The Brussels Jewish Museum murders came as no surprise to the city’s Jews

The Jewish Museum in Brussels, where three people were shot dead on Saturday. Photograph: Zuma/Rex

The attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, which killed four people, has already started to take its psychological toll not only on the city’s small Jewish community, to which I belong, but on all believers in diversity and peace in Europe.

The CCTV images released by police are haunting as we watch an individual who appears calm and focused throughout. His actions seem simply incomprehensible. As a rabbi familiar with this museum and with many of the people who have devoted themselves to its ideas and message, I was shocked. But to any Jew living in Brussels the shootings did not come as a surprise.

Over the years, with the constant increase in verbal and physical attacks, with the unceasing rhetoric of anti-Jewish speeches emanating from radical groups, this tiny Jewish community has long feared that such an act would one day take place.

At this stage, the identity of the killers has not been established. Speculation is running high that radicalised young Muslims, possibly inspired by radical preachers, carried out the attack in an antisemitic rampage. However, it would be misleading to limit the source of antisemitic abuse to Islamic radicalism. European, and in particular Belgian, antisemitism is more complex.

A violent attack against Jews in the heart of Europe does not happen in a vacuum. The oxygen and water to grow the seeds of violence planted within radicalised youth are found not only in their homes and communities but also in the general atmosphere prevailing in the country and in Europe at large.

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