Outrage as Oxford college holds event with controversial filmmaker Ken Loach

Jewish students and the Board of Deputies called for the college to cancel the event over the director’s alleged history of antisemitism


CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 17: Ken Loach attends the "Sorry We Missed You" Photocall during the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival on May 17, 2019 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Antony Jones/Getty Images)

An Oxford college event with Ken Loach went ahead on Monday despite objections from the Board of Deputies and Jewish students over the filmmaker's alleged antisemitism.
Oxford JSoc president Samuel Benjamin described the virtual event organised by St Peter’s College and The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) as “deeply disappointing."
He also said it came at the “expense of the welfare of Jewish students in Oxford.”
Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl said - also speaking ahead of the event - that it was “entirely unacceptable” that an Oxford college “would not conduct its due diligence and allow Ken Loach to address students.”
She said: “Higher education institutions have a duty of care to their students, which must include a zero tolerance policy to antisemitism and those who minimise or deny it. We have been in touch with Jewish students in Oxford and wholeheartedly support their condemnation of the event. This event should not take place.”
The event, live-streamed on YouTube yesterday, focused on the St Peter’s College alumnus’ filmmaking career. 
Professor Judith Buchanan, who is master of the Oxford college, said at the beginning of the event that organisers had "not foreseen controversy” in issuing the invitation. 
“We have got it and I understand why,” she said, adding the college had received many calls for the event’s cancellation. 
“Neither St Peter’s College nor TORCH nor the university believes that no-platforming is the way to pursue goals of a free and open academic community,” she said.  
Mr Loach, whose works include 'Kes' and 'I, Daniel Blake', has previously faced accusations of antisemitism from Jewish groups, which he denied. 
In 1987, London’s Royal Court Theatre dropped his production of Jim Allen’s controversial play Perdition, which accused some Zionists of collaborating with the Nazis. 
The move was later described by Mr Loach as  “censorship”. The filmmaker also said “the charge of antisemitism is the time-honoured way to deflect anti-Zionist arguments” in a 2014 letter to the Guardian addressing the row.
Mr Loach is a supporter of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and in 2018 reportedly called for the deselection of MPs who attended the Enough is Enough protest against antisemitism. 
In a statement on Monday, St Peter’s College said that it “stands vigorously against all forms of discrimination and always seeks to support students who are discriminated against.”
It added: “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.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive