Wiesenthal Center Reaction to Belgian Hotline Operator Telling Jewish Caller that Israel does not Exist

Tel.: +33(0)1 47 23 76 37
Fax: +33(0)1 47 20 84 01

Paris, 31 March 2016

Upon learning that a Belgian operator working on an emergency hotline for the recent terror attacks told a Jewish caller that Israel does not exist, the Wiesenthal Center’s Director for International Relations wrote to Belgian Interior Minister, Jan Jambon, saying, "Our members were sickened to learn how a Jewish community volunteer was mistreated by a staff member at your Ministry's Crisis Centre, while seeking a release from hospital to repatriate two Israelis injured in last week's Brussels terror attacks."

The letter noted the hotline official's response, “That’s actually… See… Back to Palestine.” The Jewish caller insisted: “Not Palestine, Israel,” prompting another correction by the operator, who retorted: “Yes, but that was before Palestine, of course.” He also said about Israel: “It’s called Palestine, sir.”

“He then launched into a political assault on the existence of the State of Israel. So intent was he on wiping Israel off the map, he was oblivious to the plight of the terror victims he was employed to assist."

Samuels complimented the Minister, noting that the employee, who identified himself as 'Zakaria,' has been dismissed by your contractor IPG Belgium, adding, "Your Ministry and IPG Belgium must now also vet every member at the Crisis Centre hotline to ensure that this outrageous behaviour not be repeated and underline the fundamental empathy required in their task. Even part-time employees or interns should each sign an enforceable commitment to eschew all forms of discrimination in their work."

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, SWC Associate Dean stated, “Anti-Israel sentiment has been deeply embedded in Europe. For some not even Islamist suicide bombings in their own country will impact on this hatred. Unless and until Europeans figure out the difference between good guys and bad guys, the terrorists will not be defeated.”

For further information contact Shimon Samuels 00 33 6 09 77 01 58, join the Center on Facebook, www.facebook.com/simonwiesenthalcenter, or follow @simonwiesenthal for news updates sent direct to your Twitter feed.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Palatino).