Belgium in the Middle East

Masarat is an art project subsidized by the Walloon government. It brings Palestinian artists to Brussels, some of whom had made controversial hateful statements against Israel and calls for violence.

One of their art projects is the following picture, showing Israel as Flanders, the West Bank as Wallonia and the Gaza Strip as the disputed municipality of Voeren. Jerusalem is transformed into Brussels.

Masarat has removed the picture from their site after it was criticized in the news.

Huub Broers, mayor of Voeren, was not happy about his municipality being portrayed as the Gaza Strip. He said that the the intention was to portray both Flemish and Israelis as villians who occupy land and oppress others. Broers says that this can lead to new problems in the Belgian "language-battle" and that peace in the Middle East will never come about through taking one-sided points of view.

The Flemish minister of the interior, Marino Keulen, said that this picture comes to shock and provoke and not to inform, and that he finds it tasteless.

The exhibition had been shown in Paris. The UPFJ (French Jewish Business Union) criticized the Walloon government for subsidizing such a project, and thereby confirming such sick propoganda which is shockingly both anti-Flemish and anti-Israel.

Michael Freilich, head editor of Belgian Jewish magazine Joods Actueel, says this picture calls for the destruction of Israel. I don't think it calls for the destruction of Israel more than it calls for the destruction of the Arab Palestine.

The French speaking Belgians, rich off their natural resources, have for years oppressed the majority Flemish. The Flemish, being an industrial nation, have prospered in the current economy and are now subsidizing the poorer Walloons. If Flanders would secede from Belgium, would Wallonia be able to survive as an independent state? Palestinians are usually portrayed as the helpless victims against the Israeli superpower, but I'm not sure this art project paints either 'Palestine' or Wallonia in good light.

Brussels is a historically Flemish city which through government aided immigration has been transformed into a French-speaking city. The city is now divided among enclaves of Dutch and French speakers. There is certainly a basis to compare it to Jerusalem, a historically Jewish city which has regained its Jewish majority in the mid 1800s, except that nobody expects the 'Brussels-problem' to be solved by the end of the year.

This art project super-imposes a European problem on the Middle East, but I think that it just emphasizes the complexity of the European issues. These problems are not less complex than what goes on in the Middle East, but they enjoy much more favorable PR, as well as a wish to solve problems peacefully, without resorting to violence.

Sources: HLN, Joods Actueel (Dutch), h/t and for more info: philosemitism blog

Update: (from philosemitism blog)

The map was removed because of strong Flemish opposition, and not out of regard for Belgian Jews' alarm at the way the Belgian French-speaking government seems to be turning a blind eye to the most hostile aspects of the festival, such as qualifying the separation wall as "the wall of segregation" ("mur de la ségrégation") and the displaying of the Zan Studio posters in Belgium and France.

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