Belgian Politicians Are ‘Unfortunately’ Indifferent to Rising Antisemitism, Israeli Envoy in Brussels Declares
Israel’s ambassador in Brussels on Tuesday slammed Belgium’s political establishment for its indifference to rising antisemitism in the country.
Israeli envoy Emmanuel Nahshon told the Spanish-language Jewish news agency AJN in an interview that fighting antisemitism was “unfortunately … not a priority” for Belgian politicians.
Nahshon’s frank observation came as he discussed the annual carnival in the Belgian city of Aalst, which regularly features antisemitic caricatures on prominent display. Last week, UNESCO — the cultural agency of the United Nations — confirmed that it was stripping the carnival, which dates back to medieval times, of its “global heritage” status because of the offensive images. But according to Nahshon, the outrage at the carnival’s invocation of classic antisemitic stereotypes came exclusively from outside Belgium.
“The pressure came from abroad, from Jewish organizations, from UNESCO and from other countries,” Nahshon explained. “Unfortunately, fighting antisemitism is not a priority for the Belgian political world.”
The ambassador also warned that the forthcoming Aalst Carnival, on Feb. 23, would likely feature antisemitic puppets and floats again.
“Those who are behind these acts belong to the Flemish extreme right, and they are not interested in what UNESCO says, in fact they believe that the Jews are behind the decision,” Nahshon said. “It is not in their plans to remove the antisemitic content.”
Reported antisemitic incidents in Belgium rose by 80 percent in 2018, and Nahshon emphasized that bigotry toward Jews was a problem there “as it is elsewhere in Europe.”
Belgians were “losing the memory of what happened in World War II,” Nahshon continued.
“[Antisemitism] is a dangerous phenomenon that is born with force from the populist movements of the extreme right, who are gaining ground throughout Europe, and who gain strength from the fear of the population,” he said.