(JTA) — A Belgian tennis club suspended a player who told a Jewish competitor on the court, “All of you should have been gassed.”
Alain Verlaak made the remark to a Maccabi player at the Tennis 7th Olympics club in Antwerp on July 22, the Belgian monthly Joods Actueel reported Tuesday. The incident occurred during a tournament of the VTV national tennis association of the Flemish Region – one of the three states that make up the Belgian federal kingdom.
The Jewish player, who asked to be identified only as Serge S. due to security concerns, told Joods Actueel the incident evolved after a dispute over the validity of a point lost to Verlaak, who was leading in the match. Ludo Depooter, the tournament organizer, confirmed the details of the incident to Joods Actueel.
The club management suspended the match and removed Verlaak from the tournament, Serge S. told JTA on Wednesday. He said he believes the club acted correctly, but added Verlaak should be banned from playing in association matches. Serge S. added that he has filed a criminal complaint against Verlaak with police.
Joods Actueel editor-in-chief Michael Freilich said the incident demonstrated the need to impose a fine system for hate speech, including against Jews.
“Taking someone to court is a long and expensive procedure and not always worth it. But if someone would receive a fine, just as when speeding, and needs to pay €150 penalty, that will register better with them and with the rest of the populace,” said Freilich, who added he would propose this during a meeting with the Interior Minister and justice ministry officials.
Separately, a Belgian party in Brussels earlier this month ordered one of its lawmakers on the Shcaerbeek City Council to remove from his Facebook page a text claiming that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a commander of the Islamic State terrorist group, is in fact a Mossad agent named Simon Eliott born to Jewish parents.
The measure by the centrist Democratic Federalist Independent party was deemed unsatisfactory by Joel Rubinfeld, founder of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, or LBCA.
“We expect strong action from a party that champions democratic values,” Rubinfeld told the La Dernière Heure newspaper.