Belgium’s new justice minister has spoken of Jewish lobby

In February, when Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne was the Mayor of Kortrijk he tweeted that the “Jewish lobby is working extra hours. After Aalst, now Washington."

Belgium's Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne attends a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 26, 2011. (photo credit: REUTERS/VINCENT KESSLER)
Belgium's Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne attends a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 26, 2011.
(photo credit: REUTERS/VINCENT KESSLER)
Belgium’s newly sworn in center-left government has rattled the Jewish community because of its pro-Palestinian stance, its lack of emphasis on antisemitism and its appointment of a justice minister who has publicly spoken of the “Jewish lobby.”
On Thursday, Alexander De Croo was sworn in as prime minister, replacing Sophie Wilmes, who had been the head of a caretaker government for the last 16 months.
Wilmes, who was the first Belgian Jewish prime minister, will be the foreign minister.
The new justice minister will be Vincent Van Quickenborne of the Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats Party.
In February, when Van Quickenborne was the mayor of Kortrijk, he tweeted that the “Jewish lobby is working extra hours. After Aalst, now Washington.”
It was not the first time Van Quickenborne had raised eyebrows. In 2002, he traveled to Gaza and met with Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Ismail Hassan Yassin.
“I am a bit anxious because I have seen a number of appointments that have raised eyebrows, and in some cases rightly so,” said Yohan Benizri, president of the Belgian Federation of Jewish Organizations and vice president of the European Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Congress.
In the platform there was “no explicit mention of the fight against antisemitism” even though there is the ongoing issue of the Aalst carnival, he said, citing the annual carnival that has gained notoriety for its antisemitic costumes and floats.
The silence was striking when one takes into account the references in the platform to Israeli plans to annex portions of the West Bank, Benizri said. Religious freedom is also absent, he added.
Michael Freilich, a Jewish member of the Belgium Federal Parliament from the opposition New Flemish Alliance Party, also mentioned this platform.
The biggest threats to Europe and Belgium are from China and Russia, but those countries are not named in the platform while Israel is, he said.
The platform speaks of potential sanctions against Israel if it continues with annexation and mentions the potential for unilateral approval of a Palestinian state, Freilich said. “Those are points that show that the left-leaning parties, who have always been critical of Israel, have the upper hand in this government,” he said.
Freilich said he was concerned the new government might remove special protection for Jewish institutions against antisemitic attacks. There also is concern it might support banning circumcision, he added.
The new government is made up of seven parties spanning the French-Dutch language divide, including liberals, socialists and greens. Belgium has not had a full-fledged government since December 2018, when a four-party coalition collapsed.

Reuters contributed to this report.