Jews Aren’t Safe in Belgium — Nor Is Anyone Else
Following the terrorist attacks in Brussels, it has been revealed just how incredibly lax and ill-prepared Belgium’s security authorities were. Belgian authorities had accurate advance warnings that terrorists planned to launch attacks at Brussels airport and in the subway system, yet failed to act.
One month prior to the Paris attacks in November 2015, Francoise Schepmans, the mayor of the Brussels district of Molenbeek, described by many as Europe’s “jihadi base,” received a list “with the names and addresses of more than 80 people suspected as Islamic militants living in her area,” according to The New York Times. The list was based on information from Belgium’s security apparatus, and included three of the terrorists behind the Paris attacks, including Salah Abdeslam. “What was I supposed to do about them? It is not my job to track possible terrorists,” Schepmans said. “That is the responsibility of the federal police.”
Given this attitude of Belgian authorities, it should not be a surprise that the security for the Jewish Belgian community is laughable.
Nevertheless, the embarrassing details of the show that passes for security around Jewish institutions is shocking in its extreme amateurishness. After the Brussels attacks, Brussels Rabbi Menachem Hadad told Israel’s Army Radio that soldiers, who were posted outside a synagogue and the city’s Chabad House following the terrorist attack in Brussels’ Jewish Museum in 2014, told him that for months, they used to guard the area with no bullets in their rifles. The English language does not contain a fitting combination of words to comment on such a spectacle.
Nevertheless, the spectacle continues. In Molenbeek, one of Schepmans’ security officials, a “guardian of the peace,” no less, Mohamed N., wrote on Facebook that “the word Jew itself is dirty. If I were in Israel, frankly, I would do to the Jews what they do with the Palestinians — slaughter each and every one of them.” Schepmans responded that she would dismiss him and that “the guardians of the peace assume a role of mediation in the community. They are the image of communal authority. His words shocked me. … I cannot tolerate such an attitude of a communal agent.”
One doubts whether Schepmans, who could not be moved to act when confronted with a list of nearly 100 potential terrorists living in her area of responsibility, was truly “shocked” at hearing that Muslim officials, “guardians of peace,” in her district wished to wipe Jews out.
Surely, the idea of killing Jews could not be so terribly uncommon in her district, where Salah Abdeslam, who was one of the terrorists behind the Paris attacks in November, hid for months from the authorities with the help from a network of family, friends and neighbors.
Whether common or not, Belgians at any rate clearly appear to treat hatred of Jews and Israel as perfectly normal and acceptable. In a video captured by French RTL television of a vigil for the terror victims in Brussels at the Place de La Bourse, a hijab-wearing woman can be seen uninterruptedly replacing an Israeli flag with a Palestinian one and then proceeding to tear up the Israeli flag. Throngs of people surround her, yet no one intervenes. Another video of a Brussels vigil shows a man stepping on the Israeli flag and covering it with a Palestinian one, again unhindered by any bystanders.
Perhaps this is because their own state authorities teach Belgians that hating Israel is indeed perfectly normal and acceptable. In 2013, the Belgian Education Ministry website featured a virulently anti-Semitic cartoon, which first appeared at one of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinajad’s infamous Holocaust denial conferences in Tehran in 2009, unbelievably, as part of an exercise for trainee teachers. The cartoon showed a Jewish man impaled on the fence of a concentration camp next to a man wearing a keffiyeh — an Arab headress — their limbs arranged in the form of a Nazi swastika. The caption “never again” appeared above the image of the Jew and the words “over again!” were written at the Arab’s right foot. In the exercise, the teachers were asked to analyze the cartoon with one of three statements: “This is a Palestinian fleeing Jews”; “Jews want the entire area of Palestine back”; or “Jews call Palestine Israel.” This is what Belgium tells its teachers to teach Belgian children and then they feign “shock” when the results play out in the streets.
Similarly, ancient antisemitic tropes and blood libels are featured in the daily Belgian press. A leading Belgian daily, De Standaard, claimed in 2013 that Jews “sometimes poisoned Palestinian water wells.” In Molenbeek itself, also in 2013, a poster for a conference about Zionism titled “Let’s talk calmly about Zionism,” organized by a local chapter of the Socialist Party, featured a caricature of a Jew so vile that it could have been taken straight out of Der Sturmer. The Belgians are mourning their dead, now that it is too late, but they contributed energetically themselves toward creating an enabling atmosphere of hatred, even right in the “jihadi base” of Molenbeek.
On Friday, antisemitic graffiti was found in a schoolyard in Braine-le-Comte near Brussels. It featured a swastika, a Star of David and the text: “Juden, Arbeit Macht Frei.”
Even if the Belgian police outside the Jewish institutions would have bullets for their rifles, it would make no difference by now. Belgium has already failed on too many levels for it to recover.
This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.