Monday, 13 Jul 2020 - 21 of Tammuz, 5780

New plan in Belgium to share tasks of protecting Jewish sites between police and military

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Security tasks of military personnel can be largely taken over by the police. This means that the level of protection will be similar to what it is now for sensitive sites and institutions such as Jewish institutions, synagogues, schools, etc. Protection will be provided either by the military or by the police and in accordance with the threat level established by the government crisis centre.‘’

Plan still needs approval by the Council of Ministers.

 

Protection of sensitive sites in  Belgium, such as Jewish institutions, synagogues and school will be provided either by police or by the military, according to a new plan prepared by both police and the ministry of Defense that is planned to be implemented from September, a spokesperson for Belgian Minister of Defense told European Jewish Press.

Reports in the Flemish media said that the military would no more provide security protection around synagogues in the city of Antwerp where a large haredi community lives, out of budgetary reasons.

The reports have alarmed the local Jewish community. “The Jewish community needs more, not less, protection in these difficult times,” said the Forum of Jewish Organizations, the representative body of the Jewish community in the Flanders region of Belgium.

Asked by EJP about this new plan, Christine Calmeau, spokesperson for Defense Minister Philippe Goffin, sought to reassured the Jewish community. ‘’The minister reiterated very recently his position in the parliament’s defense committee. In fact there is a federal police plan in collaboration with the Defense to phase out military personnel as part of the ‘Vigilance Guardian Opration’ starting in September. Security tasks of military personnel can be largely taken over by the police. This means that the level of protection will be similar to what it is now for sensitive sites and institutions such as Jewish institutions, synagogues, schools, etc. Protection will be provided either by the military or by the police and in accordance with the threat level established by the government crisis centre.‘’

The spokesperson stressed that this joint defense/police plan to share tasks would be valid for the whole country. It still needs to be approved politically by the Council of Ministers.

‘’In no case will sensitive sites and institutions be left unprotected,’’ the spokesperson said.

The Forum of Jewish Organisations pointed out that recently the EU counter-terrorism coordinator, Gilles de Kerchove, warned of possible new terrorist actions under cover of the coronavirus.

“The threat level remains very high. Then it is not logical to withdraw soldiers from the neighborhood. Certainly due to the corona crisis, the daily amount of hate mail we receive is increasing sharply. Jews are held responsible for the development and spread of the virus by anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists,’’ noted Foreum spokesperson Hans Knoop.

Currently, the general threat level in the Belgium is at 2 while certain specific locations are at 3, which is the case for a number of embassies, the nuclear installations and the Jewish community. Level 3 means that the threat is “serious” and a terrorist act is even described as “possible and likely”.

Belgian troops were first posted to guard Jewish institutions in May 2014 after an Islamist murdered four people in a terrorist shooting at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels.

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