Anti-Semitism remains painfully persistent, particularly on the Internet

27 January 2018
Area of action:
Grounds of discrimination: Racism

Today marks 73 years since the survivors were liberated from the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Sadly, anti-Semitism has far from disappeared. In 2016, at Unia we received no fewer than 109 reports of anti-Semitic offences – more than twice as many as in 2015. However, there has been a shift in focus: there is currently less verbal aggression, but the numbers of anti-Semitic statements on the internet are on the rise. 

    As a human rights organisation, since 1995 Unia has been authorised to act in situations that fall within the scope of the Negationism Law. We will now review a few notable court cases from the past concerning anti-Semitic statements. 

    “Death to the Jews”

    Between 2001 and 2002, at the airport in Zaventem, on multiple occasions slogans (such as “dirty Jew” and “death to the Jews”) and swastikas were drawn with chalk on the baggage of travellers to or from Tel Aviv. The perpetrator turned out to be a man employed by a subcontractor of the airport.

    The Centre and the CCOJB (the committee for the coordination of Jewish organisations in Belgium) filed civil charges: in 2006, the perpetrator was convicted by the Brussels Criminal Court.

    “Hamas, Hamas, all the Jews should get the gas”

    During a match between Belgium and Israel in 2004, a supporter stood up and shouted threats at the players on the Israeli team, such as “death to the Jews”, “Heil Hitler” and “Hamas, Hamas, all the Jews should get the gas”. He incited other supporters to join him. Several Israeli players were spat upon, and the match had to be interrupted.

    Unia, the FJO (Forum voor Joodse Organisaties or Forum for Jewish Organisations) and the city of Hasselt jointly filed civil charges in this lawsuit. The Hasselt criminal court sentenced the man in 2007 to 100 hours of community service or alternatively imprisonment of seven months, for incitement to hatred of Jews.  

    “Adolf, you were doing a good job, but they made you stop”

    In 2012, a man posted a speech under an article in Joods Actueel, in which he called for violence against Jews and Moroccans. For example, he posted: "I also want a ‘cordon sanitaire’, no, I want them to bring back the gas chambers, so that that disgusting, dirty, stinking thing above can also have a nice shower, (there's nothing better for the stinking Jewish skin than zyklon B)”.

    Unia filed civil charges and in 2015, the man was sentenced by the Criminal Court of Antwerp to a four-month suspended prison sentence and a fine. The man was also stripped of certain rights for a period of five years.

    “Calling the gas chambers a detail in history, is that so wrong?”

    In 2014, the CCOJB (an umbrella organisation of French-speaking Jewish associations) issued a direct summons to the former member of the Lower House Laurent Louis, for Negationist and anti-Semitic statements on his blog. He wrote, for example: "Jean-Marie Le Pen said that the gas chambers were just a detail in the history of the Second World War, and that may be shocking, but if you think about it for a moment, is that so wrong?" Unia supported the charges. 

    In 2015, Laurent Louis was sentenced by the Court of First Instance in Brussels to a six-month prison sentence with a five-year suspension, and a fine of 18,000 euros and was made ineligible to hold public office for a period of six years. In 2017, the Court of Appeals deferred this penalty for five years, on the condition that the former parliament member fulfil certain conditions. For example, in the coming five years, he will be required to visit the concentration camps of Auschwitz, Dachau, Maïdanek, Birkenau and Treblinka, and he will have to write a report on these visits on his blog.

    In 2018: lawsuit about the attack at the Jewish Museum

    Finally, Unia is also a party to a civil lawsuit that will start this year: the fatal attack at the Jewish Museum on 24 May 2014. The Brussels Council Chamber decided this week that the three suspects will have to face trial at the Assize Court. 

    Reporting pays

    Have you personally encountered anti-Semitic or negationist speech? Then keep in mind that you can report it to Unia. We will help you free of charge and in full confidentiality. 

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