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May 25, 2014 12:46 pm

Jewish Groups React to Belgium Slayings, Call for Aggressive Action Against Anti-Semitism

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Police outside the Jewish Museum of Belgium. Photo: Screenshot.

A number of Jewish groups responded to the shooting at the Jewish Museum of Belgium on Saturday by calling for European leaders to take more vigorous action against rising anti-Semitism on the continent.

“The rise in Europe of openly anti-Semitic political parties, the proliferation of clearly anti-Semitic expressions on social media platforms and the disturbingly high levels of anti-Semitic attitudes in many places in Europe contribute to a witches’ brew of hate in which those who are inclined to engage in violence against Jews can find encouragement,” Anti-Defamation League (ADL) National Director Abraham H. Foxman said in a statement.

Four were killed, including two Israelis, in the museum shooting. A prosecution spokesperson said one suspect has been apprehended by Belgian authorities but his connection to the crime is still undetermined, according to AFP.

The ADL said it was “horrified and deeply saddened” by the deadly attack in Brussels and urged Belgian authorities to quickly bring the perpetrators to justice.

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“The strong statement of support for the Jewish community expressed by Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rubio is reassuring at this most terrifying moment for the Jewish community of Brussels and sends a strong message to the people of Belgium that such acts have no place in society,” Foxman said.

He added that while violence against Jews in Belgium is “extremely rare,” the museum attack is a reminder of the unsafe environment European Jews live in.

The ADL Global 100 Index of Anti-Semitism, a poll of anti-Semitic attitudes in 102 countries released earlier this month, found that 27 percent of Belgium’s adult population holds strong anti-Semitic views. While the overall number of recorded anti-Semitic attacks have decreased in the past year in European areas where reliable statistics are available, Foxman said the number of violent incidents has actually increased.

While officials are exploring the possibility that anti-Semitism was the motive behind the killings on Saturday, Belgian Interior Minister Joelle Milquet was quoted in local media saying, “It’s a shooting … at the Jewish Museum. All of this can lead to suspicions of an act of anti-Semitism.”

Dr. Shimon Samuels, director for International Relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Paris, said the atrocity at the Jewish museum “must be a warning, not a precedent,” for leaders to take action against anti-Semitic violence. He said the timing of the attack on the eve of the first ever joint Belgian Parliamentary, regional and European elections  makes the shooting “a political act” inflaming tensions already heightened  by an “extreme right/Arab abortive rally” last week.

“The Belgian organizers of that hatefest, presented a party list to stand for the European Parliament ballot tomorrow, which is headed by a Belgian close to the Mid East/North African community as also to Franco African convicted anti-Semite Dieudonnee,” Samuels said. “Whether a clone of Mohammed Merah – the  Toulouse Jewish school murderer –  or a neo-Nazi lone-wolf, Europe can not countenance the entry into its Parliament, after the ballot is counted tomorrow, of disciples or sympathizers of Hitler or Jihad.”

David Harris, executive director of the global Jewish advocacy group American Jewish Committee, connected the Belgian attack with another that came hours later when two Jewish brothers wearing kippahs were assaulted outside a synagogue in Paris. He said, “One anti-Semitic tragedy on the heels of another underscores the very real dangers for Jews today in the heart of Europe, even as we recognize that the governments stand steadfastly against any such manifestations. Clearly, far more still needs to be done.”

Harris called for heightened security at Jewish institutions, stronger intelligence-gathering, tougher judicial action, and long term, better education in the school systems for “fostering a climate of mutual respect.”

Reports indicate that the victims in France, aged 18 and 21, were severely beaten with brass knuckles, but are expected to recover. As of now, no suspects have been identified.

On May 13 this year, AJC took out a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal calling attention to the growing menace of anti-Semitism in Europe since 2000, when a noticeable rise began. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, speaking the day before at the AJC’s Global Forum, condemned all forms of anti-Semitism and said the government would not tolerate such hateful acts.

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