A Hitler-themed swastika painting by a local politician that was recently put on display at a Brussels art gallery has sparked outcry in the Belgian Jewish community.
Fatmir Limani is an artist and the Socialist Party alderman in charge of cultural affairs in the Brussels-area municipality of Koekelberg.
His painting, titled “God created A. Hitler,” is scheduled to be featured until Sept. 30 in the prestigious Bog-Art gallery. The gallery is located 600 yards from the Jewish Museum of Belgium, where four people were killed in a 2014 terrorist attack allegedly perpetrated by an Islamist.
“It’s shocking,” Yohan Benizri, president of the CCOJB umbrella group representing French-speaking Belgian Jews, told the RTBF broadcaster Tuesday. “Seeing something like this on the streets of Belgium, it can be offensive. Seeing it in the context of rising anti-Semitism, it makes Belgium’s image seem even worse than it’s seen locally and international today.”
The artist, Benizri added, has a record of using shocking visuals and did not seem to attempt to single out Jews, but has nonetheless displayed “bad taste” with the swastika painting.
La galerie Bog-Art rend hommage à Toots. Son portrait sera exposé jusq'au 15 Septembre. Un registre de condoléances…
Limani defended is exhibition in remarks to RTBF, saying that the theme of his exhibition was the global rise of fascism and Nazism, and was not promoting either ideology.
“I am aware that my work is shocking, but I can not help but represent what shocked me in my life,” he told the broadcaster.
But Joel Rubinfeld, president of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, or LBCA, told RTBF: “The passer-by seeing this on the street isn’t given the key to decipher the artist’s meaning.”
Belgium has seen several anti-Semitism scandals recently, including over the inclusion of a hooked nose gesture for the word “Jew” in the official Flemish sign language dictionary.