Belgian Schools Given Anti-Semitic Imagery to Teach about Palestine

Looking at the cartoon provided to Belgian teachers to be used as a tool to explain the current situation of Palestinians in Israel, two questions came to mind. How did a picture so grossly offensive to so many ever make it into a collection of materials supposed to be used in a classroom, and why did it take so long for anyone to complain about it loudly enough to get it taken down?

According to The Times of Israel, the picture, which depicts a Jewish concentration camp survivor caught in a barbed-wire fence in a form of a swastika and a Palestinian Arab in a similar form was hosted in the LasClement.be website, a major source of instructional materials offered by the Education Ministry of the Flemish Region. The presence of the cartoon was discovered and subsequently publicized in Joods Actueel, a Jewish monthly.

The cartoon, drawn by Carlos Latuff of Brazil, took a rather circuitous route before it ended up on an education website for Belgium. Latuff first exhibited the cartoon at the 2009 Holocaust Denial Conference hosted in Tehran, Iran. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has long called Latuff an anti-Semite, but the artist has denied the designation.

The cartoon appeared on the ministry website as part of an exercise in which teachers are asked to analyse the cartoon with one of three statements: “This is a Palestinian fleeing Jews;” “Jews want the entire area of Palestine back;” or “Jews call Palestine Israel.”

The Flemish Education Ministry did not reply to requests for comment by JTA, but Guido Joris of Joods Actueel said the exercise was pulled off the site following the publication of the newspaper’s article.

Another item removed following Joods Actueel’s exposé was a role-playing game in which one of the characters is described as follows: “You sympathize with the radical group Hamas. You live in Gaza and work in Israel. You were shocked by the slaying of a Palestinian girl by Israeli soldiers at a school playground. Israel denies that it fired the shots but U.N. representatives in Gaza indicate it did.”

This is not the first time that antisemitism reared its ugly head in the country where numbers of anti-Jewish violence are at an all time high. Belgium’s premier newspaper De Standaard recently published an editorial claiming that Jewish setters were poisoning the water wells of their Palestinian neighbors. Joods Actueel calls the report unfounded.

An annual report released last month found the number of anti-Semitic attacks reported last year in Belgium was at its highest since 2009.

Anti-racism volunteers registered 80 anti-Semitic attacks throughout Belgium in 2012, according to the report by the Antisemitsm.Be watchdog group. The figure represents a 23 percent increase over 2011.