By COLlive reporter
Top European Union officials, members of the Belgian government, diplomats, and Jewish and Muslim leaders attended a memorial for the victims of the terrorist attack at the Jewish Museum of Brussels.
The ceremony this past Wednesday was held at the European Jewish Community Centre (EJCC) and co-hosted by the European Jewish Association (EJA). Ambassadors from 20 countries, including U.S. Ambassador Denise Bauer, were in attendance.
“Today is a sad day, not just for the Jewish community but for the entire Europe,” said Nahama Tawil of the European Jewish Community Centre in her opening remarks, but added that “It is heartwarming to see such a positive response from politicians to come and show solidarity.”
Candles were lit in memory of the victims: Israeli tourist couple Emanuel and Miriam Riva, museum employee Alexandre Strens, whose father is Muslim and his mother Jewish, and Dominique Sabrier, a French citizen who volunteered at the museum.
29-year-old Frenchman, Mehdi Nemmouche, suspected of being the gunman was arrested six days later in Marseille on a routine check. The man, who spent a year with jihadists fighting in Syria, is waiting a French court decision on his extradition to Belgium.
“This attack reminds us that anti-Semitism is still alive,” declared acting European Parliament President, Gianni Pittella. “The EU must eradicate any form of anti-Semitism and xenophobia. We must strive to serve all our citizens and most importantly to give our citizens to live in security.”
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, who was one of the first witnesses of the attack on May 24, said: “The fact that communities and beliefs are being targeted make the unbearable even more revolting.”
Reynders, who attended along with Belgian Interior Minister Joelle Milquet, stressed the need to intensify the fight against hate speech and to unite forces with European partners in the fight against anti-Semitism.
“Security of the Jewish community in Belgium should be on the agenda of the future government but also at European level,” he said. “We need to further develop Human rights and role of law which are at the core of our civilization.”
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Director General of the European Jewish Association, took it a step further and urged immediate and larger-scale action from the European governments.
Deploring that 70 years after the Holocaust “we still need to fight against anti-Semitism,” he noted that in some countries the Jewish religion is still being attacked and that 40% of Jews in Europe hide their Judaism.
He called on all European governments “to set up an official special authority to fight against anti-Semitism,” perhaps similar to the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism at the United States Department of State.
“Only this authority will ensure full security to all Jews, to prosecute perpetrators and to ensure that education on anti-Semitism and on the Holocaust will be included in school curricula,” Margolin said. “It is only with action that we can secure the future of the Jewish people in Europe.”
Khalid Hajji, President of the European Council of Moroccan Ulemas, said that “some forms of religiosity must be abolished,” religion must be the basis for better communication and urged parties to come together “to build a better future.”
Philippe Markiewicz, who chairs the Brussels Jewish community, said that the deadly attack did not affect just his community but all Jewish communities. He added that the Israel-Palestine conflict “was unrelated.”
“The education of youth is of great importance, ” he said. “The fight against anti-Semitism and racism should be first and foremost in our education. Literature and history are important, but most of all it is important to be a good citizen.”