Belgian Jews Condemn Government Decision to Withdraw Military Protection From Community Institutions
Belgium’s representative Jewish organizations have condemned the government’s announcement that it will withdraw Belgian Army protection from synagogues, Jewish schools and other communal institutions from Sept. 1.
The extra security measures involving the Belgian military have been in place since the May 2014 Islamist terrorist attack on the Jewish museum in Brussels, in which four people were murdered by gunman Mehdi Nemmouche, who had previously fought with the ISIS terror group in Syria.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations in Belgium (CCOJB), which represents Jews in the Francophone part of the country, and the Forum of Jewish Organizations (FJO), which represents Jews in the Flemish part, expressed regret that troops were being withdrawn when “no equivalent solution has yet been proposed to guarantee the safety of citizens who frequent Jewish events or institutions.”
The statement observed: “Until now, this protection took the form of the presence of our soldiers near the neighborhoods and Jewish institutions of our country, which is not only effective but also undeniably dissuasive [to terrorists] … the announced intention to withdraw the army itself increases the threat and also reinforces the feeling of insecurity.”
The government’s announcement was also criticized by the European Jewish Association (EJA), which pointed out that the withdrawal of troops went against the advice of Belgium’s own intelligence services.
“The Belgian Government has up until now been exemplary in its protection of Jewish Communities,” EJA president Rabbi Menachem Margolin said in a statement. “In fact, we at the European Jewish Association have held up the Belgian example as one to be emulated by other states. For this dedication to keeping us safe and secure we have always expressed out utmost gratitude and appreciation.”
He continued: “It is also because of this dedication that the decision to remove the army on September 1 makes zero sense. Unlike the US and Israeli embassies, Jewish communities do not have access to any State security apparatus. Not only that, but while the threat may be medium for Belgium, for Jews the threat is both serious and probable, according to the data provided to the government by their own agency, the Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis.”
The CCOJB and FJO made clear that they were willing to consider security measures that did not involve the Belgian army. “However, if the military presence is reduced, this reduction must be accompanied by at least an equivalent security measure,” the two groups emphasized.