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Against antisemitism: Belgian and European Jews need your solidarity

Against antisemitism: Belgian and European Jews need your solidarity

by host

Ariel Muzicant is the president of the European Jewish Congress

We are witnessing a period of intense animosity toward Jewish communities in Belgium, as we are across all of Europe.

Threats — often violent — addressed to Jewish children are now a regular occurrence both online and on the streets of Antwerp and Brussels. And since the October 7 attacks in Israel, antisemitic incidents are now 10 times greater than the average recorded levels for equivalent periods.

Students at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, a couple walking along the street in Antwerp, and a cemetery in Charleroi have all been targeted over the last few weeks for one reason, and one reason alone.

All the targets were Jewish. Young Jews, old Jews — even dead Jews.

This isn’t the first time that a mass antisemitic attack — in this case, a pogrom perpetrated by Hamas in Israel, resulting in more Jews murdered than in any single 24-hour period since the Shoah — has brought not reflection and solidarity, but more hate and attacks.

We must be clear. Hate, delegitimization, antisemitic speech and the targeting of Jews — they always lead to physical attacks. The recent petrol bomb attack on a synagogue in Berlin, the entry to the home of an elderly Jewish couple being set alight in Paris, and the most shocking desecration of the Jewish cemetery in Vienna all attest to a daily atmosphere of fear for Europe’s Jews.

This is why the Jewish community here in Belgium needs your solidarity, and why a visible statement needs to go out from here — the heart of Europe — that Jews aren’t fair game or legitimate collateral damage for those wishing to express their opinions on a conflict taking place 4,000 kilometers away.

It shouldn’t need reasserting that Jewish communities are an integral part of the fabric of Belgian and European society, entitled to the same rights and protections as all citizens. Yet, this is a community that has faced huge levels of antisemitic attacks for 20 years now, the worst of which was the terrorist murders at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in 2014.

The statistics tell their own story — one of a society that is now no longer welcoming for Jews. Whether it be the Belgian Jews forced behind iron bars, security cameras and armed police for the “right” to attend school or pray in a synagogue, or the countless families simply voting with their feet and moving abroad, deciding that there’s no future in the country of their birth.

This is a reality that no Belgian or European politician, or indeed citizen, should accept. The safety and security of minority communities is itself a fundamental pillar of a democratic and liberal society and the right of all citizens.

This is why on December 10, the International Day of Human Rights, a national march against antisemitism will be convened on the streets of the Belgian capital, under the slogan “Never Again.” The march is organized by the Belgian League Against Antisemitism (LBCA), the Coordinating Committee of Belgian Jewish Organizations (CCOJB) and the Forum of Jewish Organisations (FJO), and it has the full support of the European Jewish Congress.

All of Belgian society, and everyone who lives and works in the EU capital, is invited to mobilize and demonstrate their support for their Jewish neighbors.

This is a call for solidarity. It is a plea that our common society be open, safe and welcoming to all, free from the horrors of intolerance, racism and antisemitism.

In the words of the European Commission: “The resurgence of antisemitic incidents across Europe, which in recent days has reached exceptionally high levels, recalls some of the darkest periods of history.”

Indeed, it does.

This is the same fight for a just and tolerant society that everyone deserves. And we cannot fight it alone. We shouldn’t have to.

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