The Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism last week said that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the first four months of 2009 has equaled the number of such incidents recorded in the whole of 2008.
According to Jozef De Witte, director of the government agency, which is under the direct responsibility of Belgium's prime minister, the hike owes to the Middle East conflict between Israel and some of its enemies.
A few cases are of severe violence. The perpetrators mostly belong to Muslim groups, but also to extreme right organizations and persons.
The impact of what de Witte defined as "the conflict between Israel and Palestine" is according to the director "comparable with the hate-campaign against Muslims in Belgium" which followed the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York. This statement irked some Belgian Jews.
"The two realities are incomparable," said David Lowy, founder of the JOBI group for Belgian youth in Israel. "There were some deplorable attacks against Muslims after 9/11 by extreme rightists, but mosques were not lit on fire as synagogues had been in January. Muslims were not threatened on the street."
Lowy noted that the attack in 9/11 was perpetrated in Islam's name, while Israel's invasion into Gaza was "in self-defense, unconnected to Belgian Jewery." He also remarked that no Belgian Jew or Belgian American attacked any Muslim after 9/11. "The same cannot be said about Belgian Muslims during Operation Cast Lead."
The Middle East conflict, de Witte said, is "a dormant issue which could still erupt and add new worries in the form a new wave of incidents under the mandate of the Centre." The Centre has commissioned a new report designed to delineate the manner in which the Middle East conflict is affecting racism in Belgium.