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Netanyahu slams 'hypocritical' European leaders over Belgium shooting

Israel's Prime Minister hits out at European leaders for failing to condemn Saturday's shooting at the Jewish Museum in Belgium
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticised European leaders Sunday (Wikicommons/US State Dept)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit out at European leaders on Sunday, accusing them of failing to condemn a shooting at the Jewish Museum in the Belgian capital Brussels, after it emerged an Israeli couple were among the three people killed in the attack on 24 May.

“There are elements in Europe who hasten to condemn every construction of an apartment in Jerusalem, but don’t hurry to condemn, or else meekly condemn, the murder of Jews,” Netanyahu told ministers at a cabinet meeting according to Israeli daily Haaretz.

“We will stand up against this hypocrisy, we will protest it,” he added. “We will continue to tell the truth incessantly, we will continue to fight terror and continue to fortify and build our state.”

Netanyahu, however, praised the “determined stance” taken by Pope Francis against anti-Semitism, as the religious leader arrived in Bethlehem as part of his first visit to the Middle East.

“We appreciate the pope’s determined stance against anti-Semitism, especially in light of the growing hatred of Jews that we are witness to in these days,” Netanyahu said at the cabinet meeting.

The shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels left two men and a woman dead with another in hospital seriously wounded, after an armed man got out of a car and began to fire at the museum’s entrance. The head of Belgium’s league against anti-Semitism, Joel Rubinfeld, told AFP the attack was the result of “a climate of hate” against the country’s 42,000 strong Jewish community.

Contrary to Netanyahu’s accusations, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton strongly condemned the attack shortly after it occurred on Saturday, stating “there must be no impunity for terrorism”.

“I condemn unreservedly the dreadful attack today at the Jewish Museum in Brussels,” Ashton said. “I send my condolences to the families of the victims and express my solidarity with the Belgian authorities and the Jewish community,” she added. “Everything possible must be done to find those who carried out this attack.”

It emerged on Sunday that two of those killed were an Israeli couple in their mid-50s from Tel Aviv, according to Paul Hirschson, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson who spoke to the Associated Press. Hirschson said the attack appeared to be specifically targeted at Israelis or Jews, although Israel will wait for Belgian authorities to provide further information.

“An Israeli couple visiting the Jewish museum leaves too much to the imagination,” he said.

A man arrested on Saturday evening in connection with the shooting has been released without charge and authorities are now embarking on a manhunt for a different suspect.