(JTA) — Two Belgian Jewish groups said they would complain to police about a local politician who appeared to justify the Holocaust.
The Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, or LBCA, and the Flemish Forum of Jewish Organizations announced their intention to file a complaint for incitement to hatred against Assan Aarab of the Christian Democratic and Flemish party, or CD&V, on Thursday.
Aarab, a baker from the Antwerp suburb of Deurne who ran on the party’s ticket during the May municipal elections, wrote on Facebook earlier this week: “I think the Germans deliberately didn’t kill all the Jews so that we will be able to understand now why [Adolf Hitler] was destroying them.”
Initially, Aarab defended his statement, saying it was “provocative” and intended as an expression of anger of Israel’s actions in Gaza, not as incitement to hate. But he apologized after the leader of the Antwerp chapter of his party, Ariane Van Dooren, condemned him.
“What he wrote is unacceptable and we distance ourselves from it,” Van Dooren said. “Hassan simply does not understand the gravity of his words.”
Following this and other statements by party leaders, Aarab penned an apology in which he wrote: “I want to offer my apologies for what I said. I seek cooperation and dialogue between different communities. I realize now my statement does not contribute to this, on the contrary.”
LBCA President Joel Rubinfeld called on Aarab’s party – which is the fourth largest in the federal parliament and largest in the Flemish Region — to remove him from its ranks.
“Hassan Aarab has tarnished the reputation of CD&V,” Rubinfeld said. “He was pushed to offer his apologies, which are the result of circumstances.”