Belgian Jews worried about security of community institutions

With the end of army protection, Belgian Jews worry that local police security will not be adequate to protect communal institutions.

Dan Verbin, Canada ,

Brussels, Belgium
Brussels, Belgium
iStock

The Belgian Jewish community is worried that with the protection of Jewish sites changing on September 1 from being the responsibility of the military to that of local police, the level of protection will no longer be the same, reported the European Jewish Press.

After the 2014 terrorist attack against the Jewish Museum in Brussels, in which four people were killed, the Belgian military was tasked with security for Jewish schools, synagogues and other community buildings.

The agreement is set to expire at the end of this month, with local police forces now responsible for keeping Jewish communities safe.

The CCOJB (the Brussels-based Coordination Committee of Jewish Organizations in Belgium) and the Antwerp-based Forum of Jewish Organizations (FJO), both stated they were concerned that the new arrangement was short on details and might lead to a reduction in security.

CCOJB President Yohan Benizri said in a statement to newspaper Le Soir that the threat level for the community remained high – a three out of four. He was worried that he had not heard back from officials about his concerns.

In February, Benizri wrote an op-ed in the Brussels Times in which he said that the European Union was “failing Jews.”

“My kids go to a primary school in Belgium guarded by the army, the police, security professionals, and armoured double-doors,” he wrote.

“When they walk home, they encounter painted swastikas. They hear people chanting ‘war against Jews.’ If they turn on the TV, they might see anti-Semitic parades as in the Flemish town of Aalst and hear about Jews murdered in Europe for being Jews, in Paris, Toulouse, and Brussels. They can hear me talking about a current Belgian Minister of Justice who spoke about the ‘Jewish lobby.’”

While he stated that “Brussels has condemned anti-Semitism and Holocaust revisionism, poured millions of euros into improving security of synagogues and Jewish schools, and celebrated Jewish contributions to the continent,” he lamented that “even so, the trend is alarming. Europe’s Jewish communities are shrinking and do not feel welcome or safe in Europe.”

While the areas of the country with the largest Jewish populations – Brussels and Antwerp – are reportedly well prepared for the changeover to police protection, other areas with smaller communities are worried that replacing the military will prove problematic.

The FJO told Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden that it was worried about the communities safety. Verlinden confirmed that no federal police or additional resources would be allotted to protect community institutions.

Antwerp Mayor Bart De Wever called the government’s refusal to agree to his request to beef up security a “slap in the face” to the Jewish community.



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