Belgian Jews condemn Parliament refusal to include antisemitism in new anti-racism commission

The Coordination Committee of Belgian Jewish Organisations (CCOJB), the country’s EJC affiliate has spoken out against the refusal by the Brussels Parliament to include antisemitism in the title of the Belgian region’s new Anti-racism Commission, issuing the following statement:

“The CCOJB denounces the repeated and blatant attempts not to name antisemitism in Belgium. The most recent example concerns the holding, today, of the commission against racism in the Brussels Parliament.

In spite of the repeated attempts of some members of parliament, the CCOJB has noted for many years the gradual disappearance of the word “antisemitism” from programs against racism, antisemitism and xenophobia [in Brussels]. If some argue that forms natural part of the fight against racism in general, or that the omission is not a mistake, it is appropriate to recall the facts.

We talk about racism and antisemitism because the two phenomena are not the same and the tools to fight against these hatreds are different. It is not a question of particularism, but of history, culture and efficiency”.

As far as the commission against racism in the Brussels Parliament is concerned, the issue was not only about the title of the commission.

The CCOJB, the largest federation of Jewish organizations in the country, was not invited to join the steering committee set up to organize the conference. Following a request to that effect, the CCOJB was finally included, months later.

The CCOJB did not claim any place in the different panels, but rather worked on the implementation of a methodology to make the parliamentary initiative more effective, because the fight against all forms of hatred is clearly part and parcel of our mission. The only request of the CCOJB was to see antisemitism named in the title of the event to reflect the importance of this phenomenon, which is not to be confused with racism.

This request was rejected, and the communication of this refusal was made only yesterday, the day before the inaugural session. This refusal was communicated on the same day that the press reported that posters put up by the Union of Belgian Jewish Students (UEJB) in Brussels to denounce antisemitic crimes had been vandalized: the words “antisemite” and “Jew” were meticulously removed from these posters.

Neither the steering committee nor the extended bureau of the Brussels Parliament, although alerted, took into account the request of the first victims of antisemitism. This refusal comes in the country of the Aalst carnival, of a memorial to the Latvian SS [in Zedelgem] , of the calls for murder against Jews in the streets of Brussels and in our stadiums, of the terrorist attack on the Jewish Museum of Belgium, of the Nazi house in Keerbergen, etc.

Let us remember that antisemitism led to a genocide in Europe from which the Jewish population has never recovered,” the CCOJB statement added.

Yohan Benizri, president of the CCOJB and EJC Vice-President, said: “Despite a resolution of by the Senate in 2018, and despite the European initiatives that should be welcomed, we unfortunately note that our country refuses to name an evil that it is plagued by. We did not understand this reluctance, but now that it takes the form of an explicit refusal, we must denounce it with force.

Which society would accept to leave to the victims alone the whole burden of naming, denouncing and fighting against offences and crimes?,” he stated.

The Brussels regional parliament is the representative body of the bilingual Brussels region, one of the country’s regional-level entities.


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