UPDATE: More info on Philosemitism (+ translation fix below)
Philippe Moureaux, a Socialist Party (PS) senator and the mayor of the Molenbeek suburb of Brussels, was interviewed by Le Vif/L'Express last week, where he said the following:
Q: You haven't always defended granting the right to vote to foreigners...
A: Basically, yes. There were times when, because of lack of support within the Socialist Party, I accepted stopping this movement. On sensitive issues, we must advance when a door opens. That I could push through the law against racism, in 1981, is because of the commotion caused by an attack against Jewish children in Antwerp. At the age of 20, when I was a Marxist, I was not a big supporter of the right to diversity. I evolved. And what made me turn around is precisely the conversations I've had with representatives of the Jewish community. It saddens me, today, that they deny the right of diversity to Muslims.
According to Joël Rubinfeld, chairman of the CCOJB (Umbrella Organization of Jewish Institutions of Belgium), the phrasing is vague, "but it's clear that he stigmatizes a community unnecessarily". He points out the the number of anti-Jewish acts has increased since 2000.
Rubinfeld says he doesn't understand what right to diversity the Jews have enjoyed. What privileges have they received that they would deny their fellow Muslims, he asks. And who among the representatives of the Jewish community denies this alleged right to diversity to the Muslim community in the country?
The president of the CCOJB says that this statement is dangerous, since 'it instills in the minds of our fellow Muslims the treacherous idea that the Jews are their opponents on the way to successful integration, setting one community against another. Rubinfeld says that Phillip Moureaux has a lot of prestige among the Muslims, and they can now infer from his words that all their problems are the fault of the Jews. He says that it would be better to advise the Muslims on how they could integrate while maintaining their identity.
Radouane Bouhlal, president of the Movement against Racism, Antisemitism, and Xenophobia (MRAX) says that it's a little exaggerated, but that Phillipe Moureaux should have been more careful with this sensitive subject. Bouhlal says that unfortunate statement should not substantiate the idea that an all-powerful 'Jewish lobby' is capable of setting policies, for example on the right to wear a headscarf. Because, he says, 'this fantasy exists in the Muslim community'.
The president of MRAX doesn't agree with the CCOJB, though. He says it's excessive, and that by speaking this way they feed another fantasy, that of the Jew who can't suffer any criticism. Bouhlal says that we 'should avoid crying wolf all the time and focus on the real abuses.
Moureaux denies he wanted to criticize the Jewish community. "I'm opposed to the Anglo-Saxon society which locks up foreigners in ghettos, but also against the French system of integration," he told La Capitale. Moureaux told RTBF that he's 'used to the sentiments of those people'. He said he started by giving a tribute to the representatives of the Jewish community that he'd met at the time, people who were very respectful of diversity, very open, in the grand Jewish tradition. He says that you don't find the same respect today.
Sources: HLN (Dutch), RTBF, Le Vif/L'Express (French)
* Brussels: A Muslim neighborhood
* Brussels: Municipalities ban Ramadan 'boycott Israel' campaign