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March 22, 2016 6:07 pm

Brussels Bombings ‘Were a Matter of When, Not If,’ Says Belgian Jewish Councilman (INTERVIEW)

avatar by Ruthie Blum

The scene at the Brussels airport after two explosions killed a dozen travelers. Photo: Twitter.

The scene at the Brussels airport after two explosions killed a dozen travelers. Photo: Twitter.

All Belgians, especially the Jewish community, had not been thinking in terms of “if” a major terrorist attack, like Tuesday’s triple bombings in Brussels, was going to happen, but “when,” a councilman from Antwerp told The Algemeiner, after returning from the scene of the carnage at the airport, one of two sites of the triple explosions that rocked the Belgian capital.

Samuel Markowitz — a prominent member of the Belgian Jewish community, and a coordinator for the emergency rescue services Hatzoloh – said, however, “I don’t think we ever felt as though we were receiving less attention than the rest of the public.”

On the contrary, he insisted, “The government has been very helpful in ensuring our safety. But obviously we do feel that our schools and shuls [synagogues] are considered a target more than the average Belgian school or church.”

Asked whether such incidents cause Belgian Jews to consider immigrating to Israel, Markowitz said, “The government has repeated many a time that the Jews are part of Belgium and it will help to keep it this way. However, this and the economic crisis are certainly not contributing to keeping Jews here.”

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As for the attitude of the Jewish community to the flow of migrants from Syria and other war-torn Middle Eastern countries – which tends to be sympathetic, on the one hand, and a cause for concern on the other — Markowitz said that there are “mixed feelings about it.” His own position is that “there should be heavier limitations and rules on entry of refugees and closer monitoring of their impact.”

Markowitz also said that he doesn’t think Jews should ever hide their identity (i.e. by not wearing or covering their kippot when in public). “However, we are also learning to be more alert and not to ignore the situation.”

Does he believe that attacks such as those that took place earlier in the day cause Europeans to identify more with Israel’s war on terrorism?

“Not enough, unfortunately,” he said. “The intelligent ones, and those not influenced by the wrong channels, know what Israel faces daily. However, the media is more to the left, and prefer to blame our existence than stop the murderers.”

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