BRUSSELS — Leaders of Jewish communities across Europe called on Israel Monday to help them tackle the rising threat of terrorism and anti-Semitism, saying that the Jewish state can provide vital security assistance against potential attacks.
Speaking at the European Jewish Association’s annual Jewish Leaders Conference here in the Belgian capital, community leaders spoke of how growing anti-Semitic sentiment caused by both far-right political gains and left-wing anti-Zionist activists have led to an increasing number of attacks and other incidents across Europe.
Philippe Markiewicz, chairman of the Consistoire of Belgium, an umbrella group of Jewish organizations in the country, said that European communities could stand to benefit form Israel’s experience in combating terrorism.
“I think that Israel can help Europe a lot to fight against terrorism because Israel has a long experience of the subject,” Markiewicz said. “It’s very important that Israel give help to European countries to fight against this terrorism.”
Citing a string of deadly terror attacks that hit Brussels, as well as Belgium’s neighbor France, in recent years, Markiewicz said that European countries are now more understanding of the challenges facing Jewish communities.
“For many years we Jews were the targets of terrorism — today, we are still targets but we are not the only targets. In the past we have felt very alone because we felt that others did not understand the situation of the Jew in Europe, but that has changed with Charlie Hebdo, Paris and Brussels. People realize that we are all victims of terrorism,” he said.
With that in mind, Markiewicz said, Israel can play a greater a role in helping Europe protect itself.
At least 34 people were killed and scores were wounded in twin attacks in Brussels’s airport and metro in March 2016. The bombings followed similar mass casualty attacks in France, including a January 2015 shooting at the Hyper Cacher kosher market in Paris in which four people were killed.
As part of a series of discussions on tackling anti-Semitism across Europe, participants of the conference heard a presentation from Israeli security officials on how better to protect Jewish institutions.
Pascal Markowicz of CRIF, an umbrella organization of French Jewish groups, told the conference that since the attacks, France has upped its rhetoric against anti-Semitism; yet, he added, “we don’t see a lot of actions from the government.” He said that it was thus up to the Jewish community to heighten its own vigilance.
“It is a war against us, and as such we must act like soldiers,” he said. “We have to train, because if we don’t we will be vulnerable.”
Alexander Zaltsman, a representative of the Jewish Communities of Russia, said that there had been hundreds of anti-Semitic attacks in the country over the past year, but that there had also been an increase in the number of people brought to justice for such incidents, with 124 charged for attacks in 2016.