As you can see on the video above, at 3:27 p.m. last Saturday afternoon May 24, a young man in a baseball cap and sunglasses entered the Brussels Jewish museum, produced a Kalashnikov from a bag, and calmly fired into a gallery from a doorway before departing the museum on foot, unhurried. He killed an Israeli couple in their 50s along with a Frenchwoman. (A fourth victim died the next day.)
The case has drawn international expressions of concern as possibly being an anti-Semitic act in the midst of far-right gains in European elections. And true to form, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is milking the case for all it’s worth. But the latest reports suggest that the attack may have been an assassination targeting the couple, who were posted to the Israeli embassy in Berlin– the Frenchwoman being collateral damage.
The case is interesting to me (and Scott Roth, who landed on it first) because of the daring and irresponsible assumptions that Netanyahu has made about it. This man cannot open his mouth without damaging his reputation. (And still he gets to boss our president.)
Here’s a wrapup of responses…
The killings happened on May 24. That night the Israeli government issued this statement from Netanyahu explaining why the killings had occurred: “because of constant incitement against Jews and their state”:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening, strongly condemns the murder that was perpetrated at the Jewish Museum in Brussels and shares in the grief of the families of the victims. “This act of murder is the result of constant incitement against Jews and their state. Slander and lies against the State of Israel continue to be heard on European soil even as the crimes against humanity and acts of murder being perpetrated in our region are systematically ignored. Our response to this hypocrisy is to constantly state the truth, continue a relentless fight against terrorism and build up our strength,” the Prime Minister said.
But on Sunday the 25th, a Belgian investigator was agnostic about the motive. She is also on the videotape above– which Belgians released to try and get help in finding the killer:
The deputy public prosecutor, Ine Van Wymersch… said there was no claim of responsibility and added: “I cannot confirm that it is a terrorist or antisemitic act.”
That Sunday, even as he was hosting the Pope, Netanyahu repeatedly took to twitter to explain and condemn the killings as anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist attack.
Last’s night’s murder in Brussels is the result of constant incitement against Israel by various elements in the ME and in Europe itself.
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) May 25, 2014
Netanyahu got a call from the Belgian Prime Minister.
The Belgian PM expressed shock over the murders, condemned manifestations of Antisemitism & sent condolences to the families of the victims. — PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) May 25, 2014
Then Netanyahu faulted other European leaders for Not getting in touch with him over the murders!
Prime Minister Netanyahu to Belgian Prime Minister Di Rupo: “As of now, you are the only European leader who has called me on this issue. — Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) May 25, 2014
The State Department briefing on Wednesday led off with a condemnation of the killings, but Jen Psaki was careful not to say explicitly that they were anti-Semitic.
The United States strongly condemns Saturday’s deadly attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. We express our deepest condolences to the families of the victims. There is never any justification for these hateful attacks against innocent civilians, nor for prejudice against the Jewish people or the state of Israel.
The Turkish foreign ministry also expressed concern about anti-Semitism. From the J Post:
The ministry expressed its concern over the violent incident and its possible anti-Semitic motives in light of the results of the EU parliamentary elections that saw seats gained by far-right parties, known for their radical nationalistic policies.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency ran an alarmist piece calling the murders a terrorist act, suggesting that “Islamists” were behind it, and quoting members of “a beleaguered Belgian Jewish community” who said they expected such an attack:
Mischael Modrikamen, the Jewish leader of Belgium’s small, centrist Parti Populaire [said]… “Sadly, however, the actual attack comes as no surprise to us after years of living in an atmosphere of rampant anti-Semitism that often leads to violence.”…
Within hours of the attack, the local Jewish community and the European Jewish Congress’ Brussels-based Security and Crisis Center were operating a crisis management room complete with a telephone hotline and website — testament to years of preparation for a terrorist attack on one of Europe’s most at-risk communities.
The UN Security Council condemned the attack and said it might have an anti-Semitic motivation.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has condemned “in the strongest terms” the recent terrorist attack against the Jewish Museum in Brussels, which resulted in loss of life and injuries and may have had a possible anti-Semitic motivation behind it….
“The members of the Security Council strongly condemned all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, especially against an institution whose mission has always been to promote openness and tolerance,” stated the 15-member body.
Now let’s move on to the spook theories. That guy in the video sure looks like a spook to me. The Guardian has now run a story saying that the attack may have been a targeted assassination on the two Israelis:
Experts in Israel and elsewhere have said the manner of the killings suggested planning and execution by a trained specialist.
Here’s what’s known about the Israeli couple:
Israeli media reports said the Rivas were accountants formerly in government service. Emmanuel Riva worked for an official agency called Nativ, which dealt with the emigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union. Mira Riva was employed by the prime minister’s office – often a euphemism for the Mossad and Shin Bet secret services. Both had been posted to Israel’s embassy in Berlin.
And today the JTA is running a story that cites a Haaretz theory that the couple were undercover agents and the attack was aimed at settling scores.
On Monday, the Israeli daily Haaretz published an analysis on the shooting titled “The Brussels Jewish museum shooting: score-settling or coincidence?”
In it, columnist Amir Oren wrote that the two Israelis were former government employees. Emmanuel Riva worked as an accountant for the Ministry of Finance and Nativ, a government body that facilitates immigration from the former Soviet Union. His wife worked as an accountant for the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office.
Oren suggested Mira Riva’s real employer was the Mossad, although another Israeli journalist known for his deep sources in the intelligence establishment, Yossi Melman, wrote in the Jerusalem Post that such a conclusion was purely speculative.
Oren wrote that “there was no reason for a hostile country like Iran or an enemy organization like Hezbollah to target either Riva in Brussels,” but added: “Still, perhaps the murder in Brussels was no ‘hate crime’ or ‘anti-Semitic attack’ but a deliberate assassination. This possible hypothesis is supported by the documentation of the killer’s actions. The cameras recorded what seems like professional score-settling.”
Fascinating. I return to my main theme. Why is Netanyahu making such irresponsible wild declarations about the case? For one thing, because Zionism justifies itself by citing persistent anti-Semitism and is eager to find evidence of same. I remind you that Netanyahu jumped on this case within hours of the killings last Saturday. As to his other possible motivations, I leave that to the authors of thrillers.
Postscript: Richard Silverstein was on this story days ago.