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Distinguished Senator Resigns from Belgian University board over Anti-Semitic Incidents

July 19th 2011

Jewish Topics - Jacques Brotchi
Jacques Brotchi

After denouncing several grave anti-Semitic incidents at the Free University of Brussels (ULB), Dr. Jacques Brotchi – a member of Belgium’s Senate and an internationally renowned neurosurgeon – resigned from the UCB board. Brotchi, who also holds an honorary professorship at the Brussels-based institution, told EJP on-line news "I resigned from the Board of the University Foundation which collects funds for research because I deeply deplored the absence of a strong and appropriate reaction from the university authorities to a succession of anti-Semitic incidents."

In his May 5 letter of resignation, Brotchi wrote, "I don’t feel at home anymore at ULB." He added, "I asked if the university of free-examination has not become the university of free anti-Semitism." Brotchi said he is saddened by the lack of an adequate response on the part of the university. He likened the current climate to the years just prior to the Second World War when Nazi Germany was just beginning the Holocaust.

The incidents came about during public discussion over Israel. Belgian Senate voted last week on a resolution tabled by the Socialists urging the Belgian government to recognize a Palestinian state. Jacques Brotchi and two other Senators from the Liberal party abstained. "We abstained because the resolution doesn't condemn the political objective of Hamas which is to destroy the state of Israel", Brotchi explained.

After denouncing several grave anti-Semitic incidents at the Free University of Brussels (ULB), Dr. Jacques Brotchi – a member of Belgium’s Senate and an internationally renowned neurosurgeon – resigned from the UCB board.  Brotchi, who also holds an honorary professorship at the Brussels-based institution, told EJP on-line news "I resigned from the Board of the University Foundation which collects funds for research because I deeply deplored the absence of a strong and appropriate reaction from the university authorities to a succession of anti-Semitic incidents."  In his May 5 letter of resignation, Brotchi wrote, "I don’t feel at home anymore at ULB." He added, "I asked if the university of free-examination has not become the university of free anti-Semitism."  Brotchi said he is saddened by the lack of an adequate response on the part of the university.

The incidents came about during public discussion over Israel. Belgian Senate voted last week on a resolution tabled by the Socialists urging the Belgian government to recognize a Palestinian state. Jacques Brotchi and two other Senators from the Liberal party abstained. "We abstained because the resolution doesn't condemn the political objective of Hamas which is to destroy the state of Israel", Brotchi explained.

The incidents to which Brotchi referred  included the staging of an Israeli military checkpoint on the university campus, the invitation of anti-Semitic French comic Dieudonne to a conference and the absence of reaction to the comments he made, a Nazi-style student feast and the publication of an article in the magazine of Solvay, the economics and management school, which used anti-Semitic stereotypes and prejudices comparable to those of the infamous hoax known as The Protocols of Elders of Zion.

As one student put it, "the situation at the university has become particularly difficult for Jews." The association of Jewish students has condemned the incidents. The Union of Jewish Students also urged the academic authorities to take measures against the "deteriorating climate" on the campus.  Brotchi, has met with university authorities to explain his resignation, but said that they do not appear to appreciate the gravity of the offenses. "I explained them that I know Jewish families who prefer to send their children study at UCL (Catholic University of Louvain)," he said in an interview. ULB rector Didier Viviers flatly denied in a June 2011 interview that his university has become anti-Semitic "because of  several regrettable incidents," and spoke of a "smear campaign."

According to Brotchi the situation at ULB is not isolated but of a piece with universities elsewhere in Europe.  "It is comparable to what is happening in other universities in Europe and elsewhere with the academic boycott of Israel campaigns where anti-Zionism takes the form of anti-Semitism."  "But this is no reason to stay without reaction," he added. Said the distinguished Brotchi, "In addition to students’ actions, I denounce that anti-Semitic leaflets were distributed at the entrance of a conference given by Stéphane Hessel at the university." 

Brotchi acknowledged that while the majority of the university may not be actively anti-Semitic, there is an active anti-Semitic minority.  Speaking on television, Brotchi said "We must learn to live together, we're in a multicultural society, and I think we have a respect for the other."


 


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