Auschwitz Forgotten: Anti-Semitism in Belgium
Manfred Gerstenfeld interviews Andre Gantman
“For many years, images from Auschwitz had constrained public expression of anti-Semitism. However, anti-Semitic thoughts have remained in the minds of many. As is often the case elsewhere, anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in Belgium are practiced by many. It is found amidst politicians, media, trade unions, academics, NGOs and so on. This is true for both French-speaking Wallonia and Dutch-speaking Flanders.
“Belgian authorities subsidize several organizations which promote an economic and academic boycott of Israel. These include international bodies such as the Catholic Pax Christi and the development aid organization Oxfam.
The extreme anti-Israel author Luc Catherine – author of the book The Israel Lobby – claims that there is no pro-Palestinian lobby in Flanders. He is right, because there is mainly an anti-Israel lobby which demonizes Israel.”
Andre Gantman is a Jewish jurist. He is a former Alderman in Antwerp on behalf of the Liberal party(VLD). He wrote a book about anti-Semitism called The Split Conscience.
“The Socialist Trade Union (ABVV) is a major initiator of anti-Israelism. The ABVV wants to exclude the Israeli Histadrut from the international trade union organization. The bias here is easy to see. Belgian Socialist Prime Minister Elio di Rupo is Vice Chairman of the Socialist International. The parties of deposed Tunisian and Egyptian dictators were members there until the so-called “Arab Spring.”
“One finds radical anti-Israelis among politicians from many parties. An extreme one is Eva Brems, a federal parliamentarian from the Flemish Green party. She is a former chair of Amnesty International in Flanders. Rarely a week passes by without her posing provocative questions with an anti-Israel slant to ministers.
“The French-speaking Free University of Brussels is yet another major center of anti-Semitism. Jacques Brotchi, a Jewish Professor of Medicine and Senator of the Wallonian Liberal party(MR), resigned from the board of this university last year because of the escalating anti-Semitism there.
“In March 2011, at the Flemish-speaking university of the same name, the annual Boycott Israel week took place. The European Union of Arab Students was one of the organizers of a lecture by Azzan Tamimi, a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood..
“The university administration requested that a pro-Israeli speaker also be invited to speak after Tamimi. Tamimi, who publicly supports terrorism and suicide bombings against Israel, left after his own speech. A few days later, he spoke on Al Jazeera against freedom and democracy.
“From time to time, Muslim anti-Semitism reaches extreme proportions. In 2009, I spoke at the University of Antwerp. A young Muslim, dressed up in white asked me, ‘Does human blood flow through your veins?’ His attempts to dehumanize me reminded me of Nazi ideology.
“Anti-Semitism has also spread among the younger generation of Muslims. A study published in 2011 by Professor Marc Elchardus of The Flemish Free University of Brussels shows that Muslim anti-Semitism at Brussels Dutch-speaking schools by far exceeds harassment of other students. About 50% of Muslim students harbor anti-Semitic sentiments. For other students it is 10%. The study also shows that there is far more anti-Semitism than anti-Muslim feelings.
“Generally speaking, Belgian authorities underestimate the negative attitude of Muslims toward Jews. In the past, they were obsessed by the idea that criticizing this kind of anti-Semitism as well as pinpointing Islam extremism, would encourage racism against Muslims. Consequently, the so- called ‘multicultural society’ would be severely battered.
“In 2010, the Belgian federal Government organized a round table discussion on multiculturalism. From the report on the discussions, it became clear that those present were willing to partially abandon the basic values which democratic societies have acquired through great sacrifice over the centuries.
“Participants indicated that equality for citizens, the battle against racism and xenophobia and the equality of men and women are not absolute values. They seem to think that a compromise has to be found including other values derived from the incorrect idea that the fundamentals of a democratic society should be adapted to the values held by newcomers, i.e. the Muslims. Not surprisingly, there was also a recommendation made to cancel the law which makes Holocaust denial punishable.”
Gantman also focuses on mainstream political correctness: “Many anti-Israelis apply double standards. This became most clear from their responses when the Goldstone report was published. Israel-haters usually turn their heads away when extreme war crimes and crimes against humanity are committed in many other countries. Of course when Goldstone changed his opinion in 2011 in favor of Israel, he was accused of being a Zionist.
“By and large it can also be stated that the media tend to bash Israel. For instance, very often when the Israel Air Force launches a defensive action against armed groups in Gaza, it is hardly mentioned that Israeli cities were previously under attack by rockets fired from there.”
Gantman concludes: “There is a glimmer of hope though. Minister of Justice Annemie Turtelboom recently appointed a special prosecutor to coordinate police actions to fight anti-Semitism.”