For Jews, Belgium is no better than France

Recently, the wave of anti—Semitism in Europe has been the fiercest in France. That is why we have been focusing on that country, reporting at length on the situation of the French Jewish population. France hosts the largest Jewish and Muslim communities in Europe.

But a tiny country in Europe has been also witnessing endless attacks on its Jewish population.

I am talking about Belgium, home to 40,000 Jews and 500,000 Muslims.

The scenario taking place in Belgium exactly mirrors the one in France. The far—right/neo—Nazi fringe of the population formerly perpetrated anti—Semitic acts, but in the past four years they can be almost exclusively attributed to Muslims. For example, just in the past week, six very violent anti—Semitic attacks were reported in the city of Antwerp, where a vibrant Jewish community lives. One of the attacks involved the stabbing of a sixteen—year—old teenager; then three other young Jews were also shot at; another one was beaten and left unconscious on the pavement and so on....

One should note that Antwerp is the city where the Arab European League was founded by Abu Jajah, a Lebanese who happened to have been very involved with the Shia terrorist organization Hizbullah.

Abu Jajah recently stated that

'Antwerp is the European pillar of Zionism and that is why it has to become the Mecca of pro—Palestinian actions.'

His movement has also threatened Belgian Jews to stop supporting Israel or violence will fall upon them.   

With such a message of hate, it is not surprising that young Muslims are feeling compelled to physically attack Jews in the streets of the kingdom.

Even if the official figure for anti—Semitic attacks in Belgium is around 120 in the past three—and—a—half—years, it does not reflect the reality. In fact, a lot of complaints are never even filed because the victims are scared to report the violence inflicted on them.

Or people just give up on going to the police. For instance Rabbi Lasker just does not report  all the attacks he is the victim of anymore, because they have unfortunately become routine. In October 2001, he got attacked three times in 24 hours: once while he was walking with his wife and children and got spit on and threatened by a dozen of young Muslims; then the next day a group of about fifty Muslims attacked them with stones and hit his young daughter in the back; and finally that same day four young Muslims attacked and tried to choke him.
 
Also more than the constant violence, there is also a growing malaise for Belgian Jews who are afraid to live their Judaism fully and openly. Kids attending Jewish schools are frequently harassed and need to be protected by the police. The Member of Parliament and Mayor of Forest, a town in suburban Brussels, Corinne De Permentier, is appalled that two Jewish organizations had to leave her town because of the constant threats. She added that:' It is crazy that a community needs to be permanently protected by the police in a democratic country.'
 
A couple of other politicians are complaining that the Belgian government is not doing enough in terms of protection because in most of the cases, no arrests have ever been made....

Obviously, in such an environment, it is not a good time to be a Jew in Europe. That is surely why, when Elie Wiesel was in Berlin a few months ago for a conference on anti—Semitism, he was asked by close Jewish European friends a revealing new question. For the first time ever, it was not 'Should we leave Europe?' but 'When should we leave?'

Recently, the wave of anti—Semitism in Europe has been the fiercest in France. That is why we have been focusing on that country, reporting at length on the situation of the French Jewish population. France hosts the largest Jewish and Muslim communities in Europe.

But a tiny country in Europe has been also witnessing endless attacks on its Jewish population.

I am talking about Belgium, home to 40,000 Jews and 500,000 Muslims.

The scenario taking place in Belgium exactly mirrors the one in France. The far—right/neo—Nazi fringe of the population formerly perpetrated anti—Semitic acts, but in the past four years they can be almost exclusively attributed to Muslims. For example, just in the past week, six very violent anti—Semitic attacks were reported in the city of Antwerp, where a vibrant Jewish community lives. One of the attacks involved the stabbing of a sixteen—year—old teenager; then three other young Jews were also shot at; another one was beaten and left unconscious on the pavement and so on....

One should note that Antwerp is the city where the Arab European League was founded by Abu Jajah, a Lebanese who happened to have been very involved with the Shia terrorist organization Hizbullah.

Abu Jajah recently stated that

'Antwerp is the European pillar of Zionism and that is why it has to become the Mecca of pro—Palestinian actions.'

His movement has also threatened Belgian Jews to stop supporting Israel or violence will fall upon them.   

With such a message of hate, it is not surprising that young Muslims are feeling compelled to physically attack Jews in the streets of the kingdom.

Even if the official figure for anti—Semitic attacks in Belgium is around 120 in the past three—and—a—half—years, it does not reflect the reality. In fact, a lot of complaints are never even filed because the victims are scared to report the violence inflicted on them.

Or people just give up on going to the police. For instance Rabbi Lasker just does not report  all the attacks he is the victim of anymore, because they have unfortunately become routine. In October 2001, he got attacked three times in 24 hours: once while he was walking with his wife and children and got spit on and threatened by a dozen of young Muslims; then the next day a group of about fifty Muslims attacked them with stones and hit his young daughter in the back; and finally that same day four young Muslims attacked and tried to choke him.
 
Also more than the constant violence, there is also a growing malaise for Belgian Jews who are afraid to live their Judaism fully and openly. Kids attending Jewish schools are frequently harassed and need to be protected by the police. The Member of Parliament and Mayor of Forest, a town in suburban Brussels, Corinne De Permentier, is appalled that two Jewish organizations had to leave her town because of the constant threats. She added that:' It is crazy that a community needs to be permanently protected by the police in a democratic country.'
 
A couple of other politicians are complaining that the Belgian government is not doing enough in terms of protection because in most of the cases, no arrests have ever been made....

Obviously, in such an environment, it is not a good time to be a Jew in Europe. That is surely why, when Elie Wiesel was in Berlin a few months ago for a conference on anti—Semitism, he was asked by close Jewish European friends a revealing new question. For the first time ever, it was not 'Should we leave Europe?' but 'When should we leave?'