In an episode that barely beggars belief, an operator in Belgium’s Federal hotline for the terrorist attacks in Brussels told a Jewish caller that Israel does not exist, and is in fact called Palestine.
The call to the Belgian Interior Ministry’s hotline, which followed the terrorist attacks on Brussels airport, was recorded and the audio file posted on the website of Joods Actueel, a Belgian Jewish monthly.
The transcript is as follows:
Jewish Coordination Committee Volunteer: Good morning. I’m a volunteer for the Jewish Coordination Counsel in Antwerp. We have two Jews who were injured in the attack at the airport.
Belgian Federal Emergency Hotline: Yes, go ahead.
Jewish Coordination Committee Volunteer: They are ready to be transported to Israel. Our volunteers are making sure that everything is in place, but we received information from the hospital that we need a special permit from the police to get them released from the hospital. Whom do we need to speak with in order to get this permit?
Belgian Federal Emergency Hotline: Let me check. They need to go to Palestine.
Jewish Coordination Committee Volunteer: (Pause) Not Palestine. Israel.
Belgian Federal Emergency Hotline: Yes, but it was Palestine before, of course.
Jewish Coordination Committee Volunteer: Can you repeat that for me? What’s your name?
Belgian Federal Emergency Hotline: It’s Palestine.
Jewish Coordination Committee Volunteer: Can I get your name please?
Belgian Federal Emergency Hotline: Of course. It’s Zachariah.
Jewish Coordination Committee Volunteer: And you only recognize Palestine?
Belgian Federal Emergency Hotline: Sorry?
Jewish Coordination Committee Volunteer: You don’t recognize Israel, correct? Only Palestine?
Belgian Federal Emergency Hotline: I only know that the Jews went to live there, that Palestine accepted them, and that there is a war between Israel and Palestine, of course. And the occupation. That what’s always on the news.
Jewish Coordination Committee Volunteer: Are you able to assist me with my request?
Belgian Federal Emergency Hotline: Yes, of course. They are returning to Palestine and they asked if they can receive a permit. Of course. Here it is.
Michael Freilich, editor-in-chief of Joods Actueel, said it “defies imagination” that a Belgian state employee would display the anti-Israeli behavior that is commonplace in Arab countries. He also called for punishing the operator instead of issuing the “standard apology.”
A spokesperson for the crisis center told Joods Actueel that it deeply deplores the “isolated case” and will take “necessary actions” against the staffer in question, which the center said was not a civil servant, but a call center employee.
The recording’s release follows at least four recorded cases in which people who either spoke Arabic or were clothed in Muslim traditional garb, destroyed, concealed or removed Israeli flags at an impromptu memorial space set up for the attacks’ victims at Place de la Bourse in Brussels. It features many flags, including those of Arab countries and the Palestinian Authority.
Is it any wonder that the Jewish community in Belgium has questioned the future viability of a continued long-term future?
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