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EUROPE | NYT NOW
3 Shot Dead at Brussels Jewish Museum
By ANDREW HIGGINS MAY 24, 2014
BRUSSELS An unidentified gunman opened fire on Saturday at the
Jewish Museum in the center of Brussels, killing at least three people in
what officials said appeared to have been an anti-Semitic attack.
Belgiums interior minister, Jolle Milquet, told RTL television that
two women and a man were killed in the attack and a fourth person was
seriously wounded. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said two of the dead, a
man and a woman, were Israeli tourists, according to Reuters. Israeli news
media reported that they were from Tel Aviv.
Ms. Milquet said security was being tightened at Jewish sites across
the country. The gunman, apparently alone, was initially reported to have
fled in a car that had been double-parked outside the museum, on a
cobblestone street near the Place du Grand Sablon, a large square lined
with luxury chocolate shops and high-end antiques dealers. Officials later
said they believed he had left the scene on foot.
Local news media reported that one person had been arrested, but
officials did not confirm this.
Deputy Prime Minister Didier Reynders, who was in the neighborhood
at the time of the attack, told Belgian television he heard gunfire, rushed to
the scene and was shocked to see bodies lying on the ground. He said
investigators still had to determine the motive for the shooting but added
that the fact it took place at the citys Jewish Museum indicated an anti-
Semitic attack.
Maurice Sosnowski, a leader of Belgiums Jewish community,
5/25/2014 3 Shot Dead at Brussels Jewish Museum - NYTimes.com
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described Saturdays shooting as the first act of anti-Semitic terrorism in
the Belgian capital since World War II, and compared it to a 2012
shooting that killed four people at a Jewish school in the French city of
Toulouse.
A symbolic site has been hit, Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo said at a
news conference. Our country and all Belgians, whatever their language,
their origins or their beliefs, are united in face of this act.
Saturdays shooting occurred on the eve of elections in Belgium for
both the national legislature and the European Parliament. Far-right
groups, some of which are tainted by a history of anti-Semitism, are
expected to perform well in voting for the European legislature, which
began on Thursday in Britain and the Netherlands and comes to an end
Sunday in other members of the 28-nation European Union.
In a statement, Jos Manuel Barroso, the president of the European
Unions executive arm, condemned the assault as an attack on European
values which we cannot tolerate. Mr. Barroso has repeatedly warned
about the danger of extremism from the rise of right-wing nationalists
opposed to European integration.
In Belgium and most other European countries, however, anti-
Semitism has in recent years been rooted more on the left and in Muslim
immigrant communities than on the right, according to a survey last year
by a European Union agency that monitors discrimination.
The survey by the Fundamental Rights Agency found that only France
and Hungary had higher levels of anti-Semitism than Belgium.
Raya Kalenova, the executive vice president of the European Jewish
Congress, a group based in Brussels, said anti-Semitism had grown much
worse in Belgium over the past decade, in part because of a rise in hostility
toward Israel, and added that the authorities had often ignored the
danger.
The spirit of the Jewish people, the Jewish community, here in
Belgium is really very, very low, she said in a telephone interview. They
do not even report anti-Semitic attacks. They feel that it is useless to report
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and they do not feel protected. For sure, the general atmosphere is not
good here in Belgium, especially because of anti-Israeli sentiment.
This month, the Belgian authorities banned opponents of Israel from
holding a conference in Brussels that Jewish groups condemned as anti-
Semitic. The conference, known as the European Congress of Rebellion,
had been organized by a far-right member of the Belgian Parliament.
At the time of Saturdays shooting at the Jewish Museum, pro-
Palestinian groups were holding a concert and political rally on the other
side of Brussels in Parc du Cinquantenaire. Pierre Galand, the head of the
Belgian-Palestine Association, interrupted speeches denouncing Israel and
its occupation of Palestinian territory to request a minute of silence for the
victims of the shooting.
This is an extremely odious crime, Mr. Galand told the crowd,
denouncing the Jewish Museum attack as an act of primitive anti-
Semitism.
James Kanter contributed reporting.
A version of this article appears in print on May 25, 2014, on page A9 of the New York edition with
the headline: 3 Shot Dead at Brussels Jewish Museum.
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