April 8, 2004
Arab Militants Threaten Antwerp Diamond Trade
A militant Arab group in Belgium openly threatened the Jewish community in Antwerp's diamond industry, Reuters reported April 7. "Attacks in Antwerp are nearly unavoidable," said Ahmed Azzuz, a leader of the Arab European League.
In Knack, a Belgian weekly newspaper, Azzuz appeared to condition the threat upon local Jewish denouncements against Israel: "AEL calls upon the Antwerp Jewish Community to cancel its support for Jewish policy as fast as possible and distance itself from the State of Israel," he said. "Antwerp is an obvious target. The diamond sector openly supports the Zionist regime." Azzuz added that other Islamic militant groups, such as Palestinian-based Hamas, could target the city of Antwerp itself.
The Diamond High Council (HRD) immediately filed a complaint against AEL through a Belgian public prosecutor's office, and separately asked for increased police protection to guarantee safety in the diamond sector. "It is the first time the diamond sector has been named as a target in such an explicit manner," said Peter Meeus, HRD Managing Director. Meeus also said he felt AEL was importing the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians into Belgium.
Belgian police reportedly reacted to the threat by adding rigorous security measures.
Nearly 20,000 out of Belgium's 50,000 Jews reportedly work in Antwerp's diamond sector. Belgian Jews have complained of a rise in Belgian anti-Semitism in recent years.
by Robert Weldon, G.G.