On Belgium’s Jewish rupture

To the Editor:

Re: “In Belgium, national rupture spreads to Jews,” Maurice Sosnowski, the president of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations in Belgium, or CCOJB, told JTA in early April that he did not wish to spark public debate on intracommunity differences. He had hoped that the Forum of Jewish Organizations would follow suit, particularly since the issues raised were not key to the common struggle against anti-Semitism and for the defense of Israel. Indeed, the CCOJB president was somewhat surprised that JTA did not come back to him following the FJO interview.

In Belgium, the Jewish Consistory is the only legal representative body of Jewish religious congregations. The CCOJB is the Belgian section of the World Jewish Congress and the European Jewish Congress, and as such represents the political interests of the Jewish community to the Belgian authorities. The CCOJB is a democratic association representing all strands of political opinion in the Jewish community. Our president and steering committee are elected every two years by nearly 40 Jewish organizations, mostly national, representing thousands of people.

Some Belgian Jewish institutions, like the FJO, decided several years ago to proclaim themselves as representatives of the Jewish Community of Antwerp. The CCOJB until the recent confrontation had cooperated well with FJO and the Consistory.

The explanation for the rupture surely does not reside in extensive references to the matter of Belgium’s vote at the United Nations Human Rights Council. In view of CCOJB’s disapproval of the Belgium government’s position in the matter, our president met with Didier Reynders, the nation’s minister of foreign affairs, to demand an explanation as to this incomprehensible vote for the Jewish community of Belgium (French and Flemish). During that meeting Francois de Kerckhove, chief of staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that Belgian policy in the Middle East would continue to be guided by support for the security of Israel and that Reynders plans to improve relations, particularly academic and scientific, between Belgium and Israel.

Even before the JTA article was published, the CCOJB president on several occasions had invited FJO and the Consistory to a meeting with the aim of re-establishing a climate of trust and partnership, and to speak with one voice on key issues: the fight against rising anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of the State of Israel. This invitation remains open.

Board of Directors
Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations in Belgium

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