JTA – The owner of a car repair shop in Belgium said he would not serve Jewish customers to protest Israel’s stance on Russia’s war on Ukraine.
The Forum for Jewish Organizations, a group representing Flemish-speaking Belgian Jews, said it would take legal action against Ludo Eckmanns, the owner of the shop in Stabrück near Antwerp. Denying service to individuals on the basis of their faith, race or sexual orientation is illegal in Belgium.
“As of today, our Jewish customers are no longer welcome to maintain their cars or solve electronic problems,” Eckmanns wrote in an email to Belgian media last week, according to the Jewish group. He noted Israel’s “failure to acknowledge the war crimes” committed by the Russian military in Ukraine.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid confirmed last week that “Russian forces have committed war crimes” in Ukraine, but Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has not been too critical of Russia.
Israeli leaders are balancing complex interests in the conflict, including Russian intervention in neighboring Syria and the safety of Jews in both countries. This approach has allowed Bennett to play a role in seeking to mediate talks between Russia and Ukraine, but it has also drawn criticism of Israel from those who wish to see it take a more assertive stance.
The Forum of Jewish Organizations wrote to Ekmans to say that Jews in Belgium do not decide Israeli foreign policy, the group’s spokesman, Hans Knopp, told the Jewish Telegraph Agency on Sunday. Eckmanns did not respond to requests for comment.
Many business owners and service providers have refused to serve Jews in Belgium in recent years regarding their perception of Israel’s actions.
In 2014, amid a shootout between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, police removed a sign from a Belgian café saying Jews are not allowed after a complaint by an anti-Semitism watchdog.
Also that year, a Belgian doctor refused to treat a Jewish woman with a broken rib, and suggested that she visit Gaza to relieve the pain.
Separately, a store employee in Antwerp allegedly refused to serve a Jewish customer “in protest”, as reported in 2014.