(JTA) — A 24-year-old refugee, believed to be Muslim, was briefly detained by Belgian police for anti-Semitic hate crimes, including the destruction of at least 20 mezuzahs in Antwerp, local Jews said.
In recent weeks, the same man was filmed in Antwerp destroying at least 20 mezuzahs, religious objects containing a parchment with biblical text inked on it that Jews affix to their door frames, and vandalizing the entrance doors of several Jewish institution, Joods Actueel, the Jewish monthly reported Sunday. He was detained for 12 hours Friday based on footage from security cameras of him destroying the mezuzahs.
He had also placed a Koran near a synagogue, and was filmed knocking off the hat of an Orthodox Jew on the street. He shouted at Jewish passersby: “This is our land, Palestine!” and: “We will show you!”
The man was spotted hanging around an area of the city that is heavily populated by Orthodox Jews after his release Saturday, Joods Actueel reported based on information from Shmira, the Jewish community’s security service.
Last week, Belgian police said that the near ramming of an Orthodox Jew and his son in Antwerp was not an anti-Semitic incident, although the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, or LBCA, said it was.
Security cameras showed a black Seat Ibiza swerving sharply on Feb. 3 while speeding on Isabellalei, a central street in Antwerp, toward the father and son, who were dressed in Hasidic garb, according to Joods Actueel. The car is seen intersecting a bike path, apparently while speeding, then climbing the curb as the two are walking toward it, prompting the father and son to jump away from the curb and toward the safety of the building facades.
They jump behind a lamppost and the car swerves back wildly, returning to the road from its incursion into the sidewalk. The father runs after the car as it speeds away. Police told JTA the driver was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.
That incident in Antwerp is one of several recent cases in which Jewish groups and authorities in Western Europe disagreed on the role of anti-Semitism in the actions of alleged perpetrators of violence, including in Amsterdam and Paris.