Catriona Robertson

journeys at home and abroad

Brussels – Jewish Museum killings & EU elections

Jewish Museum Brussels vigil

Brussels Mayor Yvan Mayeur (centre) participates in a candle vigil yesterday at the entrance of the Jewish Museum, Brussels. Photo: Yves Logghe, AP via the Bellingham Herald.

Jewish museums in London & Vienna I know, but not the one in Brussels, a city I visit several times a year for ENORB meetings.  With the #EU2014 elections in full flow, four people were shot dead there on Saturday.

Robin Sclafani, a colleague in Brussels, says it is “probably the worst incident of anti-Semitic hate crime seen in Belgium since WWII” and points to warning signs that have been ignored.  I’ve known Robin (& CEJI) for years and she’s not prone to sensational exaggeration, quite the reverse.  She says post-WWII, when the EU was created, “There was a general shock in the self-realisation of how much anti-Semitic complicity enabled Hitler to enact his genocidal mission against the Jewish people, with Roma, homosexuals, disabled people also victims in his crusade.  Remorse was translated into a sense of political and public responsibility.”   The full article is here.

Another colleague, Karim Chemlal, of FIOE and The League of Muslims in Belgium, issued a statement yesterday condemning this attack on innocent people and urging civic, religious and political groups to come together to fight racism and hatred and to promote harmonious living.

Across Europe in the elections, the Eurosceptic vote soared: UKIP won most seats across the UK; in France, a quarter of the votes went to the National Front.

In London, I have never known such a lacklustre campaign: I didn’t see one election poster up, no-one knocked at the door to canvas and no EU campaign material dropped through the letterbox.  I attended two hustings and left each one uneasy – nobody seemed very sure what the differences were between the main parties and questions from the floor revealed widespread incomprehension of which responsibilities lay with the EU, Westminster, City Hall and local government.  There seemed to be an underlying but unarticulated frustration amongst those who had bothered to turn up that things weren’t that good and change was needed.  The turnout nationally was 34%.

The difference between post-war Europe, with lived experience still fresh, and the distance ordinary people seem to feel from the (often overly complex) decision-making processes, is worrying.  There needs to be not only fire in the belly but clear democratic pathways to build a Europe in which shooting Jews (or anyone else) becomes unthinkable.

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This entry was posted on 26 May 2014 by in Brussels, Europe, London and tagged , , , , .
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