Antwerp: Arab riots, Jewish neighborhood sealed (UPDATED)

Antwerp: Arab riots, Jewish neighborhood sealed

Update: Antwerp: AEL riots + Video


How do you protest violence against a civilian population? Attack a civilian population, of course. These riots were expected, given the massive incitement that accompanied the organization of the demonstrations.


The demonstration that the Arab European League (AEL) in Borgerhout (Antwerp) organized against the bombardments of the Gaza Strip, has gotten completely out of hand. After the protest disbanded the demonstrators marched towards the Jewish neighborhood in Antwerp, clashing with the police. In particular car windows suffered, but also trams and buses were attacked.

The AEL held a protest action in the Kerkstraat in Borgerhout from 2pm. The protesters demanded the immediate suspension of the bombardments of the Gaza Strip and of the violence against the civilian population. Already during the demonstration in Borgerhout there were heated moments here and there.

The situation truly got out of hand when the demonstration disbanded at about 3:15pm. A group of protesters then marched towards the Jewish neighborhood in Antwerp. The police had completely closed off the neighborhood upon which started a cat-and-mouse game. The situation threatened to get out of hand and at about 3:25pm the police arrived with more manpower in order to drive out the protesters. At about 4pm the riots moved again to Borgerhout, in the area of the Turnhoutsebaan.

The protesters caused much damage, in particular to car windows but also trams and basses were attacked. The De Lijn bus company is diverting all buses and trums on the Turnhoutsebaan-Carnotstraat-Rooseveltplaats route.


Many Jews don't dare anymore to go out on the streets in the area of the demonstrators. They fear vandalism and violence. An internal SMS service of the Jewish community of Antwerp warns Jews to avoid the areas of the Turnhoutsebaan and the Diamantwijk, reports Michael Freilich of the Jewish newspaper Joods Actueel.

"The protesters must realize that Antwerp Jews are also Flemish and not Israeli soldiers. They have nothing to do with what is currently happening in the Gaza Strip," says Freilich. According to him the the Jewish community fears that the situation can escalate. "We haven't seen anything like this since 2003, when it also got out of hand," says the chief editor of the Jewish monthly. There's currently no response from politicians, but Freilich's phone is getting many calls from anxious people who don't know what to do.

During today's demonstration damage was done, also in the Antwerp Diamantwijk (Diamond Center) where many Jews live and work. Today there is no activity in the sector, according to Freilich. Most shops are closed. Meanwhile the riots of isolated groups of protesters moved to Borgerhout and the Turnhoutsebaan area. The police is out in force.

There's also an issue of the Hamas flags which were present in the demonstration in Brussels for the suspension of the bombardments on the Gaza Strip . According to Freilich the green flag with the white text of Hamas is a banned symbol in Belgium of a terrorist organization. "Everybody has a right to express his opinion," says Freilich. "We as a community also oppose violence, although the side-comment must be made that everything began by the rocket attacks of Hamas on Israel.

Various protesters in Brussels held the famous Hamas flag. The Jewish community is shocked that this is allowed. "Hamas is and officially continues to be a not-allowed organization of terrorists," says Freilich. He doesn't understand how the organizers of the protest march allowed the symbol. "11.11.11 [one of the organizers] should do something against it. For that matter it's also striking that the protesters protest against violence towards the Palestinians, but that the suffering of the Israelis is not mentioned."

Sources: HLN 1, 2 (Dutch)

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