By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife with reporting from Brussels and Jerusalem
JERUSALEM/BRUSSELS/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– Israel’s government has condemned the shooting and killing of as many as four people at the Jewish Museum in Belgium’s capital Brussels, saying the attack underscores wider anti-Jewish sentiments.
“This act of murder is the result of constant incitement against Jews and their state,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, just hours after the Saturday, May 25, incident.
“Slander and lies against the State of Israel continue to be heard on European soil even as the crimes against humanity and acts of murder being perpetrated in our region are systematically ignored,” he added.
“Our response to this hypocrisy is to constantly state the truth, continue a relentless fight against terrorism and build up our strength,” Netanyahu said.
The comments came amid reports that Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo had called his Israeli counterpart on Sunday, March 26, to brief him on the details of the investigation into the deadly shooting that took the lives of two Israeli citizens, a couple in their 50s from Tel Aviv, and a female volunteer at the museum, described as a French women by Dutch media.
Another Belgian man died of his injuries, several media reported.
Di Rupo said that he “was shocked by the attack” and “condemned anti-Semitism in all forms” and sent his condolences to the families of the victims.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman blamed anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli incitement for inspiring the attack. Those who call for a boycott against Israel and those who act against Israel in international forums have contributed to this incitement, Liberman said in comments published by The Jerusalem Post newspaper.
“Recent anti-Semitic incidents in Kansas, Toulouse, and…in Brussels, should be a flashing warning signal to all those who cooperate with such incitement by rushing to condemn Israel and by comparing building a home for a Jewish family in the land of Israel with the cruel and murderous terrorist activity of anti-Semites,” Liberman said.
Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said Sunday, May 26, that “every event against Jews in the world, such as the terror attack in Brussels, shocks us as Israelis – as it should.”
He spoke amid reports that an employee of the Jewish museum of Brussels also died of injuries he sustained in the shooting there, bringing the death toll to four people.
The fourth fatality from Saturday afternoon’s shooting passed away later Saturday night, the Benelux broadcaster RTL reported on its website.
The other victims were an Israeli couple, the Israeli foreign minister said, and a female volunteer at the museum, described as a French women by Dutch media.
Belgian police said at a press conference that the shooter arrived in an Audi car to the Jewish Museum of Belgium in central Brussels, entered the building and began selecting targets before he escaped, as did the driver who brought him there.
Police briefly detained a person they initially said was a suspect, but later released him and said they regarded him a witness.
Authorities in Israel and Belgium did not immediately make known the identities of the people killed, saying families have not yet been informed.
The deadliest anti-Semitic attack in the country in more than 30 years clouded Sunday’s federal and European elections in Belgium.
Officials said police boosted security to maximum level at Jewish institutions, and the government attempted to reassure the country’s eight million voters. “We have no information about a possible risk for voters”, said Interior Minister Joelle Milquet as police hunted for the gunman behind the fatal shooting.
The attack comes after a global survey released in May by the Anti-Defamation League said one in four adults worldwide are “deeply infected with anti-Semitic attitudes.”
Belgium received a 27 percent index score in the survey, which was conducted in 102 countries.
Amid the turmoil, voters in Hungary were expected to make the far-right Jobbik party, known for its anti-Jewish and anti-Roma rhetoric, the country’s second largest political force in the European Parliament after Sunday’s European Elections.
Hungary’s umbrella group for combating anti-Semitism isn’t surprised. It noted in a recent survey that more than one third of the population still holds some kind of anti-Semitic views.
A full 34 percent agreed that there is “a secret Jewish conspiracy behind political and economic processes,” the group said.
However at least one Jobbik voter said she only wanted to cast her ballot for that party because it represented Hungary’s interest. “I choose Jobbik because most foreigners say: “ah Hungary is a small country and the people are stuppid here,” said 28-year-old Brigitta Vető, a train ticket controller near Budapest. I don’t like it.”
The right-wing ruling Fidesz party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban who has been criticized for his tense relations with the European Union and perceived nationalistic rhetoric, was expected to receive most votes.
Voting was underway in as many as 21 EU countries.