Belgian stabbing increases concern over European anti-Semitism

Belgian Jewish leaders are currently looking at security precautions put in place following a shooting attack in Brussels’ Jewish museum in May which left four dead.

EU’s new foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini  (photo credit: REUTERS)
EU’s new foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The stabbing of a Belgian Jew in the neck on Saturday has led to increased calls for action against rising anti-Semitism in Europe, even as the community seeks answers for how to protect itself.
Yehosha Malik, a 31-yearold ultra-Orthodox man, was attacked on an Antwerp street.
He was treated and released.
Belgian Jewish leaders are looking at security precautions put in place following the shooting attack by an Islamist at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in May that left four dead, including a couple from Tel Aviv.
Rafael Werner, head of the Flemish Forum of Jewish Organizations, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday it was “still not clear what the real reason [for the attack was, but] it’s most probably anti-Semitic,” and that the community is “working very hard on security” and looking at what precautions it has missed.
“Every incident increases the fear,” he said, adding that local Jews were happy that the victim has already returned home.
Following May’s attack, representatives of the community insisted they would refuse to allow themselves to live in fear.
A study commissioned by the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency last year, however, painted a different picture, finding that almost a third of Belgian Jews were considering emigration as a response to heightened anti-Jewish sentiment.
The number of anti-Semitic incidents rose precipitously this summer during Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, prompting European Jewish Congress head Moshe Kantor to say that Jewish life on the continent would become “unsustainable” without a reduction in the climate of fear.
A joint statement decrying anti-Semitism by the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Italy this summer, and statements such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s, in which she asserted that it was her “national and civic duty to combat anti-Semitism,” have given some Jews hope, but not everybody is convinced.
A conference on anti-Semitism organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Berlin last week was attended by about two-thirds of the OSCE’s 57 member nations.
“Frankly, it is deeply concerning that even as anti-Semitism is rising in Europe, a third fewer countries are participating in the 2014 conference than took part in the 2004 conference,” US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said.
Stephan Kramer, director of the American Jewish Committee’s European Office on Anti-Semitism and a former head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told the Post from Germany: “Besides nice declarations and solidarity addresses which are very welcome and encouraging, we are missing... concrete steps and action plans by the governments across Europe.”
Both the Anti-Defamation League and European Jewish communities have previously criticized European efforts to monitor anti-Semitism and some groups have called for the creation of a European equivalent of the US Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.
In Israel, Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Committee chairman Yoel Razvozov wrote to Belgian Ambassador John Cornet d’Elzius on Saturday night, saying that Jewish blood cannot continue to flow in the streets of Belgium.
“I am convinced that there is increased security around Jewish institutions in Belgium, but once again there was a serious act of violence against a Jew in Belgium,” the MK wrote. “A situation in which a rabbi is attacked on Saturday afternoon as he leaves synagogue is unacceptable.”
Razvozov wrote that the ease in which a passerby could draw a knife and slit a Jewish man’s throat shows how fragile Belgian Jewry’s safety is.
“This event, whether it was planned of improvised, should light a very large warning light.
It cannot be that in a matter of a few months, Jews blood is flowing in the streets of Belgium again,” he said.
The Belgian government must act strongly against those who attack Jews, Razvozov demanded, calling for it to continue fighting anti-Semitism.
Michael Wilner in Washington contributed to this report.