Belgian leader: Anti-Semitism spurring exodus

Anti-Semitism in Belgium is causing a Jewish exodus, a former community leader and anti-racism activist warned.

Joel Rubinfeld, president of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, also known as LBCA, offered his remarks in an interview last week for the La Libre daily ahead of a Brussels screening of a new French film about the 2006 anti-Semitic murder of Ilan Halimi in Paris.

Commenting on rising levels of anti-Semitic violence and speech in Belgium, including the May murder of four people at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels, Rubinfeld said, “An exodus of Jews is beginning.”

Last year saw the immigration to Israel of 273 Jews from Belgium, which has a Jewish population of about 40,000. It was the highest figure recorded in nine years.

Immigration from Belgium to Israel on the basis of Israel’s Law of Return for Jews and their relatives brought an annual average of 221 immigrants in the years 2010 to 2013.

The figure represents a 60 percent increase over the average of 133 new arrivals from Belgium from 2005 to 2009, according to data issued by the Jewish Agency for Israel.

“This is not just a reaction to the attack on the museum,” added Rubinfeld, a former president of the CCOJB umbrella group representing Belgium’s French-speaking Jewish communities. “Each year, hundreds of complaints on anti-Semitic acts are recorded, and the real number of these acts is probably is much higher.”

On July 10, a few hundred people gathered under heavy police security at Brussels’ Centre for Fine Arts for LBCA’s screening of “24 Days: The Truth About the Ilan Halimi Affair.”

Halimi, a cellphone salesman in his 20s, was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by a gang of criminals who targeted him because he was Jewish. For many French-speaking Jews, his murder became a sign of the worsening of anti-Semitic violence following the second Palestinian intifada. — jta