(Updated December 2003)
Within the Belgian population (10.3 million; 55% Flemish, 33% Walloon) Jews represent a
minority of some 35,000, most of whom live in Antwerp and Brussels.
In recent years racism has been on the increase, both
in terms of discrimination against immigrants in general and against
Arabs in particular. The Eurobarometer 2000 compiled by the EUMC came
to the conclusion that the attitudes towards ethnic and religious minorities
in Belgium show a more negative set of views than the EU average. Although
racially motivated attacks from extreme right-wing groups, resurgent
since the 1990s, are in the first instance directed against foreigners,
running parallel to this is a strong increase in anti-Semitic tendencies.
In particular since the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada
in the autumn of 2000, the number of violent actions against Jews and
Jewish institutions has increased, with the suspected perpetrators mainly
from Muslim and Arab communities, especially from those of Maghreb origin
which itself is most vulnerable to xenophobia . But right-wing extremist
groups also used the situation for an Anti-Zionist campaign.
In addition, a certain influence was exerted by legal proceedings started
in June 2001, based on a law passed in Belgium in 1993 that also enables
criminal prosecution of crimes committed in foreign countries. Survivors
of the massacre in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in 1982 used
this law to undertake legal proceedings against the then Defence Minister
of Israel Ariel Sharon for crimes against humanity. An Israeli inquiry
had found that Sharon was indirectly responsible, prompting his resignation.
The attempted prosecution itself, but also the delaying of a decision
over many months, caused an international stir, not the least because
Belgium assumed the EU Presidency on 1 July 2001 and had the request
seriously examined. On 26 June 2002 the court dismissed the charges.
On 30 May, Reuters reported that a confidential Senate Report, based
on evidence from the State Security Service, stated that Belgium is
a recruiting ground for Islamic militants. Apparently, the Saudi-backed
Salafi Movement has created some sort of religious state within
1. Physical acts of violence
According to the current report of the American Lawyers
Committee for Human Rights, since 11 September 2001 around 2000 anti-Semitic
incidents have taken place, whereby no distinction has been made between
violent attacks and other forms. Already on 5December 2001, the Chief
Rabbi of Brussels, Albert Gigi, was physically assaulted by a group
of youths in Anderlecht (Brussels). After shouting at him and his companion
dirty Jew in Arab, they followed them into the subway and
one of them kicked the Rabbi in the face, breaking his glasses. After
the first graffiti appeared on Jewish shops in February 2002, demanding
Death to the Jews, the synagogue in the Anderlecht district
of Brussels was severely damaged by two Molotov cocktails in the night
of 31 March / 1 April. In the following weeks the attacks increased:
on 17 April unknown persons set fire to a Jewish bookshop in Brussels
and on the following day the front window of a kosher restaurant were
shattered by an air rifle; during the night of 20 21 April 18
shots were fired at the façade of the synagogue in Charleroi.
During a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Antwerp on 1 April, which
took place near a Jewish area and in which ca. 2000 persons took part,
front windows were shattered and an Israeli flag burnt.
Between 15 May and 15 June 2002 the following attacks
or violent acts against Jews have been recorded. Compared with the attacks
the month before, the number of incidents was relatively low.
19 May: a group of Jewish youngsters aged 13 were threatened by a group
of Arab youths at the City Park. One of them menaced the Jewish youngsters
with a mock rifle. The police intervened and arrested the youth.
25 May: a group of adolescent immigrants (around the age of 13) vandalized
the restaurant of the Maccabi Soccer Club belonging to the Jewish community
of Antwerp. They spread anti-Jewish slogans across the club walls, destroyed
doors, windows and furniture. The youngsters were caught by the police.
After interrogation and an interview with their parents, they were released.
28 May: a shop on the Frankrijklei, a major avenue in Antwerp, was smeared
with the following slogans: Kill the juif. Laat ze lijden (let
them suffer), fuck Belgium.
The Antwerp police have also gathered evidence of damage to bus stops,
shops or public buildings. In most cases these were graffiti of the
SS insignia, the swastika and the Star of David.
2. Verbal aggression/hate speech
Newspapers reported the following incidents:
On 19 April unknown persons smeared a Jewish shop in Brussels
with slogans such as Dirty Jew and We will burn you.
In the second half of May an anonymous letter of anti-Semitic
and revisionist character was sent to a survivor of the concentration
camps after this person had published an article in a widely circulated
In the second half of May 2002 an article of highly anti-Semitic
nature was published in a free journal published in the Charleroi region.
On 3 June an anti-Semitic letter, originating in France, was
sent to an individual in Belgium.
Racist and anti-Semitic slogans continue to belong to the repertoire
of many football fans.
Websites of Belgian origin with racist and anti-Semitic texts have increasingly
gone online in recent times. The Centre for Equal Opportunity and Combating
Racism was able to identify 82 Belgian sites, which spread such material.
On 6 June a complaint about racism was introduced at the CEOOR against
Dyab Abou Jahjah, President of the Arabian European League (AEL). His
Internet site encourages hatred, discrimination and violence towards
the Jewish community. The complaint concerns a press statement in which
the AEL urged people to join a demonstration in Antwerp to be held on
8 June 2002. According to the League, this demonstration has to take
place in Antwerp since the power (there) is in the hands of a
Zionist lobby and extreme right racists and, furthermore, because
Antwerp represents the bastion of Zionism in Europe and
is a city where pro-Sharon gangs of Zionists are dictating the
rules. Instead, Antwerp needs to become the Mecca of pro-Palestinian
On 17 January the far left anti-globalisation website Indymedia Belgium
relayed photographs of three corpses of children who should have fallen
victim of the supposed Israeli practice to use bodies of Palestinians
for organ theft.
MediaJoel Kotek, professor at the Free University of Brussels refers
to the one sided reports on Israel in the Belgium media: Israel
is portrayed by the Belgian media, notably Le Soir, the
most widely circulated French-language newspaper in Belgium, as well
as by Vif lExpress, its weekly supplement, as solely
responsible for the violence which has shaken the Middle East for almost
two years. Frequently, in their forum pages and in letters to the editor,
Israelis are equated with Nazis and in more extreme publications anti-Semitic
motifs appear in anti-Israel propaganda.
3. Research studies
The survey commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in ten European
countries has collected information on European Attitudes towards
Jews, Israel and the Palestinian-Israel Conflict between 16 May
and 4 June respectively between 9 and 29 September.
European Attitudes towards Jews, Israel and the Palestinian-Israel
care what happens to anyone but their own kind
|Jews are more
willing to use shady practices to get what they want
|Jews are more
loyal to Israel than to this country
|Jews have too
much power in the business world
Percent responding probably true to each
statement / 500 respondents in each country
Taylor Nelson Sofres, margin of error +/-4.4% at 95% level of confidence
For Belgium a clear agreement emerged with anti-Semitic
stereotypes. From the four stereotypical statements presented, 39% of
respondents agreed to at least two, 21% with at least three and 6% with
all four. Fifty per cent of respondents agreed with the statement that
Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country, a rate
somewhat below the EU-average of 51%, and 38% agreed with the statement
Jews still talk too much about the Holocaust (EU-average:
4. Good practices for reducing prejudice, violence
Following the multi-religious meetings organised since 11 September
2001, the CEOOR proposed an action plan, the implementation of which
is still in the preparatory phase. However, it has already been decided
to create a website containing a list of associations which subscribe
to diversity and mutual respect and a set of pedagogical tools to improve
and foster interculturalism. There will also be a section on how to
make a complaint about racism to the CEOOR. Finally, there will be an
index of key words and concepts, which will be elaborated and explained
in a language understandable by the general public.
5. Reactions by politicians and other opinion makers
Within the Belgian legal framework there are two laws dealing with the
fight against anti-Semitism, notably the general anti-racism law of
1981 and the law of the denial of the Holocaust of March 1995.
Immediately after the assault on the Brussels
Chief Rabbi was made public in January 2002 and the debate in the Parliament,
moderate forces within the Jewish community in Brussels organised a
meeting with Muslim leaders.
On 5 April 2002 a Round Table Conference was held on the initiative
of the Belgian Government with representatives from the social partners,
the Jewish and the Muslim communities, the Ligue des droits de l'Homme
(League of Human Rights) and the Centre for Equal Opportunities and
Opposition to Racism. After the attacks on a few synagogues in Antwerp
and Brussels different communities requested the Round Table Conference.
A common declaration was signed and commitments were made by the different
actors to undertake concrete measures in the near future.
On 19 April 2002 the Belgian Interior Minister, Antoine Duquesne,
made a joint declaration with his colleagues from France, Spain, Germany
and Great Britain on Racism, Xenophobia and Anti-Semitism.
Given the background of international tension, in particular in the
Middle East, they characterised the racist and xenophobic violence as
an offence against freedom, democracy and human rights and pronounced
European-wide preventive measures and a coordination of the responsible
agencies and offices. At the Interministerial Conference for the Equal
Opportunities Policy, which took place on 17 May 2002, a concrete action
plan was introduced and approved by the Government.
C.R.I.F. - Released by the European Jewish Congress