On May 24, an individual shot and killed four individuals at the Brussels Jewish Museum. Mehdi Nemmouche, a French-Algerian dual national, was arrested a few days later near Marseille as the key suspect in the shooting. He was extradited to Belgium July 30 and remained in prison awaiting trial. Prime Minister Di Rupo spoke out against the shooting, saying anti-Semitism had no place in Belgian society. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders and Minister of Interior Joelle Milquet, both of whom were in the vicinity of the museum at the time of the shooting, issued statements condemning the attack and offered condolences to the victims’ families.
There were increased reports of anti-Semitic incidents, particularly following the start of the conflict in Gaza in July, as well as increases in anti-Muslim incidents. Because religion and ethnicity are often closely linked, it is difficult to categorize many incidents as being solely based on religious identity.
In 2013, the most recent year for which data were available, the CEOOR received 286 complaints of religious discrimination, which did not include anti-Semitism, representing an 8 percent increase compared to 2012. Ninety percent of the complaints concerned Muslims. Most involved hate speech on the internet, but many new cases concerned labor or education issues. Forty-seven percent of incidents were media-related, 22 percent labor-related, and 13 percent school-related.
Many incidents of discrimination against Muslims occurred in the workplace. Professional Muslim women wearing headscarves continued to be targets of discrimination.
In October an Antwerp N-VA alderwoman for animal well-being called on the Muslim community to stop ritual slaughter without stunning. She argued ritual slaughter without stunning was inhumane, and could not be justified by the Quran or Muslim traditions.
Anti-Semitic acts and threats recorded by the CEOOR increased from 85 in 2013 to 130 in 2014. In addition to the official reports made during the year, the Belgian Jewish community’s fears of anti-Semitic attacks and sentiments also increased, according to the CEOOR. Anti-Semitic incidents included graffiti on Jewish community buildings and stoning a Jewish school bus.
On September 16, there was an arson attack on an apartment above a synagogue located in the Brussels suburb of Anderlecht. The attack remained under investigation; police were investigating it as a criminal act but had not conclusively labeled it as an anti-Semitic act despite the apartment’s location above the synagogue. The attack was condemned by many government officials, including the minister of foreign affairs and the Francophone minister for equal opportunity. On September 14, stones were thrown at visitors to the Jewish Martyrs’ Memorial, also located in Anderlecht.
Laurent Louis, former member of the Federal Parliament and radical member of the now disbanded political party Debout les Belges (Stand up, Belgians) called for a “European congress of dissent” to be held May 4. While the organizers kept the meeting location a secret to prevent authorities from preemptively banning the event, Louis promoted the guest speakers, among whom were French personalities known for their radical, discriminatory, and anti-Semitic positions: Alain Soral, Herve Reyssen, Kemir Seba, and Dieudonne. The Director of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism warned all local mayors around Brussels about the meeting, saying it would be anti-Semitic. When Louis announced on May 3 the meeting would take place in Anderlecht, the local mayor forbade it. Approximately 400 supporters and participants gathered at the meeting point May 4, and Louis filed an injunction at the Council of State asking the event be allowed to take place based on freedom of expression laws. Police used water cannons to attempt to break up the crowd. The Council of State ruled the Anderlecht mayor had rightfully forbidden the meeting, highlighting first that freedom of expression is not absolute and must, in its turn, respect the freedom of third parties. The council also cited security reasons for prohibiting the event, as well as the high risk of counter-demonstrations. The CCOJB called the ruling a victory for democracy and a key precedent for future events of a similar nature.
After the start of the Gaza conflict on July 8, numerous pro-Palestinian demonstrations and marches took place, primarily in Brussels and Antwerp. There were reports of anti-Semitic statements and actions at the demonstrations and elsewhere, for example, refusals by shop and restaurant owners to serve Jews. Police interventions focused on minor incidents committed by small radical groups. The vast majority of arrests were made on an administrative basis (arresting individuals, recording personal information, and later releasing them with no further action taken). Police investigated all allegations of anti-Semitism, but no cases went to trial.
In July an Antwerp-based doctor refused to treat a Jewish woman, reportedly suggesting she travel to Gaza for medical care instead. According to press reports, the local alderman called the doctor, who confirmed he had made those statements to the woman. The woman’s family filed a complaint against the doctor with the federal Ministry of Health, and the local board of doctors also looked into the complaint. No action was taken regarding the violation of the anti-discrimination law.
In August an elected official of the Flemish Christian Democratic party posted an anti-Semitic comment on a social media site. He apologized a few hours later, saying he realized his position was not representative of the cooperation and interfaith efforts of different communities. A few days later, his political party rescinded his membership.