Prominent Belgian Jew quits university board to protest campus anti-Semitism

PARIS – A prominent member of Belgium’s Jewish community resigned from the board of Brussels Free University this week to protest recent anti-Semitic incidents on campus.

The incidents, according to the European Jewish Press, include setting up a mock Israeli military checkpoint at the university (which is known by its French initials, ULB); holding a Nazi-style student feast; inviting the anti-Semitic French comic Dieudonne to a conference on campus; and the absence of reaction to comments the comic made in a film, in which he declares that “the biggest swindlers of the planet are the Jews” and that “Death will be more comfortable than surrender to these dogs.” The Union of Jewish Students of Belgium has been raising the alarm over such incidents for months.

“I don’t feel at home anymore at ULB,” wrote Jacques Brotchi, an internationally renowned neurosurgeon and honorary professor at the university, in his letter of resignation to the rector. “I asked if the university of free examination has not become the university of free anti-Semitism.”

In an interview published last month by the Belgian weekly Le Vif-L’Express, the rector, Didier Viviers, denied that his university has become anti-Semitic “because of several regrettable incidents” and spoke of a “smear campaign”.

But Brotchi insisted the situation is grave at ULB. Moreover, he said, it isn’t limited to that university; the same is true at other institutions around Europe.

“It is comparable to what is happening elsewhere with the academic boycott of Israel campaigns, where anti-Zionism takes the form of anti-Semitism,” he told EJP. “But this is no reason to stay without reaction.”