BDS activist to be honored as ‘peace envoy’ at Belgian Holocaust memorial

Brigitte Herremans will receive the “ambassador for peace” prize from Belgian Catholic NGO Pax Christi Vlaanderen (Flanders).

The Kazerne Dossin Holocaust memorial museum in Belgium. (photo credit: TIJL VEREENOOGHE/FLICKR)
The Kazerne Dossin Holocaust memorial museum in Belgium.
There has been an outcry after it was revealed that an anti-Israel activist will be honored by a Catholic NGO at a ceremony set to be held at well-known Holocaust memorial in Belgium on Thursday.
Brigitte Herremans, who claimed Israel’s supporters are “inflating” Belgium’s antisemitism problem to distract from the Palestinian issue, will receive the “ambassador for peace” prize from Belgian Catholic NGO Pax Christi Vlaanderen (Flanders).
Herremans was also banned in 2016 from entering Israel because of anti-Israel sentiments.
The NGO stated on its page she was receiving the award for, “her way of looking and speaking [about the Middle East], which bears witness to the desire to understand the conflicts in the Middle East and to interpret them as honestly as possible.”
The Kazerne Dossin Holocaust memorial museum, where the ceremony is set to take place, was used as a transit camp in Mechelen, Belgium. Between July 1942 and September 1944, 25,274 Jews and 354 Gypsies were rounded up and transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and a number of other smaller concentration camps.
Jenny Aharon, an advisor of EU-Israel Affairs at European Union institutions based in Belgium, told The Jerusalem Post that Herremans is known as a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions activist, who, “calls for the boycott of Israel.
“If we need to explain why it is inappropriate for her to be receiving an award at a deportation site, then we are facing a bigger problem in Belgium than I thought,” she explained. “France’s lower house has just adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism while in Belgium we are nowhere near it.
“This deportation site– Kazerne Dossin– is being misused for antisemitic purposes; this is unacceptable,” Aharon stressed.
She made it clear she thinks, “that this should be preserved as a Holocaust memorial site and not be politicized in any way, let alone this event where a BDS activist receives a peace award.”
Speaking to the Post, Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean and Global Social Action head Rabbi Abraham Cooper said he finds it, “despicable that those in Europe... are all too happy to memorialize dead Jews while disrespecting” the living.
“It is disgusting that a Holocaust memorial has been cynically selected as the site to ‘honor’ an anti-Israel ‘activist’ who minimizes the threat of antisemitism to Jews across Europe, the Americas and Australia,” Cooper said. “The event mocks and desecrates the memory of the 25,000 doomed Belgian Jews sent from that very site to Nazi death camps and empowers those seeking the Jewish state’s demise.”
In a statement to the Post, NGO Monitor stressed it was “unconscionable that Pax Christi is awarding an honor to someone who accuses ‘Israel’s allies’ of ‘inflating’ antisemitism, as Ms. Hermanns did.”
The organization stressed that Pax Christi’s choice of venue– a transit camp from which the Nazis sent Belgian Jews to concentration camps– is a deliberate and perverted manipulation of the memory of the Jews persecuted and murdered during the Holocaust.
“The Belgian government must explain why it continues to fund this pro-BDS organization,” it added.
The CEO of Betsalmo, and Israeli human rights organization, Shai Glick told the Post, “there is hardly a day when Jews are not victims of an antisemitic attack.
“The lesson from the Holocaust is simple: there is tremendous hatred for Jews, which leads to horrific murder. And that must be fought because if isn’t, the Holocaust can reoccur,” he said. “The same boycott activist who says that Jews lie by inflating antisemitism actually reinforces the causes of hatred for Israel.
He stressed it is “unthinkable” that a memorial, which is supposed to “commemorate the Holocaust and the struggle against hatred and antisemitism” will allow Herremans to be honored on its premises.
Officials at the museum did not respond to several requests for comment.
JTA contributed to this report.