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Jewish couple in Belgium afraid to leave house after antisemitic harassment and death threats

A Jewish woman named Nicole, 43, and her husband, have been left afraid to leave their house after persistent antisemitic harassment.

Nicole and her husband have lived in Marchienne-au-Pont for two and a half years, the last two months of which has seen them ensure antisemitic harassment, including death threats, damage to their home, verbal abuse and physical aggression.

Recently a Star of David was painted onto their door. The couple also appears to have been sent large amounts of hate mail.

“A few people have discovered that we are Jews. Since then we have been threatened with death” she said. Their treatment highlights the increasingly hostile environment that many Jews are subjected to across mainland Europe.

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Belgian TV station unable to find a single Jew to agree to wear a yarmulke in public in light of rise in antisemitic attacks

Ms Natasha Mann, a reporter for the Belgian broadcaster RTBF was preparing a report on antisemitism in Belgium. As part of the report, Ms Mann wanted to have a visual of a Jewish volunteer being seen in Brussels wearing a yarmulke. However, for fear of being attacked, she was unable to find any volunteers from the Jewish community.

The reluctance for Jews publicly identify as such is not new. For the last ten years, many observant Jews in Brussels have been wearing caps or hats to avoid being seen publicly as Jews. This reluctance has come because of a steady rise in antisemitic incidents over the last decade, not just in Belgium, but as a rising trend sweeping across Europe. This was confirmed by Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, who recognized that “we’ve seen an increase in antisemitic incidents all across Europe.” The Belgian Prime Minister’s resolve to quash antisemitism remains resolute: “our solidarity in the fight against antisemitism is uncompromised and unequivocal.”

Unfortunately, the Prime Minister’s words do not echo the sentiments felt amongst the Jewish community in Belgium. After three weeks of looking for a Jewish volunteer to be part of the report, Ms Mann had to give up. The reason being that the Jewish community is so afraid of vocal antisemites that not even the community leaders were willing to participate.

Ms Mann contacted several Rabbis. However, after finding out which neighbourhood she wanted the project to take place in, they declined. Joel Rubinfield, the president of the Belgian league against antisemitism, agreed to do the story, but only if he were escorted by a security officer; due to logistical issues this did not happen. The story ran without the visual Mann wanted: a dark reminder of how fearful the Jewish community in Belgium is today.

The tragic situation currently facing the Jewish community in Belgium was perhaps most aptly summarised by an anonymous Jewish individual, who Ms Mann had asked to volunteer for the visual. He said he was sick of being harassed for being a Jew; Ms Mann asked him, “Do you complain to police when you hear antisemitic insults?”, to which he responded: “Do you complain to police when men whistle at you in the street?” sadly highlighting how common and trivialized these attacks have become in Belgian society.

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Muslim man arrested in Belgium for allegedly trying to run Jewish father and son over

The Jewish Community of Antwerp in Belgium have revealed that a man of Muslim origin has been arrested for allegedly trying to run over a Jewish father and son with his car.

The group released CCTV footage of the alleged antisemitic crime.

The incident is shown from two angles, the second of which clearly shows that the car was on course to hit the son before his father pulled him out the way.

A man has been arrested using the footage of the incident, and is to be charged with attempted homicide.

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Haredi man allegedly attacked by recent convert to Islam in Antwerp who hurled antisemitic abuse at him

Shomrim have confirmed that there is an investigation into an alleged antisemitic assault in Antwerp.

A Haredi man was walking home from his Synagogue after the Kabbalat Shabbat service on Friday night when he was accosted by a man who is reportedly a recent convert to Islam.

The assailant allegedly hurled antisemitic abuse at him and punched him in the face, leaving him requiring medical treatment.

The police arrived promptly and arrested the man, who is now under investigation.

Jewish institutions in Antwerp require extra police protection due to the high probability of antisemitic attacks. The image for this article, showing a Haredi man cycling in Antwerp as an armed guard watches on, was not taken on Shabbat.

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Belgian school “proud” of Iran Holocaust cartoon competition teacher

A Catholic high school in Belgium has  allegedly said it is “proud” of an outgoing teacher who received a cash prize at the Iranian Holocaust Cartoon competition.

Luc Descheemaeker, who has just retired from the Sint-Jozefs Institute high school, was awarded and accepted a “special prize” at the Second International Cartoon Contest. His submission included the words “Arbeit Macht Frei”, which were originally cast above the entrance to Auschwitz, over a wall with barbed wire, meant to resemble the Israeli West Bank Barrier and drawing a comparison between Israeli policy and the Holocaust. Such a comparison is considered antisemitic under the EUMC working definition of antisemitism.

UNESCO has condemned the competition as an attempt at “at a mockery of the genocide of the Jewish people, a tragic page of humanity’s history”.

In a (presumably sarcastic) letter from a Belgian-Jewish organisation which asked whether the school was “proud” of their teacher’s participation in such an event, a faculty member replied “We are indeed very proud to have Luc associated with our school. His talent is of great value for the artistic education of our students!”

When the school was asked more directly about the award, school director Paul Vanthournout said that the “consideration of it as anti-Semitic is exaggerated”, this despite the fact that the cartoon clearly falls foul of the EUMC definition of antisemitism. He also worryingly mentioned that Descheemaeker had been in charge of some Holocaust education in the school.

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UK Labour Party refuses to discipline MEP over “Nazi” tweet

Investigators from Campaign Against Antisemitism have discovered an antisemitic tweet by British Labour politician Afzal Khan. On 2nd August 2014, Khan tweeted a link to an article from which he quoted, “The Israeli Government are [sic] acting like Nazi’s [sic] in Gaza.”

Archived version

Khan is a Labour Member of the European Parliament for the North West and sits on various European Parliament committees including the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Budget Committee and the Security and Defence Committee, of which he is Vice Chair.

According to the definition of antisemitism that was first adopted by the European Union itself, “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” is antisemitic.

His use of the Nazi slur is surprising given Khan’s prominence in interfaith dialogue work. He is co-founder of The Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester and was awarded a CBE for his community and interfaith work in 2008.

However the Labour Party has declined to investigate or discipline Khan, instead issuing a short statement: “These views are not shared by the Labour Party and Afzal Khan MEP has been reminded of his responsibilities as a Labour representative.”

Campaign Against Antisemitism has responded critically, saying: “This is yet another signal sent to the Jewish community that the Labour Party is not taking its antisemitism problem seriously. We have seen repeated signs that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party operates a zero tolerance policy against racism, but only when convenient. When it costs the party politically, antisemites go unpunished, whether it’s Father of the House, Sir Gerald Kaufman MP, or now Afzal Khan MEP. Suspending Khan would cost Labour politically in the European Parliament, so presumably that is why he has been reminded not to be antisemitic instead of being suspended and investigated.”

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“We are Eichmann” found sprayed on wall of Brussels arts college

Graffiti on the wall of a Brussels arts college, École Supérieure des Arts has been found saying “We are Eichmann!”

Source: CFCA/New Antisemite/Twitter

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Belgian newspaper and Holocaust denier face action over interview claiming Nazi gas chambers were harmless

A Belgian daily paper, De Morgen, published an interview earlier this month, in which Siegfried Verbeke, a far-right symathiser with multiple convictions for inciting racial hatred against Jews and Holocaust denial, said: “Of course gas chambers existed, hundreds of them. To disinfect the clothes of people who went through them. But gas chambers designed to kill people never existed, no.”

Under Belgian law, Holocaust denial is illegal, and the state’s authority for combatting discrimination, has said that it may take legal action against Verbeke for his statement.

A Jewish newspaper, Joods Actueel, has also lodged an official complaint with the Belgian Council for Journalism, against De Morgen itself for “violation of ethics”.

Sources: CFCA/JTA and Joods Actueel

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Brussels taxi driver asks if passengers are Jews and shouts “Dirty Jews!”

Two Israeli journalists, Amalya Duek and Dafna Liel, were in a taxi in Brussels. As they got out, the driver asked them if they were from Israel. When they answered that they were, he shouted “Dirty Jews!” and drove away.

Source: CFCA/The New Antisemite/Amalya Duek

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Amnesty International to host Holocaust-denier opposed to “Jew worshiping”

A rally against Islamophobia to be held in Brussels, which Amnesty International is co-sponsoring, will feature Dyab Abou Jahjah as a keynote speaker. Abou Jahjah is a former fighter for antisemitic terror group Hezbollah, believes Europe made “the cult of the Holocaust and Jew-worshiping its alternative religion,” and questioned the existence of the Nazi gas chambers. On account of his views, Abou Jahjah has been banned from entering the United Kingdom since 2009.

Source: Tablet

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EU labour movement president reported to Brussels police for alleged antisemitic assault

The president of an EU labour movement has reportedly been named in a complaint to police following an antisemitic assault at a café near EU headquarters in Brussels. According to the complaint, the EU official, Stefan Gersh, was holding a metal plaque bearing the name “Mussolini”. Another EU official — who is not Jewish — confronted him, saying that Mussolini was “still a dictator”. Gersh allegedly then said: “Dirty Jewess … Hitler should have exterminated all Jews, just like Jews today are exterminating Palestinians.” It is alleged that Gersh then hit her with the plaque, and when others at the café interceded he shouted: “All you Jews should have been killed.”