Belgian arts center apologizes for canceling Jewish school’s event over Gaza war

But head of Antwerp’s municipal-funded Monty Hall, which had cited Israel’s ‘genocide,’ still vows not to cooperate with Israeli government ‘or any organization associated with it’

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

A view of the Monty Hall in Antwerp, Belgium in March 2023. (Google Maps)
A view of the Monty Hall in Antwerp, Belgium in March 2023. (Google Maps)

Following backlash, a city-funded events hall in the Belgian city of Antwerp apologized for canceling a Jewish school’s event over Israel’s actions.

Lana Willems, the director of Antwerp’s Monty Hall arts center, told The Times of Israel that she had apologized earlier this week for telling the Tachkemoni Jewish School that due to Israel’s “genocide,” as she termed it, her institution was canceling its June 27 booking at the center.

“I made errors in the initial communication with the school, for which I have explicitly apologized to them,” Willems said.

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director of the European Jewish Association, called on the city government to terminate subsidies to the Monty Hall, citing what he said was its director’s “racism and antisemitism.”

In her email to Tachkemoni, Willems wrote: “We look with horror at the genocide that is currently taking place in Gaza. We also work closely with several Palestinian artists who are also suffering from the occupation. For these reasons, we cannot currently respond to a rental request from an organization for which we see links with present-day Israel.”

Rabbi Menachem Margolin speaks at a conference near Amsterdam on June 3, 2024. (Yoav Dudkevitch)

Queried by The Times of Israel, she responded in an email: “I established falsely and prematurely a connection between the school and the Israeli government, with which we do not want to cooperate, or any organization associated with it.”

Willems added that she had invited the school to schedule an alternative date, adding: “We will take into account the needs of the students and the Palestinian artists” at Monty Hall. She did not reply to follow-up questions on what those needs might be.

The cancellation in Antwerp is one of multiple cases in which artistic and other institutions in Europe canceled or tried to cancel events or projects associated with Israel, over its ongoing war on Hamas following the terror group’s October 7 onslaught in southern Israel.

The Royal Concert Hall of Amsterdam last month canceled a concert by the Israeli Jerusalem Quartet and then reinstated it following protests by Jewish community leaders and Holocaust survivors.

In November, organizers of a lecture at a cafe in Amsterdam on Jacob Israël de Haan, a late anti-Zionist Jewish writer, canceled it citing the situation in Gaza.

According to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, at least 36,000 people have died as a result of Israel’s military operation against Hamas in Gaza. The unverified statistics don’t distinguish between civilians and terrorists, of whom Israel says it has killed at least 15,000.

The military operation is in response to the invasion of Israel on October 7 by about 3,000 Hamas terrorists who killed some 1,200 Israelis and abducted another 251, among other atrocities and war crimes.

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