European civil servant victim of anti-Semitic attack: perpetrator convicted
The Brussels Criminal Court ruled in favour of Unia and a European civil servant, declaring that the anti-Semitic hate speech and assault were aggravating circumstances. The incident was described as ‘serious and unacceptable’. Unia director Els Keytsman is concerned about the verbal abuse and threats against the Jewish community in Belgium.
The incident occurred in July 2015. At an outdoor cafe in the European quarter, a female civil servant working for the European Union felt she had to respond to a fellow civil servant carrying a plaque bearing the name Mussolini. The man launched into a foulmouthed tirade, saying that it was unfortunate ‘that Hitler didn't finish the job’.
The woman in question reminded him that both Hitler and Mussolini were dictators and criminals. At that point he berated her with anti-Semitic comments and struck the woman in the face. The incident was witnessed by at least one person.
After the victim contacted Unia, we decided to act as a party to a civil lawsuit concerning the case.
In September, the Criminal Court also ruled that the incident involved hate speech, violence and discrimination, and that hatred and hostility towards Jewish people had effectively been expressed. The judge suspended the man's sentence, on the condition that he seek counselling for his alcohol consumption. He will also be required to take a course on antidiscrimination and equal opportunities and must pay the victim damages of € 500.
For Unia, it was an important signal. ‘The judge referred to serious and unacceptable acts, especially as the perpetrator was a European civil servant who should set an example for respect for diversity and for the law.’
Although Unia does not frequently handle cases of Jewish people experiencing discrimination on the job market or housing market, Keytsman is concerned about the anti-Semitic verbal abuse and threats. ‘Moreover, we are seeing anti-Semitism in all strata of society. That is why dialogue and forging understanding between different groups needs to be encouraged.’
Finally, Keytsman emphasised that anti-Semitism and negationism are mainly propagated online via websites, blogs, e-mails or discussion forums, and above all, via social media. ‘We are seeing open Online anti-Semitism, full of stereotypes and denigrating remarks, or surfers are referred to websites full of negationist content.’
Unia worried about anti-Semitism in Belgium
Unia will today again press in anti-Semitism hearings in the Belgian Senate for the reintroduction of an anti-Semitism watchdog. The organisation will further ask Minister Kris Peeters, now responsible for Equal Opportunities, to take the first steps towards an inter-federal action plan against discrimination and racism.
Unia welcomes conviction for vandalism in Jewish district
Unia welcomes the conviction by the Antwerp criminal court of the man who plagued the Jewish district. Unia believed there was a clear hatred motive behind his actions, which is why it joined the action as a civil claimant. Unia regularly draws attention to the need to investigate cases of anti-Semitism or holocaust denial.
#GiveMe1Minute video competition: more than 100 schools against racism
"The #GiveMe1Minute video competition will be held again," announced Els Keytsman, director of Unia, at the school competition's first award ceremony in Kazerne Dossin. "More than 100 entries came in from the length and breadth of Belgium, and the competition was a huge success."
More employment discrimination cases reported to Unia in 2017
Last year Unia opened a total of 2,017 cases of situations where people felt they were the subject of discrimination. This represents a 6% increase over 2016 (1,907 cases). Instances of employment discrimination were the most frequently opened cases at Unia.