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Is antisemitism on the rise in Brussels?

Is antisemitism on the rise in Brussels?

In recent weeks a swastika was daubed on a tree in the Ter Kamerenbos Park and a car was spotted in Brussels with the numberplate “HH – 88”, a reference to a greeting used by nazis. Swastikas were also daubed on the front of a house in the municipality of Elsene. But does this mean that antisemitism is on the rise in the capital? Several experts told the Brussels regional news platform Bruzz that they believe it is. 

At the end of January, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Israeli Ambassador shared a photograph and film footage on social media featuring a swastika that had been daubed onto a tree in fluorescent paint. The tree was next to a road in the Ter Kamerenbos Park. Previously a swastika had been spotted on the on a temporary road sign in Elsene (Brussels).

Last week a Mercedes jeep with the registration number “HH-88” was spotted being driven through the capital’s streets. “HH” is an abbreviation for the nazi greeting “Heil Hitler” and “88” referrers to the letter “H” that I the 8th letter in the alphabet.

The Federal Equal Opportunities Centre Unia has been aware of the numberplate and another similar numberplate for several years now and has already received around a dozen complaints about them. However, sources close to the Federal Transport Minister Georges Gilkinet (Francophone green) say that it is not easy to get a numberplate that has already been issued revoked.

Last week swastikas were daubed on the fronts of two building in the Brussels municipality of Elsene. The Mayor of Elsene Christos Doulkeridis (Francophone green) wrote on his social media account that the swastikas will be removed as soon as possible, and the police will increase the number of patrols in the area where the incident occurred. 


The former Vice-Chairwoman of the Coordination Committee of Jewish Organisations in Belgium is calm in her reaction to the recent incidents. Ms Gutman told Bruzz that “Antisemitism be it visible or invisible never went away. To my mind it would seem highly probable that it is on the rise given the large amount of negative reporting about Israel and there is also a lot of ignorance about that country and about the Jewish people”.

Figures contained in’s latest annual report show that 2021 was a record year for reports of antisemitism in Belgium with 119 reports of antisemitism being registered of which a considerable number were in Brussels. 

Impact of the virtual world

The Director of the Hannah Arend Institute Christophe Busch says that it is all too evident that antisemitism is on the rise.

“This is apparent from all kinds of research. And there is something to say for the view that people don’t always differentiate between the policies pursued by the state of Israel and Judaism. However, what is even more crucial are the toxic frames that are working under the waterline. This underground extremism that has been lurking under the surface has been a headache for the security services for years”.  

The fact that swastikas have appeared at various places in Brussels and that individuals have no qualms about driving around in a car with a registration number that is a clear reference to the Nazis are evidence of the growing antisemitism that Mr Busch has been warning about for some time.

“In the virtual world you see a growth in the popularity of certain trends such as “blue the Jew”.  

Individuals are coloured blue, the colour that people turn when they have been poisoned with Zyklon B, one of the agents used by the Nazis to murder millions of people in their death camps. Meanwhile, complot theories are containing more and more antisemitic elements.

Mr Busch adds that the antisemitic graffiti and the numberplate are symptomatic of the mainstream of this kind of “toxic frames”. 

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