Belgian Holocaust museum cancels event honoring anti-Israel activist

Jewish groups had protested planned recognition of Brigitte Herremans, who claimed pro-Israel lobbyists ‘vastly inflate’ anti-Semitism

Brigitte Herremans (Broederlijk Delen via JTA)
Brigitte Herremans (Broederlijk Delen via JTA)

JTA — Belgium’s main Holocaust museum on Thursday canceled its plan to host an award ceremony for a promoter of sanctions against Israel who said Israel’s supporters “vastly inflate” anti-Semitism.

The Kazerne Dossin memorial pulled the plug on the event this week in which the Pax Christi Catholic organization was to honor Brigitte Herremans of the Broederlijk Delen aid and relief agency, the CCOJB Belgian-Jewish group announced. In 2016, Herremans was banned from entering Israel.

Multiple Jewish groups complained that Kazerne Dossin, a former transit camp in Mechelen from which Belgian Jews and Roma were sent to concentration camps, was an inappropriate venue for honoring a campaigner against the Jewish state. Pax Christi was to confer on Herremans the title of “ambassador of peace.”

In 2017, Pax Christi called on the European Union to “suspend economic relations” with Israel until it “respects international law.”

The former Dossin barracks photographed from the balocny of The Kazerne Dossin – Memorial, Museum and Documentation Centre on Holocaust and Human Rights in Mechelen, Belgium. (Michel van der Burg/Wikimedia Commons via JTA)

The Kazerne Dossin museum did not say why it canceled its participation in the event, which the Flemish Forum of Jewish Organizations has called “scandalous.”

Asked about the rise in anti-Semitism in Europe in a 2016 radio interview, Herremans said, “When you sometimes hear criticism from certain pro-Israel circles, also in Belgium, then I think that mostly they try to vastly inflate this business to distract” from how Israel “wants to do only as it pleases in the Palestinian territories.” She also has called for sanctions on Israel and on Israelis visiting Europe.

Betsalmo, a pro-Israel group that also protested the event, wrote in a statement: “Nowhere is appropriate for celebrating boycotts and anti-Semitism, least of all Holocaust museums.” The group added that “We are glad reason has prevailed.”

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