THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) — The prime minister of Flanders retracted an earlier statement in which he drew parallels between Israel’s security fence and “the ghettos during World War II.”
Kris Peeters, who heads the autonomous Flemish Region in Belgium, made the comparison during a three-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority this week.
“I’m shocked by the separation wall that Israel is erecting. It reminded me of the ghettos during World War II,” Peeters said. “Strange, because the Jews were victims then.” He added: “On the other hand, we cannot imagine how it feels when a bomb could go off at any second.”
Koen Colpaert, a spokesperson for the Flemish premier, told JTA: “Every wall has two sides, and the prime minister saw both. The reference to ghettos was not meant as a comparison with the Nazi ghettos. The prime minister retracts his statement.”
Wednesday’s retraction came after criticism on the part of Belgium’s Jewish community.
“Not every wall has two sides,” Terry Davids, director of Joods Actueel, the Flemish-Jewish weekly, wrote. “The walls of the Warsaw Ghetto had only one side: The wrong side.”
Peeters belongs to the centrist Christian Democratic and Flemish party, or CD&V. The Flemish Region is one of three entities that comprise the Belgian federal state. This week Peeters concluded his first visit to Israel. He has been in office since 2007.