Oxford college master apologises

Virtual discussion with controversial filmmaker hosted by St Peter’s College had triggered anger among Jews


British film director Ken Loach gestures during a photocall for the film "Sorry We Missed You" at the 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 17, 2019. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP) (Photo by LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images)

An Oxford college master has apologised to Jewish students for the "hurt" caused by a row over an event with the filmmaker Ken Loach. 

Organisers had faced calls for the virtual event to be cancelled but it went ahead anyway on Monday and focused on his filmmaking career.

Critics - including Oxford Jewish Society President Samuel Benjamin - accused Mr Loach of having made "antisemitic remarks" in the past.

Others, including the MP Ian Lavery, came to his defence, with the comedian John Bishop saying he was “one of the most honourable men I know”.

In a lengthy email to Jewish students, seen by the JC, Professor Judith Buchanan said she was “very grieved” that so much “ wretchedness has temporarily found its way into our lovely college.”

She said she had sought advice from the Government’s Independent Adviser on Antisemitism, Lord Mann, and that they would meet next week. 

She said: “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. “

Mr Loach has denied repeated accusations of antisemitism. He drew media coverage in 2018 when he reportedly called for the deselection of MPs who attended the Enough is Enough rally against antisemitism.

He also drew criticism over his 1987 production of Jim Allen’s controversial play Perdition, which alleged Zionist Nazi collaboration. 

Mr Loach told the Telegraph: "These recycled accusations are false and based on persistent misrepresentation and distortion. I am returning from a family funeral and will respond more fully in due course, with questions for those making these oft-repeated allegations, which in the past they have always failed to answer."

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