Jews from Belgium’s Flemish region said they have “lost all confidence” in the country’s anti-racism authority over its lawyer’s defence of a Palestinian man whom the lawyer helped convict for hate speech over calls to slaughter Jews.
The rebuke on Thursday by the Forum of Jewish Organisations of Flanders came after the Jewish weekly Joods Actueel published a leaked email written by Johan Otte, a judicial expert of the Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities, or UNIA, condemning Tuesday’s conviction for incitement to violence by a criminal tribunal in Antwerp of a man who in 2014 shouted antisemitic slogans during a protest rally in the city.
The Belgian Palestinian was given a six-month suspended sentence. Two co-defendants were acquitted.
Otte’s rebuke called the sentence “distorted justice instead of true justice,” even though UNIA was one of two complainants who had initiated the trial. The other party was the Forum.
“The email clearly illustrates that UNIA’s sympathy lies with the perpetrator over his would-be victims,” the group wrote in its statement.
According to the Gazet van Antwerpen daily, the defendant, who is appealing his sentence, shouted about Khaybar – a place in modern-day Saudi Arabia where in the seventh-century, Muslims massacred and expelled Jews. According to Joods Actueel, the defendant also shouted about slaughtering Jews.
Joods Actueel editor-in-chief Michael Freilich said the case was the latest in a list of failures to confront antisemitism by the Belgian state authority for fighting racism. He added UNIA’s track record suggests “it is only paying lip service” to the fight against antisemitism when in reality it fails to act on this type of racism as vigorously as it confronts other forms of xenophobia.
On Friday, Liesbeth Homans, the minister in charge of equal opportunities within the government of the Flemish Region — one of three entities that make up the federal Belgian state — called for a review of UNIA activities in light of the Joods Actueel report.Monday, February 27, 2017