Brussels flags at half mastBrussels, March 23rd, 2016 – ECI condemns the terror attacks which struck Brussels on Tuesday morning, just a few blocks away from the ECI head office by the European Parliament in Brussels.  Whereas all ECI staff and associates are safe, up to 34 people are expected to have lost their lives and another 200 people are injured in the deadliest terror attacks since World War II in Belgium.

In a statement on Tuesday, ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell expressed his condolences to all those who have lost their loved ones and called upon the EU to step up its efforts to root out Jihadist terrorism in Europe and around the world. “Terror does not make any distinction between race or nationality. It needs to be condemned in Paris and Brussels as well as in Jerusalem and Istanbul. It is high time for all nations who value freedom to stand together against those who commit these horrendous crimes and against those who fund them.”

“This attack goes beyond the national boundaries of Belgium, it is an attack at the heart of Europe and the values which we hold dear,” said Sandell, adding that the last 24 hours have brought Brussels to a standstill and as we mourn the death of innocent lives, in this critical hour, we need to show solidarity and respect. It is particularly important to refrain from pointing fingers or making insensitive comments towards others that seek to divide us.

The attacks in Brussels are one continuous attack on all of us, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated very rightly yesterday.  The daily attacks in Israel and “the attacks from Paris to San Bernardino to Istanbul to the Ivory Coast and now to ‪Brussels‬”, they are “one continuous assault on all of us.”  In all these cases the terrorists have no resolvable grievances, “because what they seek is our utter destruction and their total domination. Their basic demand is that we should simply disappear,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu, adding that the only way to defeat terrorism is to join together and fight together.

More than ever before, Europe and Israel need to stand united in order to defeat terrorism.  As ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell emphasised during this month’s European Report programme, “it is very clear that Europe really needs Israel and that we need to work together. When you look at the terror threat that Europe is under, who were the first ones to come to our rescue in Paris, to prevent further bloodshed in Germany and other places in Europe? It was Israeli intelligence and anyone who has a little bit of experience in this field knows that we cannot be isolated from Israel. We need Israel as a partner.”

We face a very real terrorist threat right across our different countries and as Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel stated yesterday, this is a “common fight”.  Freedom was struck in its heart in Brussels, as Paris was a few months ago, as London and Spain were in their turn, he added.

In rooting out extremism, we also have to be clear that radicalisation is underpinned by intolerant ideas which create a climate in which extremists can flourish.  Such ideologies actively promote discrimination, sectarianism and segregation and are hostile to our basic values of democracy, freedom and equality.

As British Prime Minister David Cameron said in his anti-extremism speech in July 2015, these intolerant ideas often “begin with hearing about the so-called Jewish conspiracy and then develop into hostility towards the West and fundamental liberal values, before finally becoming a cultish attachment to death.”  He went on to state plainly that, “if you say ‘violence in London isn’t justified, but suicide bombs in Israel are a different matter’ – then you too are part of the problem”.

ECI calls upon the EU to challenge every part of these hateful ideologies and recognise the dangers they place upon people’s lives, both here in Europe and around the world. We must both support communities that are affected by terrorism and invest in anti-extremism education, which exposes the link between extremism and conspiracy theories and anti-Semitism, in order to be effective in rooting out radicalisation in Europe.

The European Coalition for Israel (ECI) was founded in Brussels in 2003 as a Christian initiative to address the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe.  Today, ECI is active in fostering good relations between Europe and Israel and in combating the latest expressions of anti-Semitism, which include calls for boycotts and the isolation and demonization of the state of Israel. The ECI Annual Policy Conference will take place this year in Brussels on April 21st, 2016.