The Jewish Museum in Brussels is set to open in less than two weeks, but Belgium’s commitment to securing the facility is not clear — despite a pledge by Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo to strengthen Jewish communal security. Di Rupo made the statement following a meeting earlier this month in Brussels with the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and local Jews.
Security at the Jewish Museum of Brussels has always been “very light,” according to museum president Philippe Blondin, who met with Israeli journalists on Tuesday. Due to the museum’s limited funding, Blondin had asked Belgian authorities directly for upgraded security, but was turned down, he said.
That is a now an even bigger problem than it was a month ago, given the events of May 24, when a terrorist calmly walked into the building, opened his bag and removed a Kalashnikov assault rifle. It took him five seconds to fire the weapon from the doorway to the museum and bloody the floor and walls of the exhibit. By the time he left, three people were dead and a fourth was mortally wounded.
Terror suspect Mehdi Nemmouche, 29, is still being held in Marseille by French police, who immediately nabbed the accused gunman as he crossed the border.
“For a Jewish museum it was, in a way, way too light,” Blondin said of the security apparatus in place at the time of the attack.
There were no security guards at the door. There were none at the entrance to the building.
But the choice had been to close the museum or to take a risk, he said. “My choice and the choice of the people before me was education, education, education.”
Blondin said police would return the keys to the front entrance today (Wednesday) but that he would like to give his traumatized staff at least one more week to meet with psychologists over the horrific attack. And of course, they still had to clean the place up, and create a memorial for the victims.
He added that he is also still hoping for some increased police protection or security assistance from the Belgian authorities — who so far have promised nothing.
Blondin noted — as has every other Jewish leader over the past year — that there has been an uptick in anti-Semitism in Europe. He added that there has been a change in attitude towards the Jews in Belgium as well. “We’ve got Judeophobia and anti-Zionism, two different things working together,” he said.
When asked by The Jewish Press, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev deferred comment on whether the Jewish State would consider assisting Belgium or the museum with additional security.