Rise in antisemitism in Belgium prompts 'increased vigilance'
Since 7 October, there has been a marked increase in the number of reports of threats against the Jewish community. This increase has led to "increased vigilance", the Belgian coordinating body for threat analysis (CUTA) told De Standaard on Monday.
Since the start of the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, there have been around 70 reports of threats in Belgium. About half of them are antisemitic. The nature of the threats varies widely, sometimes involving verbal intimidation and threats via social media, but there have also been some "small-scale incidents".
Belgium's equal opportunities centre, Unia, recorded more than 50 reports related to antisemitism, up from the usual four to five per month. "We are very concerned about this," said Unia's Els Keytsman. "While until recently hate speech was mostly online, we are seeing an increase in hate speech on the streets."
"While until recently hate speech was mostly online, we are seeing an increase in hate speech on the streets"
There has been an elevated threat level for the Jewish community since 2004. The National Crisis Centre says additional measures have been taken recently, but must remain discreet. Interior minister Annelies Verlinden has sent extra federal police patrols to Jewish institutions in Antwerp and Brussels.
Since 7 October, Antwerp police have issued more than 90 official reports for hate and discrimination, compared to 167 for the whole of 2022. Antwerp mayor Bart De Wever said the Antwerp police were working with Shmira, the Jewish security service, which received five times more reports than usual.
Earlier this month, the European Commission condemned a "resurgence" of antisemitic incidents and statements following the outbreak of war between Israel and the extremist Palestinian organisation Hamas. “The spike in antisemitic incidents across Europe has reached exceptional levels in recent days,” the Commission said. “That's reminiscent of some of the darkest periods in history.”
© BELGA PHOTO KRISTOF VAN ACCOM