Thursday, November 18, 2004

Belgian Jews face serious Anti-Semitism and deaths 

Orthodox Jew from U.K. shot to death in Antwerp
By News Agencies
From http://www.haaretz.com/
Thu., November 18, 2004 Kislev 5, 5765

BRUSSELS - An Orthodox Jew from Britain was shot in the head in Antwerp early Thursday and died about 14 hours later in a hospital, the local public prosecutor's office said amid concern in Belgium about a rise in anti-Semitism following the stabbing of a Jewish youth in June.

A spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office said the motive was unclear. "We do not exclude any motive, but so far there are no indications that the motive was racist or extremist," said Dominique Reniers.

Police were looking for witnesses to the shooting of Moshe Naeh, a 24-year-old Orthodox Jew and a father of five.

Naeh, who is British but has been living in the Belgian port city, was shot once in front of his home in Antwerp's Jewish neighborhood, Reniers said. He was a secretary to a rabbi in Antwerp.

Yehuda Ceitlin, a local aide of Israel's Zaka rescue services, said that, though racial harassment had increased in recent years in Antwerp, it was the first shooting of a Jewish victim in a long time.

"It caught everyone by surprise," he said. Antwerp, some 50 kilometers north of the capital, has one of the biggest Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in western Europe.

Reniers called the victim a "devout young man" who was shot once from close range. He slumped onto the road, where he was discovered by passers-by who initially thought he was a traffic victim.

There have been a series of incidents involving physical attacks and
intimidation of Jews in the city this year, often blamed on youths from the large Arab immigrant community.

In June, a 16-year-old Jewish student nearly died after being stabbed, apparently by Arab youths, outside his Jewish school in an Antwerp suburb. Days later, a 43-year-old Jewish man was beaten unconscious.

The stabbing prompted a national outcry and highlighted the anxieties of the city's 15,000-20,000 Jews, half of them Orthodox. Antwerp has been home to a large community of Orthodox Jews for more than 700 years.

Belgium's second city also boasts a large immigrant population, with some 10 percent of its 500,000 inhabitants of North African descent.

The leader of Belgium's Jewish community, Dr. Joseph Wybran, was shot to death in Brussels in 1989, and four young people were injured in 1982 when gunmen opened fire on a Brussels synagogue. Both attacks were blamed on Palestinian groups.

In 2002, 18 shots were fired into the facade of a synagogue in the southern city of Charleroi without causing injury.

The federal government has vowed to crack down on anti-Semitism. Belgium's official anti-racism center said in July it had registered as many anti-Semitic incidents in the first half of 2004 as in the whole of 2003.

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