According to a survey, nearly one in four Brussels residents holds antisemitic views

Antisemitic prejudices are deeply rooted in Belgian society, especially in Brussels, according to a survey conducted by Ipsos, commissioned by the Jonathas Institute on the eve of the elections.

Eighty years after the Holocaust, as a war has broken out in the Middle East, Belgian society remains deeply marked by antisemitic prejudices stigmatising the Jewish community.

Brussels is the most affected, with nearly one in four Brussels residents expressing antipathy towards Jews (22%).

This aversion is fuelled by well-entrenched antisemitic prejudices, such as “Jews control the media and political institutions,” and a lack of understanding of Judaism.

This is the result of a survey conducted between May 8 and 12 among a representative sample of society by Ipsos for the Jonathas Institute, obtained exclusively by L’Echo and De Tijd.

Since the massacre committed by Hamas in Israel on October 7 and the outbreak of war, Jews in Belgium have been experiencing a challenging period, characterised by a resurgence of antisemitic acts.

“The feeling of abandonment among Jews is absolute; many want to leave Belgium,” says Joël Kotek, historian and president of the Jonathas Institute, an organisation with the mission “to objectify antisemitism in all its forms” and “to keep Jews in Belgium.” This is “the first survey of such magnitude on this subject,” he notes.

“The feeling of abandonment among Jews is absolute; many want to leave Belgium” according to Kotek.

The first finding of the survey: 14% of Belgians express aversion towards Jews. This is significantly more than in France, where this sentiment is 6%, according to an Ifop survey. Antipathy towards Jews rises to 22% in Brussels. It is 16% in Flanders and 9% in Wallonia. On the positive side, 22% of Belgians express sympathy for Jews.

Along with these data, a second, more revealing finding: the high level of antisemitic prejudices.

“Since the Holocaust, people no longer dare to call themselves antisemitic, but if you ask them about antisemitic prejudices, you realise that the markers are very high,” continues Joël Kotek.

Out of 15 prejudices proposed by Ipsos, 8 are considered true by 35% of respondents.

No less than 19% of Belgians assert that “Jews are responsible for the death of Christ,” 28% think that “Jews are not like other people,” 38% think that “Jews are too present in finance,” and 39% think that “Jews have very powerful lobbies at the highest levels of society,” while 74% believe that “Jews are very united among themselves.”

Racism towards Jews is prevalent. Nearly one in four Belgians believes that “Jews form a race that does not want to assimilate into Belgium.” This racial prejudice rises to 28% on the far left, 26% on the far right, and 39% among Muslim respondents.

“In Belgium, adherence to antisemitic prejudices is significantly higher on the far left, far right, among Muslims, and in Brussels,” affirms Joël Kotek.

These prejudices are accompanied by a lack of understanding of the Jewish community. More than 80% of Belgians do not know how many Jews there are in the world (15 million), with one in ten respondents citing a number 30 times higher.

About 75% of Belgians do not know how many Jews live in Belgium (30,000). But paradoxically, no less than 11% think there are “too many Jews” in our country.

More than 60% of Belgians do not know that Judaism appeared first, before Christianity and Islam.

Hostility towards Israel and radical Islamism exacerbate antisemitism, especially since October 7.

The Ipsos survey reveals, however, a limited interest in the war in Gaza. Only 9% of Belgians believe that the political stance of the parties will “greatly” influence their vote on June 9, while 22% will give it “some importance” in making their electoral choice.

Half of the respondents feel sympathy for the victims, whether those of the October 7 massacre (50%), the bombings in Gaza (52%), or the hostages held by Hamas (47%).

The vast majority of respondents reject both Hamas and the Israeli government. Nevertheless, 5% of Belgians have sympathy for Hamas, this affinity being overrepresented among Brussels residents (11%). Additionally, 6% of Belgians have sympathy for the Israeli government.

No less than 45% of Belgians support the two-state solution, 11% wish for “a binational Jewish and Arab state,” 8% desire “a Palestinian state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan dominated by Arabs,” a figure rising to 44% among Muslim respondents.

“My wish is that this survey contributes to more effective actions against antisemitism, particularly against minority groups that import the Middle Eastern conflict to our doorstep. Stop the arsonists,” concludes Joël Kotek, who calls on the authorities to reflect on the effectiveness of existing policies and the type of society desired by Belgians.


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