Memorial candles outside the Jewish Museum in Brussels, where a gunman killed 4 people.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Senior Belgian and European Union leaders gathered in Brussels on Wednesday to mark one month since the shooting deaths of four people, including two Israelis, at the city’s Jewish Museum.
The attack, which sent out shock-waves among European Jewry, was allegedly carried out by Mehdi Nemmouche, a French Muslim who spent a large part of last year fighting alongside jihadist forces in the Syrian civil war. After the attack, in which he allegedly entered the museum and opened fire with a Kalashnikov semi-automatic rifle, Jewish institutions across the continent beefed up their security.
Speaking at the ceremony, which was organized by the Brussels-based European Jewish Association (EJA), Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said the security of the Jewish community, while needing to be on his government’s agenda, should also be dealt with at the European level.
“The fact that communities and beliefs are being targeted make the unbearable even more revolting,” Reynders said. “We need to further develop human rights and the role of law, which are at the core of our civilization.”
Philippe Markiewicz, a representative of the Brussels Jewish community, stated that the attack was “unrelated” to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Gianni Pittella, acting president of the European Parliament, said the attack was a reminder that anti-Semitism is “still alive” and that the European Union must work to “eradicate any form of anti-Semitism and xenophobia.”
Earlier this month, Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo pledged to establish a joint commission with the World Jewish Congress and local Jewish leaders to strengthen communal security, combat racism, strengthen Holocaust education and “facilitate the exchange of information.”
During Wednesday’s ceremony, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, EJA president, asserted that “40 percent of Jews in Europe are hiding their Judaism.” He called on the EU to “set up an official special authority to fight anti-Semitism.”
According to a poll conducted by the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights, up to a third of Jews in several western European countries are mulling emigration due to perceptions of insecurity.