An operator in Belgium’s federal helpline for the terrorist attacks in Brussels told a Jewish caller that Israel does not exist, and is in fact called Palestine, according to a story published in the Belgian press.
A Jewish Coordination Committee representative tried to get permits to send wounded Jews to Israel for treatment following Brussels attacks.
The call to the Belgian Interior Ministry’s hotline, IPG Action Crisis Center, which followed the attacks on the Brussels airport, was recorded and the audio file posted on the website of Joods Actueel, a Belgian Jewish monthly.
The call centre issued a public apology on Thursday and confirmed that the offender’s job was “terminated with immediate effect.”
Here is a transcript of the call:
Volunteer: Good afternoon, my name is X, I am a volunteer in the Jewish coordination committee of Antwerp. We are contacted by persons… we have 2 persons of the Jewish community that were hurt in the attacks in the airport.
Crisis Centre: Yes sir.
Volunteer: They are prepared to be transported back to Israel. Our volunteers are busy with it and take care of everything, but we received information from the hospital that we need special papers from the police that they can be released. Is this correct and to who should we ask that? Can you tell me more about that?
CC: That is effectively.. I will take a look. So … they go back to Palestine.
Volunteer: Not Palestine, Israel.
CC: Yes, but that was before Palestine, of course. OK.
Volunteer: Could you repeat that again, please? What is the name?
CC: That … Palestine.
Volunteer: Can I get your name, please?
CC: Of course, Zakaria.
Volunteer: And you know only Palestine?
Volunteer: You don’t know Israel, only Palestine?
CC: I know the Jews went there, that Palestine received them and that there is a war between Israel and Palestine, of course. And the occupation… that’s what’s on the news, of course.
Volunteer: Can you help me with the question I have, or not?
CC: Naturally, of course. Thus they go back to Palestine and ask that they could get an attestation. Voila, it is noted.
Volunteer: Can I have you name again, I didn’t understand it well.
CC: That is correct.
Volunteer: Zakaria what? What is your last name?
CC: I am not obliged to give it.
Volunteer: Thank you very much.
Michael Freilich, editor-in-chief of Joods Actueel, said it “defies imagination” that a Belgian state employee would display the anti-Israeli behavior that is commonplace in Arab countries.
Referring to the conversation as a “strictly isolated incident,” IPG said that “goes against all [its] values and rules of conduct.”
Moreover, the incident sharply contrasts with the excellent dedication shown by our crisis center teams, who have answered thousands of calls, day and night. We are very grateful for their commitment. IPG apologizes to all who may have been offended by the acts of our former employee. IPG would like to take this opportunity to express our deepest sympathy to all the victims of the tragic events of last week in Brussels, as well as their relatives.
The recording’s release follows at least four recorded cases in which people who either spoke Arabic or wore Muslim traditional garb, destroyed, concealed or removed Israeli flags at an impromptu memorial space set up for the attacks’ victims at Place de la Bourse in Brussels. It features many flags, including those of Arab countries and the Palestinian Authority.