The government of Belgium plans to remove military protection at Jewish institutions on September 1, despite the “serious” and “probable” ongoing threat status.
European Jews have railed against the situation.
European Jewish Association Chairperson Rabbi Menachem Margolin said the move makes “zero sense” and leaves Jews “wide open with a target sign on our backs.”
In Belgium the security threat is currently “medium” according to the metrics provided by the government’s Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis (CUTA). But for Jewish communities, as well as the American and Israeli embassies, the threat remains “serious and probable”.
It was therefore with great alarm that the European Jewish Association, through partner organization ‘Jewish Forum of Antwerp’ and Belgian MP Michael Freilich, learned that the Belgian government was removing its army protection from Jewish buildings and institutions starting on September 1.
The decision was taken without consultation with Jewish communities and without a suitable alternative being proposed.
Army presence at Jewish buildings has been in place since the Brussels terror attacks and Jewish Museum murders.
“The Belgian Government has up until now been exemplary in its protection of Jewish communities,” Margolin said. “In fact, we at the European Jewish Association have held up the Belgian example as one to be emulated by other member states. For this dedication to keeping us safe and secure we have always expressed out utmost gratitude and appreciation.
“It is also because of this dedication that the decision to remove the army on September 1st makes zero sense,” Margolin said. “Unlike the US and Israeli embassies, Jewish communities do not have access to any state security apparatus. Not only that but while the threat may be medium for Belgium, for Jews the threat is both serious and probable according to the data provided to the government by their own agency, the Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis.
“It is alarming too that Jewish communities have not even been properly consulted about this move,” Margolin added. “Nor is the government presently proposing any alternatives. As of now, it leaves Jews wide open and with a target on our backs.”
Antisemitism is increasing in Europe. Belgium is not immune to this, Margolin pointed out.
“The pandemic, the recent Israeli Gaza operation and its fallout are worrying Jews enough without this even added to the equation. Worse, it sends a signal to other European countries to do likewise. I am urging the Belgian government to reconsider this decision or at the very least offer a solution in its stead.”
Margolin said he has written to the Belgium Minister of the Interior, Annelies Verlinden, seeking an “urgent meeting” and asking for the move to be reconsidered.
MP Michael Freilich is also proposing legislation that would see a three million euro fund made available to Jewish communities to increase their security in light of the September 1 plans.