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Cablegate: Belgium: Jewish Leaders Concerned by Anti-Semitism

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBS #1554/01 3241257
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 201257Z NOV 09 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9706

UNCLAS BRUSSELS 001554

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR DRL/SEAS, EUR/OHI

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV SCUL IS BE
SUBJECT: BELGIUM: JEWISH LEADERS CONCERNED BY ANTI-SEMITISM
AND ISRAEL'S SECURITY

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: A diverse range of opinions were voiced
at the
October 21 Jewish Leader roundtable. Anti-Semitism in Belgium
expresses itself through youth violence and a common fear of
wearing
Jewish religious symbols in public since the second intifada
in
2000. At one tenth the size of the Muslim community in
Belgium,
Jews lack public political support and face an anti-Israel
bias in
the media. The community is concerned with the Obama
Administration's policies not being sufficiently
"pro-Israel." END
SUMMARY.


2. (SBU) Ambassador Howard Gutman hosted 22 diverse leaders
of the
fragmented Jewish Community of Belgium on October 21. For
even-handed Jewish outreach, the group recommended that he
address
both the Flemish and Francophone Jewish communities. The
group's
main concerns were anti-Semitism in Belgium and support for
Israel.


Background on Jewish Community in Belgium
-----------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Approximately 40,000 Jews currently live in
Belgium. The
Jews are geographically fragmented with an estimated 20,000 in
Brussels, 10,000 in Antwerp, 5,000 in Liege and 5,000 in
Ghent. The
community is also divided into many segments, from reform to
ultra-orthodox. The two main umbrella organizations in
Belgium are
the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations in Belgium
(CCOJB) for Wallonia and Brussels and the Forum of Jewish
Organizations (FORUM) for Flanders. Outsiders see the
community as
still "wounded", due to the loss of half the Jews in Belgium
in the
holocaust during the Second World War.

Anti-Semitism in Belgium
------------------------

4. (SBU) The group said that anti-Semitism in Belgium
manifested
itself mainly through youth violence. Fear of violence in
Brussels
from Muslim youth often prevents the J
religious symbols in pntrated
community in less of a concern. Anti-@ `pol carticians to the communis
asserted that the Belanti-Israel, and,
by
Qwards Jewish Belgians,' reluctance to publicHowever,
in private joys considerable
influQ

the Belgian Prime Minister Van Rompuy choosing to speak at
the 50th
Anniversary of a Jewish organisation (CCLJ) over attending
Ambassador Gutman's welcome reception. In addition, the
Belgian
government led significant restitution efforts to restore
confiscated finances in the Belgian banking sector to
survivors in
the Jewish community.


Concerns about the Obama Administration
---------------------------------------

7. (SBU) The group was united in support of Israel. There
were
general concerns as to whether President Obama would apply
even
pressure on both the Palistians and Israelis, while
attempting to
broker peace in the Middle East. The group was also worried
by the
increasing Iranian security threat towards Israel and wanted
to
learn more about the Obama Administration's policy on this
issue.

GUTMAN
.

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