BRUSSELS (AP) — The number of antisemitic acts registered in Belgium rose sharply since the Hamas attack against Israel that triggered a war in Gaza, according to the latest figures released Thursday by an independent public body fighting discrimination.
Unia said it received 91 reports related to the Israel-Hamas conflict between Oct. 7 and Dec. 7 last year, compared to 57 reports for the whole of 2022. Most of the reports were remarks or acts considered as antisemitic, including cases of Holocaust denial. In 66 cases, a clear reference was made to the Jewish origin of the person or people targeted.
Most of the cases involved hate messages, more than half of them online, but there were also comments made in public areas. Unia is also collaborating with the public prosecutor’s office and Belgian police in nine cases of assault and damage, it said.
The report cited cases of beatings, graffiti and the desecration of dozens of graves in the Jewish section of a cemetery close to the city of Charleroi.
By way of comparison, Unia said it received four to five reports per month relating to anti-Semitism in 2022, for a total of 57 reports.
“We can therefore speak of a clear increase in reports of anti-Semitic since October 7, 2023,” Unia said in a report.
Unia said it also received eight reports of discrimination or hate speech linked to the Palestinian origin, Arab origin or the Muslim belief of the people targeted between Oct. 7 and Dec. 7
Many European countries have registered a rise in reported anti-Semitic acts and comments since the outbreak of the war. Belgium has a Jewish population of about 29,000, according to the World Jewish Congress. Although most of the Jewish community in the capital, Brussels, is secular, the port city of Antwerp has a large ultra-Orthodox population and the largest Hasidic community in Europe.
The Health Ministry in Gaza says more than 25,400 people have been killed and another 63,000 wounded in the enclave since the Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel in which militants from Gaza killed around 1,200 people and took about 250 hostages.
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