until that is acknowledged, then racism, I’m afraid, will be with us.”

Is there any other bigotry on the planet that is blamed on its victims and excuses its perpetrators?

More recently, an actor was booted from his trade union after he denied the Holocaust. Loach came to his defense, giving him advice on making a film defending his bigotry.

Loach has also energetically defended Jeremy Corbyn and Ken Livingstone's tolerance of antisemitism.

When asked in 2019 whether it was unacceptable to debate whether the Holocaust happened or not, he said: "History is there for us all to discuss."

So it is not surprising that Jewish students at St. Peter's College protested at an invitation for Ken Loach to speak to the Master of the college,  "Ken Loach in conversation with Professor Judith Buchanan".

When they met with Buchanan, she gave multiple excuses to ignore their concerns. Here is what they wrote to Rachel Riley:

During this meeting, she diminished [Jewish students'] concerns by claiming that "some Jews don't think it's offensive", said that she didn't know about his antisemitism because she hadn't read his Wikipedia page, refused to cancel the event because it would be bad for PR ("I don't want to create additional publicity [...] it would be huge to cancel an invitation at this point"), and put the burden on Jewish students to find a workable solution ("There isn't a way through this that you will be fully happy with - I'm not going to cancel it"). 

• This meeting left Jewish students at the college feeling hurt, ignored, and deeply uncomfortable with the ignorance about antisemitism and willingness to tolerate it displayed by the most senior individual in their college's administration, who represents the college to the outside world. Jewish students across the University of Oxford feel similarly frustrated with the lack of regard shown to the welfare of Jewish students, and the manner in which PR was prioritised over their concerns. 

The college defended the event:

 Ken Loach, an alumnus of St Peter's College, has been invited by the College and The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities to speak about two of his films. These films form part of a distinguished filmmaking career. This is the latest in a run of occasions on which Ken Loach has been invited to speak in College, all of which have previously been very well received by students. The event will be respected as advertised and we look forward to a good conversation about the films on this occasion. 

Significant concerns about the event have been brought clearly to the College's attention and we are committed to creating further opportunities for these concerns to be properly respected and discussed within College. St Peter's stands vigorously against all forms of discrimination and always seeks to support students who are discriminated against. 

In the context of the current conversation, College affirms without reservation its very strong opposition to anti-semitism. It recognises the appalling atrocities that anti-semitism has wrought and can bring.  While not believing that no-platforming is the way to pursue goals of a free and open academic community, it is committed to supporting students who find such decisions painful and to finding ways to address these questions within College as part of a broader, ongoing conversation. 

As we have seen so many times before, people and institutions will loudly proclaim how much they are against antisemitism - but there are always other principles that are more important than that. 

Since then, the controversy has blown up more.

So now, after days of negative publicity, and after the event already happened, Buchanan issued an apology saying she shouldn't have done it to begin with!
"I have no wish to defend myself against having caused hurt or made mistakes.  I clearly have and I am sorry for this. I say this, and mean it.  

"And I realise that it is our Jewish students who have been most hurt by what has unfolded, and by my part in that hurt, and so to them I apologise specifically."
She explained that she was unaware of the “intense controversy” surrounding Loach at the time the invitation was issued to him.
The Monday statement from the college shows that she was very aware about the controversy ("Significant concerns about the event have been brought clearly to the College's attention") and the Jewish students met with her before that statement, so she definitely could have canceled - and chose not to.

It is clear that Buchanan and St. Peters wasn't concerned over Loach's antisemitism before the event, and this apology is a reaction to the negative publicity and not a moral stance.

As always, Jews concerns are the last concern.


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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

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