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Fighting Antisemitism: Belgium’s Seat at the Table
November 15, 2022

Ambassador Adler's call for nations to appoint their own Special Envoys or Coordinators to combat antisemitism

There can be no doubt about it – antisemitism is on the rise globally. Over the last decade, we have all seen repeated disturbing examples of this trend. Even Belgium, despite its strong governmental support in the fight against antisemitism, tough legislation addressing hate crimes and hate speech, and even a National Action Plan Against Racism, is not immune. Antisemitic chants at football games, subtle antisemitic language in public discourse, swastikas painted on synagogues and other sacred sites, and other forms of antisemitism are occurring regularly. This past September, musicians with clear Neo-Nazi links were scheduled to perform at the Frontnacht Festival in Ieper until thankfully, authorities canceled the event at the last minute. It would be easy to dismiss these examples as unfortunate outliers, but evidence is mounting that antisemitic activity and sentiment is only growing.

That is why the recent visit of the United States Special Envoy to Combat and Monitor Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt was timely and necessary. As she and I toured the Kazerne Dossin Memorial, Museum, and Research Centre in Mechelen, seeing the place where Nazis forced Jews and Roma onto trains bound for concentration camps, we were reminded – quite viscerally – of the consequences of unchecked hate that spreads to all levels of society and government: the murder of millions of Jewish people and other groups the Nazis deemed valueless to society. As we walked those halls, I was reminded of something Ambassador Lipstadt once said, “Antisemitism is the canary in the coal mine – we must heed its unmistakable cry.” The time to beat back the rising tide of antisemitism is now.

During her visit, I saw the impact that a national representative to target this specific and pernicious issue can have. Ambassador Lipstadt met with Belgian thought leaders, community groups, and government officials about how the United States and Belgium can work together to continue to fight back against this ancient scourge. She also represented the United States in the European Commission’s Meeting of Special Envoys and Coordinators Combatting Antisemitism and at the EU Conference on Freedom of Religion with Regard to Religious Slaughter with her counterparts from the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, and France, among others.

The key take-away from these discussions is clear and actionable. Nations across the globe must stand united in the face of rising antisemitism and in defense of religious freedom. When we unite as allies in this battle, we speak out when we see shocking and high-profile displays of antisemitism like the Frontnacht Festival here or the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a few years ago. We also display our support for human rights and display the tolerance that has the power to shape conversations in everyday life, whether in the office, cafe, or at the dinner table.

As she visits countries around the world, Ambassador Lipstadt has said she feels exceptionally encouraged by meeting so many government and community leaders who recognize the need for change. I know Belgium takes this issue seriously; it has sent Ambassadorial representatives to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and the Belgium Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a Belgian Chair of the International Commission that oversees the work of the Arolsen Archives, however, these are not full-time permanent positions that directly address combatting antisemitism.

I echo Ambassador Lipstadt’s global call for nations to appoint their own Special Envoys or Coordinators to combat antisemitism, and to further empower them with a budget and staff. Today, I urge Belgium to take the next decisive step and appoint its own national representative dedicated to combatting antisemitism. Belgium needs this national representative to help set policy at home and advocate for more coordination on an international level. We know we could accomplish so much more working together if Ambassador Lipstadt had a direct counterpart here. Belgium’s voice was missing from the table at the recent European Union and European Commission meetings. We must face this together, and Belgium – more than ever – must add its voice to this urgent conversation. We cannot be indifferent or silent.