Analysis: Are Belgium’s Jews any safer now?

Violent anti-Semitism increased by 172 percent in Belgium in 2014, with 30 incidents recorded.

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May 26, 2015 04:25
2 minute read.
Antwerp, Belgium

Antwerp, Belgium. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Belgian Jews marked the first anniversary of a shooting attack on the Brussels Jewish Museum, which left four people dead, and many are asking if the community is any safer today.

Violent anti-Semitism increased by 172 percent in Belgium in 2014, with 30 incidents recorded, according to the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University.

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During the same period, overall anti-Semitic violence worldwide surged 40% with a total of 766 violent incidents.

Both France and Belgium have deployed large numbers of troops to guard Jewish sites across their respective countries and have called for zero tolerance for hate crimes.

However, there is a sense that such efforts can only go so far.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post not long before his death last week, Hebrew University anti-Semitism expert Prof. Robert Wistrich said he believed another attack was inevitable.

Troops can only stayed deployed for so long and “once they go we will have another violent incident,” he said. “The fundamental causes have not changed in any way and that will surely happen.

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We can say with near certainty it will happen again there.”

The increased police and military presence outside Jewish institutions is “absolutely necessary but far from sufficient because security ultimately doesn’t solve the problem,” Ira Forman, US State Department special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, said.

“It’s not a perfect protection either because you can’t protect all people at all times no matter how many resources you throw at it,” he said, adding that some advances have been made in combating anti-Semitism.

A third of Jews polled in 2013 by the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights admitted to refraining from wearing religious garb or Jewish symbols out of fear, with 23% saying they avoided attending Jewish events or going to Jewish venues. Following last year’s attack in Brussels one community leader there told the Post that while European Jews are “more doubtful” about their future than they were 20 years ago, “we are watchful [but] we don’t live in fear.”

However, speaking to the Post a year later, some Belgian Jews indicated that they are indeed uneasy, despite the beefed up security surrounding them.

Given the difficulty in preventing attacks by lone gunmen, the intensification of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiments among Muslim immigrants and a relatively small but significant and increasing number of returning European jihadis who fought in the Middle East, it is likely that further attacks will occur despite all efforts to prevent them.

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