Jewish groups anger at Belgian TV digs

9th February 2009, Comments 1 comment

Jewish groups have accused a Belgian public television channel of outright anti-Semitism over a series of broadcasts making fun of the Jewish community.

BRUSSELS - One 1940s-style comedy sketch lampooned Jews' reactions to comments made by the culture minister of Flanders, the country's Dutch-speaking community. Another programme had intended to teachers viewers of the VRT channel how to make Adolf Hitler's favourite meal but was pulled before it was broadcast.

Jewish groups have accused VRT, the main public Dutch-language channel, of being completely insensitive to the history of Jews in Europe.

Protests reached a new peak after a satirical programme "Man bijt hond" ("Man Bites Dog") ran a 40-second piece entitled "the Jews are still angry".

The sequence made fun of the reactions of the Jewish community to comments made by the Flanders culture minister, who had likened the victims of a recent nursery school killing in Flanders to those of the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.

In a 1940s newsreel-style pastiche, a narrator listed a series of institutions and objects which the Jewish community was "still not angry with"; including the America-Israel Friendship League, the 'movement for friendship between Jews and Israel', Rolex, Rolls Royce and the Antwerp Diamond Council.

A drawing depicted a bearded Jew with his face twisted in rage grasping for a huge diamond.

Then viewers saw black and white images of Orthodox Jews dancing, followed by the images of a watch and a luxury car.

Terry Davids, head of Joods Actueel, a magazine for the Jewish community in Antwerp, said she was shocked by what she saw. "These people are completely insensitive to our ... sensibilities." she told AFP.

"It's as if they want to seek us out, to provoke us. We are shocked and indignant."

VRT has pleaded "the right to satire and humour", saying other sectors of society had been targetted in previous programmes.

"When it's in the right context and one sector of society gets the same treatment as another there can be no taboos," said channel spokesman Bjorn Verdoodt.

Among politicians, only Flemish Liberal deputy Claude Marinower has spoken out against the "negationist" programme.

"Each time you think they have reached rock bottom, but each time there is worse to come," he said.

The head of the Belgian Jewish organisations coordination centre, Joel Rubinfeld, denounced the standards of the Flemish channel which "seems to think that multiplying anti-Semitic provocations in a so-called humorous tone will help increase its audience."

Last October a young Flemish TV chef sparked protests by announcing that he wanted to teach VRT viewers how to prepare what he said was Adolf Hitler's favourite meal, trout cooked in butter.

VRT pulled the programme because of the protests, but there was new trouble when on New Year's Day it aired part of a show by comedian Philippe Geubels. Geubels deplored the decision not to run the chef's programme and said the Jewish reaction was over the top.

"What would they do if there was a major gas leak in Antwerp? Accuse the town of provocation?" he asked.


1 Comment To This Article

  • A, Cameron posted:

    on 9th February 2009, 11:03:09 - Reply

    More strength to VRT! It's about time people stopped pandering to so-called "Jewish sensibilities". We didn't see much of them in Gaza recently!