New Antisemitism Scandal in Belgium as Daily Paper Publishes Article Accusing ‘Zionists’ of ‘Playing Holocaust Card’
One of Belgian’s leading newspapers was excoriated by Israel’s ambassador in Brussels this week for publishing an opinion piece that amounted to what he called “cheap, distorted and devious antisemitism and anti-Israel drivel.”
The offending article — in the mass-circulation Flemish-language daily de Standaard — was authored by a Belgian journalist, Johan Depoortere. Titled “How the Zionists ‘Discovered’ the Holocaust,” the article’s appearance was timed to coincide with the commemorations of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz extermination camp.
Illustrated with a photo of the followers of Neturei Karta — a miniscule group of ultra-Orthodox Jews who are bitterly opposed to the Zionist movement and shunned by the Jewish mainstream — Depoortere’s piece began with the observation that the millions of Jews exterminated by the Nazis cannot “protest if they are used to justify another injustice: a regime [Israel] that has imposed discrimination and apartheid in law.”
Several of the historical claims made by Depoortere in the article did not stand up under scrutiny. For example, he protested “[T]hat a people [the Palestinians] who did not participate in the massacre of European Jews by the Nazis have to pay the price for that crime or are accused of antisemitism,” with no mention of the alliance forged by the wartime Palestinian Arab leader, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, and the Nazi regime.
Depoortere also asserted that “the Holocaust occupies such a central place in the propaganda of the Zionist state,” describing this as a calculated response by the State of Israel to international criticism of its presence in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem following its victory in the 1967 Six-Day War.
“From that moment on, the Israeli propaganda and the defenders of Zionism played the Holocaust card uninhibited — also in our country,” Depoortere claimed.
The 75-year-old Depoortere spent several years as foreign correspondent for Belgian television, reporting from Lebanon, central America, Russia and Afghanistan among other locations.
Emmanuel Nahshon — Israel’s ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg — remarked on Twitter on Thursday that he had encountered the article while attending the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem.
“Shame on you @destandaard!” Nahshon declared.
The controversy over Depoortere’s piece comes only a few months after another Flemish newspaper, De Morgen, published a viciously antisemitic article by its columnist Dimitri Verhulst in which he commented that “being Jewish is not a religion, no God would give creatures such an ugly nose.”
About 35,000 Jews live in Belgium.
According to an ADL study in 2019, antisemitic beliefs are held by 24 percent of the country’s population. The ADL study additionally noted that “in Europe, support for Israel boycotts was found to be highest in Belgium, where 18 percent said they supported BDS [the ‘boycott, divestment and sanctions’ campaign against Israel.]”