28 June 2004
BRUSSELS – Up to a thousand people demanding zero tolerance of anti-Semitism in Belgium gathered in Antwerp on Monday to protest about last week’s stabbing of a young Jewish boy by a gang of Muslim youths in the city.
Members of Belgium’s Jewish community want the government to do more to deal with what they see as a rising tide of anti-Semitic attacks by a minority of Muslims living in the country.
“We want the authorities to adopt a zero tolerance policy,” a spokesman for the Jewish Community of Antwerp, who asked not to be named, told Expatica.
“We should not bring the war between Israel and the Palestinians here to Belgium. If they want to fight, they should go over there,” he added.
According to the spokesman at least 1000 people turned up to Monday’s demonstration, which was held in front of Antwerp’s Portuguese synagogue.
Police put the number of protestors at between 800 and 900.
The young boy at the centre of the furore was stabbed shortly after he and three friends left a Jewish school in the Antwerp suburb of Wilrijk on Thursday night.
The four boys were chased by a gang of 10 to 15 North African youths armed with knives and other blunt instruments.
Three escaped but the fourth was trapped by the gang and stabbed in the back.
He was taken to hospital in a critical condition but is now out of danger.
According to the Jewish community spokesman, the boy, who has not been named, is lucky to be alive.
“They were clearly trying to kill him. His lung was damaged by the knife. We are lucky today’s demonstration was not a funeral,” he said.
The Antwerp protest followed a similar show of anger in Brussels on Sunday, which was attended by some of Belgium’s leading politicians.
Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinkx told demonstrators on Sunday that the government would do everything it could to catch the youths responsible for the Antwerp stabbing.
Jewish community leaders recognised on Monday that the Muslim community as a whole in Belgium was not anti-Semitic.
“The Muslim community is not attacking the Jewish community. Relations between us are actually very good. But it is a minority of young Muslims who are attacking Jews,” the spokesman for the Jewish Community of Antwerp told Expatica.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news