Antisemitic Acts Have Risen Sharply in Belgium and France Since the Israel-Hamas War Began

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FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021 file photo, two ultra-Orthodox Jewish men walk in Antwerp, Belgium. Antisemitism is on the rise in Belgium since the Hamas attack against Israel that triggered a war in Gaza. According to the latest figures released Thursday by an independent body fighting discrimination, 91 reports related to the Israel-Hamas conflict were received between Oct. 7 and Dec. 7 last year. M (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)

BRUSSELS (AP) — The number of antisemitic acts registered in France and Belgium rose sharply since Hamas’ attack on Israel triggered the war in Gaza, according to figures released Thursday in both countries.

In France, data from the Interior ministry and the Jewish Community Protection Service watchdog showed that 1,676 antisemitic acts were reported in 2023, compared to 436 the previous year.

According to the Council of Jewish Institutions in France — the country’s main Jewish interest group — the number of antisemitic acts in the three months that followed the Oct. 7 attack equaled those of the previous three years combined.

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In neighboring Belgium, an independent public body fighting discrimination said it received 91 reports related to the Israel-Hamas conflict between Oct. 7 and Dec. 7 last year, compared to 57 reports for the whole of 2022.

Most of the reports were remarks or acts considered as antisemitic, including cases of Holocaust denial, the independent Unia said. In 66 cases, a clear reference was made to the Jewish origin of the person or people targeted.

Most of the cases involved hate messages, more than half of them online, but there were also comments made in public areas. Unia is also collaborating with the public prosecutor’s office and Belgian police in nine cases of assault and damage, it said.

The report cited cases of beatings, graffiti and the desecration of dozens of graves in the Jewish section of a cemetery close to the city of Charleroi.

“We can therefore speak of a clear increase in reports of anti-Semitic since October 7, 2023,” Unia said. It also received eight reports of discrimination or hate speech linked to the Palestinian origin, Arab origin or the Muslim belief of the people targeted between Oct. 7 and Dec. 7

Many European countries have registered a rise in reported antisemitic acts and comments since the outbreak of the war. Belgium has a Jewish population of about 29,000, according to the World Jewish Congress. Although most of the Jewish community in the capital, Brussels, is secular, the port city of Antwerp has a large ultra-Orthodox population and the largest Hasidic community in Europe.

In France, which has Europe’s largest Jewish and Muslim communities, the Council of Jewish Institutions in France said that 57.8% of anti-Semitic acts in 2023 were directed against individuals. They involved physical violence or threatening words and gestures. The group also noted “an explosion in the number of anti-Semitic acts in schools.”

“The perpetrators of anti-Semitic acts are getting younger. The school is no longer a sanctuary,” it said.

The Health Ministry in Gaza says more than 25,400 people have been killed and another 63,000 wounded in the enclave since the Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel in which militants from Gaza killed around 1,200 people and took about 250 hostages.

Source: VosIzNeias

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