Ken Loach has responded with fury at a hastily convened press conference to a suggestion by the Belgian prime minister that a leading university was wrong to honour him following complaints that it had overlooked allegations of antisemitism.
An hour before the 81-year-old British director received his honorary degree from the free university of Brussels (ULB) on Thursday, he told reporters he could not allow Charles Michel’s comments to go unanswered.
Loach said he was shocked to have to make a statement, adding that he understood that Michel, Belgium’s PM since 2011, had read law at the ULB.
“Is the law so badly taught here? Or did he not pass his exam?” Loach said. “A good lawyer must examine the evidence before coming to a conclusion. Mr Michel, look at the evidence.”
On the previous evening, during a speech at Brussels Grand Synagogue to mark the 70th anniversary of Israel’s foundation, Michel had surprised his audience by commenting on the row over Loach’s planned honour, which local Jewish organisations have been lobbying to have withdrawn in recent weeks.
Michel told his audience: “No accommodation with antisemitism can be tolerated, whatever its form. And that also goes for my own alma mater.”