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Belgian report
by Euro Reporter
2015-01-22 06:56:59
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Belgium hunts ringleader of suspected terror cell

The hunt is still on for the ringleader behind a terrorist cell targeted in raids last week. The suspected key link between senior ISIS operatives in Syria and the Belgian terrorist cell, Belgian-Moroccan ISIS fighter Abdelhamid Abaaoud, is still at large, a senior Belgian counterterrorism official said. Abaaoud's last known location was believed to be Greece, the official said.As Belgium's search continues, other European nations are also moving in on suspected Islamist cells amid concerns heightened by the terror attacks in Paris two weeks ago.

Abaaoud is also known as Abou Omar Soussi and Abou Omar al Belgiki, the official said. According to Guy Van Vlierden, a reporter at the Belgian newspaper HLN who tracks Belgian foreign fighters in Syria for the blog "emmejihad," Abaaoud is a 27-year-old from the Molenbeek district of Brussels who traveled to Syria in January 2014 and joined ISIS soon afterward. The two gunmen killed in one of the raids, in the city of Verviers, are Belgians of North African descent from the same Brussels district. They were in phone contact with an ISIS ringleader in Greece, who Belgian authorities believe was probably Abaaoud.

But Belgian authorities have not ruled out the possibility that an Algerian suspect arrested in Greece over the weekend was the key link between the terror cell and ISIS. That 33-year-old suspect was wanted in Belgium on charges of terrorist activity, Greek police said Monday. Belgium is requesting an extradition. One suspect survived the police raid in Verviers, named as Marouane El Bali. He was taken into custody and faces charges of participation in a terrorist organization and possession of explosives with intent to commit a criminal attack, among other charges, said his attorney, Didier De Quevy. But De Quevy said his client was not involved in any terrorism; he was just delivering shoes to a friend when he was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.


Why Belgium's plagiarism verdict on Luc Tuymans is beyond parody

On Tuesday, a Belgian court found the Antwerp-born painter Luc Tuymans guilty of plagiarism, in his use of a photograph of the politician Jean-Marie Dedecker taken by Katrijn van Giel for Belgian newspaper De Standaard. Tuymans is one of Europe’s leading and most influential painters. In Belgium, he is an often outspoken public figure. He held a mid-career retrospective at Tate Modern in 2004, and opens a new exhibition in London next week.

Throughout his career, Tuymans has used photographic source material as a basis for his paintings – images of hospital patients, archive portraits of national socialists and Nazis, Belgian seminarists, Ku Klux Klan leaders. He frequently uses images he has photographed himself, using a Polaroid camera or iPhone, and often rephotographs images from the television, or captures images from YouTube and other sources. These are just a starting point; Tuymans is no photorealist. Instead, his art is founded on a mistrust of all images, whether painted or photographed.

That he reused Van Giel’s photograph of a rightwing Belgian politician, taken in 2010, is not in doubt. Tuymans’s painting is both a portrait of a politician, and a painting of Van Giel’s photograph. Yet there is an enormous difference between the photograph and the painting. Scale is different. Colour is different. Shadows and highlights are shifted, recast, added to and emphasised, abbreviated and deleted. Most of all, surface is different. The painting A Belgian Politician is not a reproduction. Comparing Van Giel’s photograph and a reproduction of Tuymans’ painting levels out the conspicuous fact that paintings and photographs are different kinds of objects, that we read in different ways. Seeing them in a newspaper or online reduces both to the status of flat images. This trivialises the painter’s emphasis on touch, and the way a painting is made, as well as its appearance as a picture. Tuymans was painting the politician’s face, but he was just as much painting the way Dedecker was described in the photograph – including the way the politician’s head was cropped and sliced in the newspaper image.


Are Belgium Public Schools Becoming 'Jew-Free Zones'?

A Belgian watchdog on anti-Semitism warned that the country’s public schools are becoming “Jew-free” zones because of harassment. Joel Rubinfeld, president of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, sounded the alarm in an interview for the weekly Le Vif/L’Express, which was published earlier this month and which revealed that the only Jewish student of the Emile Bockstael high school left it following harassment and threats that she received from classmates after she posted a picture of an Israeli flag on Facebook. The school “has become Judenfrei, there are no more Jewish students there,” Rubinfeld said, using the German-language term that the Nazis applied to locales which had been rendered “free of Jews.”

According to the weekly, the school’s last Jewish pupil, identified only as Sarah, posted a picture of herself holding the Belgian flag alongside the Israeli one in summer. She received 288 abusive comments, including threats, on Facebook, also by classmates and other pupils she did not know. In September, she began attending one of the Brussels region’s three major Jewish schools but the harassments continued. On Sept. 10, she received a photo of a former classmate performing a Nazi salute, telling her she is missed.

Her parents, who have four children, pulled her two older brothers, who are twins, from public schools for similar reasons, the weekly reported. Only their eldest born was able to matriculate in one. Last week, Menachem Margolin, an Israel-born rabbi who runs European Jewish Association lobby group in Brussels, said certain members of European Jewish communities should be permitted to carry firearms to defend themselves against anti-Semitic attacks like the Jan. 7 slaying of four at a kosher supermarket near Paris. On Monday, the CCOJB umbrella group of French-speaking Belgian Jews distanced itself from his call, saying in a statement that it “can only be explained by ignorance and panic.”


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