As memorial services are held across Belgium, the world comes together in solidarity to unite in its mourning of the victims showcased over the past weeks by the Belgium flag being projected onto world monuments in France, Italy and the United Kingdom. Just as Parisians were paying their respects adorning the Place de la Republique square with flowers, candles and messages of togetherness in against international terrorism, so too did Belgians have to create a makeshift shrine for their own citizens at Place de la Bourse.
However, whilst the majority seek for hope, humanity and togetherness in this time of international mourning there are those that see this as a window of opportunity for vilification, division and inhumanity. Happening barely over 48 hours into the three days of national mourning declared by the Belgian government had individuals attempted to steer attention away from the victims to a conflict that had absolutely zero connection to the attacks.
Unfortunately we have become accustomed to the unbalanced victimisation of Israel, however for those that aren’t, this may be ‘shocking’ as the Daily Mail aptly titled its coverage of a video that shows a woman ripping up an Israeli flag to replace it with a Palestinian one, whilst the other video shows a man laying a Palestinian flag on top of another Israeli flag at the candlelit vigil
It seems trivial though to even explain the monumental amount of disrespect these morally corrupt activists show for both Israel and the victims of the attacks, as to so rapidly politicise their deaths is a cheap move that resembles an adolescent game of one-upmanship to demonise and ostracize Israel. In what is almost a metaphorical illustration of the BDS movement’s intentions to wipe Israel off the map, it is this unjustifiable, unreasonable criticism and unfair treatment of Israel which seeks to destroy any dialogue and trust amongst Israelis that a lasting peace settlement can ever be achieved.
However, it is the irony of these individuals’ acts that is hard to ignore as it can be said that Israel amongst all nations, shares Belgium’s grief the furthest. For example, daily life in the Kibbutz’s straggling the Gaza border live in fear as recent reports suggest an expansion of the tunnel network built by Hamas terrorists that forced Israel into a conflict in 2014 and one that will seemingly re-emerge, pushing Israel’s Defence Forces into yet another operation aimed at destroying this underground network.
Furthermore, the irony of these acts also lends itself towards the view that the perpetrators decision to desecrate another nation’s flag signify the same levels of intolerance and discrimination that have been demonstrated by Islamic State throughout the entire Syria conflict. Perhaps their sympathies lie with the Islamic State and Hamas’s long term stated goal of the destruction of Israel, this is an increasing and especially worrying thought as IS militants currently move across Israel’s southern border where its combatants battle with Egypt and Israel’s border defences in the Sinai desert.
Yet, this piece shouldn’t be about defending Israel’s right to exist and to repeat the arguments that explain the vital role it plays in countering international terrorism. My intention isn’t to rob the attention and respects that we should be paying to those that lost their lives unlike the individuals who appear in the videos so clearly attempt to do.
Ultimately, their actions were an unwarranted and extreme gesture of hate that hijacked a memorial service for victims of terror. If we allow such acts to go unnoticed, be it from anti-Israel activists, Far Right protestors or any group that seeks to take advantage of the chaos pouring out of Syria conflict, the international community will be unable to establish credible partners to defend against international terrorism.
Just as the attackers used their lives as a means for political ends, so too did these individuals attempt to utilise the deaths of innocent victims to achieve a political goal in a despicable manner. It is groups like these that undermine and perpetuate the war on terror and the Israeli / Palestinian conflict. If the fight against international terrorism is going to make any headway a more solid trust needs to be developed amongst international communities and our security services as well as a common strategy and goal towards defeating Islamic State. It is vital that we ignore those that attempt to divide and squander the unity that is needed in the fight against the global Jihadi threat, once and only when this is achieved can we produce a more meaningful solution that will accompany a positive and more secure outcome for the future.