Maram Stern, Vice President of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), wrote an article last year arguing that antisemitism is spreading so widely amongst the political elite in Belgium that Europe must respond. “Europe must save Belgium from the antisemitism that is eating it up,” he said.
The most recent manifestation of such antisemitism was the rally held by Samidoun, a terrorist-connected “solidarity” network, which was authorized by ruling politicians with no regard for the inflammatory and inciting messages that would be spat out on the streets of Brussels in the face of the European Parliament. As an ideology, antisemitism never comes alone; it always comes to destroy our democratic society.
A few politicians did raise the alert. Theo Francken, a former minister whose party is not part of the ruling coalition, asked on Twitter, “Is this Gaza, Beirut, Cairo? No, Brussels yesterday. A Hamas hate demonstration rife with antisemitism, hatred of Jews, glorification of terrorism and calls for violence in the streets of our capital.”
“All means necessary should be used to liquidate the nation-state of the Jewish people, from the river to the sea, since defeating Israel means defeating the United States and the European Union,” screamed Mohammad Khatib, EU coordinator for Samidoun. Khatib called on supporters to “stand firm until the end, by throwing a rock or shooting bullets - fight a war and fire your missiles, fire your missiles.”
These inflammatory and inciting words threaten to usurp the democratic values of the EU and call for violent conquest of the western world. Moreover, they are a call to erase a country from the map of the world.
Such shrill rhetoric might be considered mere extremist idiocy were it not for the event’s unconcealed support for and promotion of terrorists: real people who commit murder.
Banners portraying George Habash, the founder of the proscribed terrorist organization PFLP, jostled for space alongside posters glorifying Hamas, carried by masked men and women dressed in the garb of the “Lions’ Den” terrorists.
The message is clear – violence and terrorism are the answer. In Belgium, no one can lawfully march on the streets masked except on an official carnival day. For this reason alone, the police should have stopped the rally.
The Netherlands made the principled decision to prohibit the two leaders of Samidoun, husband and wife Khaled Barakat and Charlotte Kates, from entering the country, hence preventing them from attending the rally. The reason given is that both are very closely connected to the PFLP, named as a terrorist organization by the EU. Belgium, by stark contrast, is turning a blind eye to rising antisemitism and the promotion of terrorism.
Some Belgian politicians in the ruling coalition actively support the PFLP; the minister of Overseas Development has donated millions of euros to political NGOs closely tied to the PFLP for many years. The rot is deep.
No doubt, the police and security services were content that the rally passed without direct confrontation or violence; hence for them, it was a success. Our sources tell us they are well aware that “from the river to the sea” is tantamount to a call for the genocide of Israeli Jews. Politicians who approved the rally will also be content that it might attract more votes for their “red-green” alliance of socialist and green Israel-hating parties. But it must never happen again.
Belgian politicians lack the capability and will to take requisite measures to prevent further atrocities in the heart of Europe. Maram Stern is right – only the EU can fix this. The EU must now ban Samidoun in its entirety. Nothing less will do. To this, all who care about safeguarding our democratic values and defending our democracy must now turn.
Patricia Teitelbaum is Chair of Belgian Friends of Israel, a Brussels-based NGO that is pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian and pro-Peace. This op-ed is published in partnership with a coalition of organizations that fight antisemitism across the world.
This op-ed is published in partnership with a coalition of organizations that fight antisemitism across the world. Read the previous article by Sacha Stawski.