Israeli embassy in Belgium condemns anti-Semitic sign language gesture
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Israeli embassy in Belgium condemns anti-Semitic sign language gesture

Belgian university posts hooked-nose gesture meaning ‘Jew’ in video, drawing condemnation from European Jewish Association

A model gesturing a hooked nose on the website if the University of Ghent, Belgium. (University of Ghent via JTA)
A model gesturing a hooked nose on the website if the University of Ghent, Belgium. (University of Ghent via JTA)

Israel’s embassy in Belgium on Tuesday condemned a hook-nosed gesture in a Belgian university’s sign-language dictionary that refers to “Jews.”

“The Embassy of #Israel expresses its shock and dismay following the ugly initiative of creating a new sign in Flemish sign language for ‘Jew’: a hooked nose. Its sole purpose is the promotion of #AntiSemitic stereotypes,” the embassy wrote on Twitter alongside a Times of Israel report on the gesture.

Emmanuel Nahshon, Israel’s ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg and former Foreign Ministry spokesperson, posted a video of the gesture on Twitter Tuesday.

“This is sickening. Beyond words,” he wrote.

The European Jewish Association on Monday protested in a statement the gesture’s inclusion in online videos on the website of the dictionary, which was compiled in conjunction with the University of Ghent. In a letter to the rector, it demanded the clips be removed.

The first videos, that function as sign language definitions for Jew, “seem standard,” the Association’s director, Menachem Margolin, wrote in the statement. Both videos show a presenter stroking an imaginary beard.

“The second involving side-locks are borderline acceptable if misleading, and the last two are simply racist and demeaning to Jews, using a gesticulation of a large and hooked nose to define Jew,” he added.

Margolin was told about the videos by a Jewish family who had been looking up sign-language gestures online.

In a letter Monday to the rector of the university Margolin asked that campus authorities remove the two gestures from their dictionary.

“If the aim of this project was to embellish or add to the standard definition, it has certainly managed to so, in the most stereotypical and racist way imaginable, by focusing on side-locks and worse still gesticulating a hooked nose to describe a Jew,” Margolin wrote.

“We certainly hope that such stereotypes do not reflect the policy of the university, nor your students,” he continued.

According to the EJA, the online dictionary of Flemish sign language gestures is nearly a decade and a half old.

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