Belgium’s Decision to End Protection on Jewish Institutions Raises Concerns

Police protection at a shul in Antwerp, Belgium.
(Joods Actueel/FLASH90, File)

The Jewish community of Belgium expressed concern after the government announced Wednesday it would withdraw army protection from Jewish institutions across the country, without providing an alternative or assigning the responsibility to the Belgian police force.

In response, European Jewish Association Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin sent a letter to Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden asking to reconsider the decision.

In his letter, he pointed out that the announcement coincided with “the time when antisemitic incidents are at their peak.”

“The Belgian government invested and continues to invest great effort in protecting Jewish neighborhoods and institutions, and we are grateful,” Rabbi Margolin wrote. “But despite these efforts in the year of the coronavirus, and especially as a result of the Israel-Gaza conflict last month, we have seen a significant increase of threats and attacks on Jewish in Belgium and all of Europe.”

Michael Freilich, a Jewish member of the Belgian parliament, has called on the government to provide an alternative to the army’s protection due to the rise in anti-Semitic incidents. He is currently working on obtaining a special budget to safeguard Jewish institutions across the country.