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Murders at the Jewish museum: leap before you learn

In this posting on the Jewish Museum murders, there are these items:

1) Three videos;
2) Ynet news: Belgium police publish photos of Brussels Jewish Museum shooter, news plus Netanyahu blamed ‘European incitement';
3) AFP: Netanyahu blasts Europe as two Israelis killed in Belgium;
4) Haaretz: Brussels museum shooter likely followed Toulouse pattern. Anshel Pfeffer makes assumptions;
5) FT: Belgium and France tighten security after Jewish Museum shooting, right wing making antisemitism acceptable;
6) BBC: Brussels fatal gun attack at Jewish museum, the facts, as known;
7) Observer: Jewish museum attack leaves three dead in Brussels, fears of resurgence European antisemitism;
8 – Reuters: EU set for election ‘Super Sunday,’ with far-right vote in spotlight, the EU context;


Click for Belgian police video of killer There are three videos which show a young white man in a baseball cap.


Belgium Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo is seen at the site of a shooting in central Brussels May 24, 2014. Photo by Eric Vidal / Reuters

Belgium police publish photos of Brussels Jewish Museum shooter

Police publish images and video of shooter entering museum and firing, as fourth person dies from wounds sustained during deadly shooting which killed Israeli couple, French woman.

By Lior Zilberstein, Ynet news
May 25, 2014

The Belgian police published photos Sunday of the shooter who entered the Brussels’ Jewish Museum with a rifle and opened fire, as a fourth person died after succumbing to wounds suffered in the attack in Brussels.

The police are still conducting a man hunt for what they believe to be a lone shooter in an attack many in Israel and Belgium have already declared an anti-Semitic attack.

The images were taken from the museum’s security camera and were published in a bid to help law enforcement officials find the perpetrator.

In the images the shooters [sic] can be seen moving towards the museum with two large bags – in contradiction to initial claims that he had arrived in a Audi car – and in another he can be seen firing a Kalashnikov rifle.

Meanwhile, a young man who was critically injured by gunshot in the attack has died of his wounds while doctors fought for his life at a local hospital, a Jewish community leader said Sunday.

Joel Rubinfeld, head of the Belgian League against Anti-Semitism, told AFP that the injured man, who was in his early 20s and worked as a receptionist at the museum, died in the afternoon.

Emanuel (54) and Miriam (53) Riva from Tel Aviv, an Israeli couple from Tel Aviv, were also killed in the shooting at the Brussels Jewish Museum Saturday, the Foreign Ministry cleared for publication on Sunday. The couple left two daughters behind – 16 and 15 years old.

An additional casualty was a French volunteer at the museum, a woman in her 60s.

Pope Francis on Sunday condemned the deadly shootings at the museum as anti-Semitism upon his arrival in Israel for the final leg of a Holy Land pilgrimage, joining a long list of Jewish and world leaders to condemn the killings.

Belgium launched a nationwide manhunt Sunday for a lone suspect in a shooting attack at the Brussels Jewish Museum as the toll in the attack rose to four dead.

The attack, which came on the eve of national and European Parliament elections, led officials to immediately raise anti-terror measures and increase the protection for Jewish sites.

Video of the attack showed an athletic man with cap calmly walking into the Jewish Museum, getting out a Kalashnikov shoulder rifle and starting to shoot before briskly walking away.

No one has claimed responsibility for the killings.

“We call on the whole population to help identify this person,” deputy prosecutor Ine Van Wymersch said Sunday.

She said the gunman who killed an Israeli tourist couple, a French woman and a Belgian man with shots to the face and throat “probably acted alone, was armed and well prepared.”

The fourth victim died Sunday afternoon, said a government official who asked not to be identified because the news had not yet been officially announced.

Officials said the shooter parked a car in the swanky Sablon area of antique dealers, hip cafes and art galleries. The museum said in a statement the gunman came in, started shooting at the tourist couple at the entry “and then went on to the reception, where he shot the attendant.”

Police detained one suspect late Saturday but he was soon released and is now considered a witness.

Van Wymersch said “all options are still open” regarding a motive for the shooting spree but the government has said it had the hallmarks of an anti-Semitic attack.

On the heels of the Brussels attack, two Jewish men were attacked as they left a synagogue in the Paris area late Saturday.

As in Belgium, Interior Minister Bernard Caseneuve ordered police around France to increase security at Jewish houses of worship and other Jewish establishments.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the shooting on European incitement against Israel and criticized what he called “weak condemnation” of anti-Semitic acts.

“There are those in Europe that are quick to condemn every building of an apartment in Jerusalem, but do not rush to condemn, or condemn with weak condemnations, the murder of Jews here or in Europe itself,” Netanyahu said at the opening of his weekly Cabinet meeting that

Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo swiftly condemned the attack and said Belgium stands united with its Jewish community of 40,000.

He also called Netanyahu early Sunday “to express the deep solidarity of Belgium with the Israeli population.”

Afterward, Netanyahu was quoted as saying that Di Rupo was the “only European leader who called me about this matter.”

European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor planned to meet Di Rupo on Sunday.

“Attacks on Jewish targets in Europe do not exist in a vacuum, but are part and parcel of an overall climate of hate and incitement against Jewish communities,” Kantor said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report



Netanyahu blasts Europe as two Israelis killed in Belgium

By AFP
May 25, 2014

Jerusalem – Israel on Sunday blamed rising anti-Semitism for a Brussels shooting attack which killed three people, including two Israelis, lashing out at Europe for “hypocrisy” in its attitude to the Jewish state.

As officials confirmed the deaths of two Israelis and a French national in Saturday’s attack on the Jewish museum in the Belgian capital, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to hail the visiting Pope Francis for his “determined stance” against anti-Semitism.

“We appreciate the pope’s determined stance against anti-Semitism, especially in light of the growing hatred of Jews that we are witness to in these days,” Netanyahu said, hours ahead of the pontiff’s arrival in Israel as part of a three-day Middle East tour.

The afternoon shooting shocked Belgium and drew condemnation from top European leaders, although Brussels said it could not immediately confirm whether it was “a terrorist or anti-Semitic act”.

But Netanyahu said the attack was a result of “incessant incitement against Israel by different elements in the Middle East and Europe itself,” denouncing the latter for what he said was a hypocritical attitude to Israel.

“There are elements in Europe that rush to condemn the construction of a flat in Jerusalem but who do not rush to condemn, or offer only a weak condemnation of the murder of Jews here or in Europe itself,” he said, referring to Israel’s ongoing settlement construction in the West Bank and in annexed east Jerusalem.

“Even worse, they applaud unity with terror groups like Hamas, which calls for the destruction of Israel,” he said.

The rightwing premier was referring to Europe’s welcome of an intra-Palestinian reconciliation agreement between leaders in the West Bank and the Islamist rulers of Gaza.

“We oppose this hypocrisy, we defy it,” he said.

However, he praised Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, who telephoned to express condolences and update the Israeli leader on the investigation.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked the Belgian prime minister for his call and offered to help with the murder enquiry,” his office said.

“Until now, you are the only European leader to call me about this matter,” Netanyahu told Di Rupo.

Earlier, foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP the two victims were a married couple in their 50s from Tel Aviv who were touring in Belgium.

“We have confidence in the Belgian authorities, in the justice system and the police to look into this horrible crime,” he said.

The attack, which took place in central Brussels, left a fourth person, whose identity was not yet clear, in critical condition.

President Shimon Peres also called upon European leaders to act against “any form of anti-Semitism” which he said was “rearing its head across the continent”.

He also spoke with the Jewish leadership in Belgium.

It was the first fatal attack on a Belgian Jewish centre since the early 1980s in a country which is home to 40,000 Jews, roughly half of whom live in the capital.


Forensic science police at the scene of the shooting at the Belgian Jewish Museum, 24th May, 2014. Photo by Yves Logghe / AP

Brussels museum shooter likely followed Toulouse pattern

For now, the scenario of radical Muslim attackers – rather than neo-Nazis ones – is the most likely.

By Anshel Pfeffer
May 25, 2014

It is too early to jump to conclusions over the identity of the shooter in Satruday’s terror attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. And still, it’s hard to avoid the initial impression that the pattern fits other anti-Jewish attacks, locally organized and without the backing of a terror group. Most likely carried out by local Muslims – like the attack carried out by Mohammed Merah, a young French-Algerian, in March 2012, where four Jews were killed outside the Otzar HaTorah school in Toulouse (and two French soldiers in separate attacks). Merah, aside from his brother, acted on his own without collaborators.

In recent years there have been multiple intelligence reports of Hezbollah cells planning attacks in Europe against Israeli and Jewish targets – such as the attack on a bus in Burgas, attributed to Hezbollah, where six were killed. While it’s too early to rule out the Lebanese organization, shooting-attacks are not Hezbollah’s MO, they prefer to use bombs. In addition, Belgium, particularly Brussels, with its European Union headquarters, is thought to have a relatively high level of security, certainly relative to Bulgaria.

The fact that the target was the museum, the only building affiliated with the Jewish community in Brussels which does not have regular security, indicates a certain level of advance planning. Two hundred meters away is a synagogue where in 1982, a Palestinian gunman opened fire on Jews leaving Rosh Hashana prayers, wounding four. On the other hand, before we know the identity of those killed and wounded, the fact the attack occured on Shabbat, when less Jewish visitors could have been expected at the museum could indicate a lack of sophistication on the attackers part.

Only six weeks ago a neo-Nazi racist murdered three people near the Jewish centers of Kansas City, but despite the presence of neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic movements in Belgium, this level of murderous violence has not been characteristic of them in the past. They have concentrated mainly on nasty propaganda and low-level vandalism. Some of the far-right parties in Belgium, such as Vlaams Belang, have actually tried to transform their image and hide their anti-Semitic legacy, professing to be friendly to Jews and supportive of Israel. Instead they have focused their hostility on the local Muslim minority.

For now, until we know more, the scenario of radical Muslim attackers, similar to Merah or the two killers of British soldier Lee Rigby on a London street last year, seems much more likely.

Close to a million Muslims live today in Belgium, around eight percent of the population. Their main concentration is in Brussels where they make up a quarter of the city’s residents. If it transpires that the attackers were indeed Muslim, this must in no way be ascribed to the entire Muslim community in Belgium – just as the attacks in France and Britain were not the responsibility of the Muslims there – but the fact that such a similar attack to the Toulouse murders has taken place two years later will be extremely worrying to European security services and the local Jewish communities.



Belgium and France tighten security after Jewish Museum shooting

By James Fontanella-Khan, Financial Times and agencies
May 24, 2014

Belgian and French authorities have tightened security at Jewish sites after what officials said appeared to be an anti-Semitic act of terror in Brussels on Saturday.

Police are hunting for an assailant who shot dead three people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels on the eve of regional and national elections in Belgium and European Parliament elections in which some far right parties are expected to perform well.

 “From the images we have seen, we can deduce that the author probably acted alone and was well prepared,” Ine Van Wymersch, a spokeswoman for the Brussels prosecutor’s office told reporters on Sunday.

“It’s still too early to confirm whether it’s a terrorist or an anti-Semitic attack, all lines of investigation are still open,” she said.

Belgium’s minister of home affairs, Joëlle Milquet, said there were clear indications that the attack was of an anti-Semitic nature. “It’s a shooting . . . at the Jewish Museum,” she told RTBF television. “All of this can lead to suspicions of an act of anti-Semitism.”

Brussels Mayor Yvan Mayeur said that in all likelihood the shooting was a “terrorist act”, adding that the attack against the Jewish museum could not be treated as coincidence.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, condemned the “act of murder”, which he said was “the result of constant incitement against Jews and their state”.

“Slander and lies against the state of Israel continue to be heard on European soil even as the crimes against humanity and acts of murder being perpetrated in our region are systematically ignored,” Mr Netanyahu said in a statement to foreign media early on Sunday.

Joel Rubinfeld, president of the Belgian League against Antisemitism, told the Financial Times that he had been expecting such an attack for some time.

“This kind of attack was in the air,” Mr Rubinfeld said. “Over the past few years we’ve allowed anti-Semitic speech to run loose; it’s this violent language that has armed the terrorists’ guns.”

Two weeks ago the Belgian minister of home affairs banned a Europe-wide meeting of far right anti-Semitic groups that was meant to be held in Brussels.

Leaders of the Jewish community said the expected success in French elections of Marine Le Pen’s far right National Front party, which has been historically openly anti-Jewish and anti-Israel, was extremely concerning.

Mr Rubinfeld said that “the popularity of the FN made anti-Semitism rhetoric more acceptable; it legitimises it . . . This is concerning, very concerning.”

A witness told the AFP news agency that he had seen two bodies in the lobby of the museum. One was “a young woman with her head covered in blood”, he said. “She was holding a leaflet and looked like a tourist.”

A spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry said on Sunday that two of the people killed were Israeli tourists from Tel Aviv, a couple in their 20s. Their names had not yet been made public, he said.

“From the images we have seen, we can deduce that the author probably acted alone and was well prepared,” Ine Van Wymersch, a spokeswoman for the Brussels prosecutor’s office told reporters on Sunday.

“It’s still too early to confirm whether it’s a terrorist or an anti-Semitic attack, all lines of investigation are still open,” she said.

Belgium’s minister of home affairs, Joëlle Milquet, said there were clear indications that the attack was of an anti-Semitic nature. “It’s a shooting . . . at the Jewish Museum,” she told RTBF television. “All of this can lead to suspicions of an act of anti-Semitism.”

Brussels Mayor Yvan Mayeur said that in all likelihood the shooting was a “terrorist act”, adding that the attack against the Jewish museum could not be treated as coincidence.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, condemned the “act of murder”, which he said was “the result of constant incitement against Jews and their state”.

“Slander and lies against the state of Israel continue to be heard on European soil even as the crimes against humanity and acts of murder being perpetrated in our region are systematically ignored,” Mr Netanyahu said in a statement to foreign media early on Sunday.

Joel Rubinfeld, president of the Belgian League against Antisemitism, told the Financial Times that he had been expecting such an attack for some time.

“This kind of attack was in the air,” Mr Rubinfeld said. “Over the past few years

Belgian and French authorities have tightened security at Jewish sites after what officials said appeared to be an anti-Semitic act of terror in Brussels on Saturday.

Police are hunting for an assailant who shot dead three people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels on the eve of regional and national elections in Belgium and European Parliament elections in which some far right parties are expected to perform well.



Brussels fatal gun attack at Jewish museum

By BBC news
May 25, 2014

A gunman has shot dead two men and a woman at the Jewish Museum in the Belgian capital Brussels.A fourth person was seriously wounded, emergency services said.

The attacker arrived by car, got out, fired on people at the museum entrance, and returned to the vehicle which then sped away, Belgian media report.

One person has been arrested and police are hunting a second, officials say. Security has been tightened at Jewish sites across Belgium.

Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo said all Belgians were “united and show solidarity in the face of this odious attack on a Jewish cultural site”.

Belgian public prosecutor’s spokeswoman Ine Van Wymersch told a news conference that one suspect had been detained at the wheel of his car, although there was no proven connection to the attack.

A second suspect was still being sought, who was thought to have fled on foot, she added.

Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, who was one of the first people to arrive at the scene, said he arrived at the scene shortly after the shooting.

“I heard bursts of gunfire, rushed here and saw the bodies on the ground,” he said.

The gunman arrived at the museum at around 15:50 (13:50 GMT) carrying a backpack and opened fire before fleeing in an Audi, local media report.

They say one eyewitness may have made a note of the number plate and given it to police.

Brussels Mayor Yvan Mayeur said three men and a woman had been caught up in what he thought was probably a “terrorist act”. “It’s clearly extremely serious,” he was quoted as saying, “and on the Jewish Museum too, which isn’t a coincidence”.

Eyewitness Alain Sobotik told AFP news agency he had seen two bodies in the lobby of the museum.

One was “a young woman with her head covered in blood”, he said. “She was holding a leaflet and looked like a tourist.”

Interior Minister Joelle Milquet said everything pointed to an anti-Semitic attack.

Belgium has a Jewish population of some 42,000, about half of whom live in the capital.

Jewish community leader Julien Klener agreed the motive was probably anti-Semitic: “The assumption, and it is an assumption, is that it was someone who didn’t try to target the museum but the adjective ‘Jewish'”.

A number of people were treated for shock after the shooting in the central Sablon area of the city.

Mr Di Rupo expressed his condolences and support for the victims’ families.



Jewish museum attack leaves three dead in Brussels

Fears of a resurgence in violent antisemitism after gunman opens fire killing three and injuring one on eve of elections

By Nadia Khomami, Observer
May 25, 2014

Fears of a resurgence in violent antisemitism were raised after an attack at a Jewish museum in the centre of Brussels left three people dead and one badly injured.

The attack, on the eve of federal, regional and European parliamentary elections, prompted Belgium to heighten its terror alert level and increase protection at Jewish buildings and the Israeli embassy.

Speaking at the scene of the attack, Joëlle Milquet, the Belgian interior minister, said it was too early to say whether it was an antisemitic attack but the target suggested “there are strong grounds for presuming so”. Belgium’s prime minister, Elio Di Rupo, made an announcement expressing support for the Jewish community. “All Belgians are united,” he said.

According to reports, an Audi was driving up to the museum prior to the attack. Both the car’s passenger and driver got out. The gunman opened fire, allegedly shooting indiscriminately before getting away.

One bystander, Alain Sobotik, said he saw the corpses of a woman and a man just inside the doors of the museum.

Didier Reynders, Belgium’s foreign minister, was at the scene shortly after the shooting. He said he saw people fleeing and heard shots. He then saw “bodies on the ground in pools of blood” and called emergency services.

“It seems a car was double-parked and that a person went in and came out of the museum after shots were fired,” Reynders said. “You can’t help thinking, when you see a Jewish museum, to think about an antisemitic act, but the investigation will tell more.”

One witness managed to see the licence plate of the vehicle used in the attack, according to Reynders.

The minister tweeted: “I am shocked by the murders committed at the Jewish museum, I am thinking of the victims I saw there and their families.”

About 40,000 Jews live in Belgium, half of whom reside in Brussels. According to Viviane Teitelbaum, a member of the Brussels legislature, antisemitic attacks reached a peak in the early 1980s but dropped off before a recent rise in anti-Jewish sentiment. “It has been a very difficult place to live” for Jews, she said, adding that many young people are leaving the country.

Belgian Jewish community leader Joel Rubinfeld said the attack was clearly ” a terrorist act” and the result of “a climate of hate”.

He said that the museum had received no recent threats and that its staff “are in shock”.The Jewish Museum of Belgium is located in the fashionable Sablon district in the centre of Brussels, a popular haunt for shoppers and tourists. Police closed off the area around the museum and ambulances and police vans were at the scene.



EU set for election ‘Super Sunday,’ with far-right vote in spotlight

By Luke Baker, Reuters
May 24, 2014

BRUSSELS–European elections reach their culmination on “Super Sunday” when the remaining 20 of the EU’s 28 countries go to the polls, with the vote expected to confirm the dominance of pro-European centrists despite a rise in support for the far-right and left.

Germany, France, Spain and Poland are among the major EU member states voting on Sunday, representing the bulk of the 388 million Europeans eligible to cast ballots and elect the 751 deputies to sit in the European Parliament from 2014-2019.

After years of economic crisis, rising unemployment and poor growth, many Europeans have come to question the wisdom of ever-closer EU integration and are expected to vote for Eurosceptic parties on the right or left promising radical changes.

Opinion polls suggest at least a quarter of seats in the parliament will go to anti-EU or protest groups, but at least 70 percent will remain with the four mainstream, pro-EU blocs: the center-left, center-right, liberals and Greens.

Turnout – the most basic measure of citizens’ engagement with Europe – is expected to fall again, dropping to just over 40 percent, marginally down from 43 percent in 2009. That would continue the trend of declining participation at every European election since the first direct poll was held in 1979.

While expectations ahead of the vote were that far-right groups would record historic victories in countries such as France, the Netherlands and Britain, exit polls from the Netherlands, which voted on Thursday, were a surprise.

Geert Wilders’ anti-EU and anti-Islam Freedom Party came fourth rather than first, according to exit polls from Ipsos, with the majority voting for pro-EU parties. That has left centrists hoping for a wider surprise.

“At the end of the campaign, and after reflection, the Dutch have drawn the conclusion that the European Union means strength and extreme nationalism is a danger,” said Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the liberal alliance and a former prime minister of Belgium whose group may win up to 70 seats in parliament.

“On Sunday, the only alternative is to vote for candidates with strong liberal and democratic values.”

The European Parliament has said it will announce preliminary results shortly after 2100 GMT on Sunday, although officials caution that Italy’s decision to keep polls open until the same time may well delay any announcement.

Final results and the precise allotment of seats in parliament is expected to be announced by the end of Monday.

COMMISSION PRESIDENT

As well as determining the makeup of the next European Parliament, these elections will for the first time influence who becomes president of the European Commission, a powerful role overseeing pan-EU legislation.

Each of the main party groups in Europe has nominated a “Spitzenkandidat” – German for a leading candidate or front runner – who will be their nominee for Commission president if that group should win the election.

Polls are predicting that the center-right European People’s Party will secure around 220 seats, putting it 15 to 20 seats ahead of the center-left Socialists & Democrats.

That would position the EPP’s top candidate, former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, to replace Portugal’s Jose Manuel Barroso as Commission president.

But it is far from an open and shut case. The Socialists & Democrats may well get support from other parties on the left and claim they have a broader mandate for their front-runner, Germany’s Martin Schulz, the current parliament president.

Ultimately, it is up to EU heads of state and government to nominate a candidate for the Commission post, which must then be approved by a simple majority in parliament.

While the “Spitzenkandidat” process has increased the pressure on EU leaders to choose the candidate from the party that wins the most seats, they may well have to look elsewhere for a nominee. Britain is staunchly opposed to either Juncker or Schulz, and other member states have quietly expressed reservations.

Parliament leaders will meet on the morning of May 27 to discuss the election results and the Commission presidency, and EU leaders will do the same at a summit on the evening of the same day. But it is expected to take several weeks before leaders decide on a name to put to a parliamentary vote.

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