Things are getting so bad that it has resulted in the government having to raise the threat level scale normally used for measuring terrorism:
The [Foreign Affairs Crisis Center] decided to raise the level of alert due to the impact that Israel's actions in Gaza are having in Belgium. "The participation in the organized protests increases with each day. We recognize that the situation is becoming more explosive", notes Peter Mertens. He therefore decided to increase attention and keep a closer eye on Israeli and palestinian interests in Belgium.
Concretely, this means that "the police presence would be redirected and added to, as necessary." A meeting will be held [last Tuesday] with the Anvers and Brussels police to determine which groups might require additional security precautions.
Mr. Mertens specifies that the threat level has nothing to do with risks from terrorism, and is more the case of a threat against public order.
No doubt incidents like the one taking place on Friday, January 2nd, led to this decision to ratchet up security precautions throughout the nation. At an anti-Israel demonstration of a thousand people on the steps of the Brussels Stock Exchange Friday afternoon, young protestors launched a volley of stones that damaged six cars. A store window was also smashed after the protest. No arrests were made.
The Belgian city of Charleroi, previously given its 15 minutes of infamy through the shocking 2004 suicide bombing of Charleroi resident Muriel Degauque in Iraq, saw the results of this increase in security in action, as the forces of law and order succesfully prevented several dozen masked youths from engaging in vandalism at the tail-end of an anti-Israel protest:
A pro-palestinian protest gave way to several outbursts Saturday afternoon, in the neighborhood of Ville-Haute, in Charleroi ...
Several hundred protestors first gathered together while displaying banners at la place Charles II. A delegation submitted a statement of protest to burgomeister Jean-Jacques Viseur.
This part of the protest went without incident.
However, as the protest dispersed, several dozen youths, several with their faces masked, hurtled down the nearby rue de la Montagne, threatening to smash windows, but were prevented from doing so.
The police had taken the precaution to equip themselves with water pumps but these ended up not being necessary.... Local police made several arrests likely to lead to a hearing by the deputy public prosecutor in court.
Last Monday, January 5th, unknown persons started a fire in front of a Brussels synagogue, blackening the front door. Investigators were not certain about how the fire started, but discounted the possibility of it being a molotov cocktail. The spokesperson for the police suggested, through a tactless analogy, that it might simply be a case of practical jokers taking advantage of the situation in Gaza to throw a little "oil on the fire"...
2 molotov coctails were, however, found among the 93 protestors arrested at a spontaneous, unauthorized "peace" protest in Antwerp two days before, on Saturday January 3rd. They had text-messaged each other about the protest, but made no provisions with authorities to seek the proper permits for their public demonstration; the police, in consultation with Anvers mayor Patrick Janssens, told the gathered crowd to leave, arresting those who would not disperse as directed.
This protest ended better than the one which took place in Antwerp on Wednesday December 31st. Anti-Israeli protestors descended upon Antwerp's Jewish community, which had been heavily defended by a strong police presence. (Watch the following (Flemish-language?) tv news account of the incident, as of the 1:00 mark...)
A protest undertaken on January 9th with the participation of a left-wing Belgian political party turned into a bit of a mess thanks to the undisciplined exuberance of the "anti-violence" protestors in attendance. Almost a thousand people had assembled on that late Friday afternoon at the place du Marché in Liège, where the crowd's spontaneous pro-jihad chants drowned out the official speakers' standard anti-war rhetoric:
Police in Brussels are very concerned about a scheduled protest this coming Sunday, January 11th. Over 100 organizations, including Belgian political parties such as the environmentalist Ecolo party, the center-left cdH (Humanist Democratic Centre) and the Socialist Party, are participating in an event expected to draw several thousand protestors. Expectations from the organizers are that the numbers will in fact top those of their previous protest in Brussels on Wednesday December 31st. Because of the bad publicity resulting from their previous efforts, thoughtful guidelines are being established by the organizers:
The protest went on through a certain confusion, as the organizers' speeches were rendered inaudible by the more virulent cries coming from a core group of young protestors. In-between the "Israel assassin", "Zionist terrorist", "Bush, Olmert, assassins", one could also hear praising the glory of hamas, hezbollah and jihad. ...
The Ecolo party had announced its participation in the protest... the green party announced that they had proposed a resolution demanding that Europe put pressure on Israel for an immediate cease-fire, a proposition that will be tabled in the Chamber's foreign relations commission this coming January 13th.
The League of Belgian Muslims (LMB) has asked the participants to not burn flags during the protest, and to not shout "certain slogans".
Policing measures will be very important. Sensitive areas such as synagogues and certain embassies will be secured...
In the middle of all this flag-burning, stone-throwing, and pro-jihad chanting, Belgium's Jewish community organized a demonstration in support of Israel. The CCOJB ("Comité de Coordination des Organisations Juives de Belgique", the "Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations in Belgium") held a pro-Israel rally in front of Iran's embassy in Brussels. From the CCOJB's official site:
1,000 people were in attendance to denounce the responsability of Iran in supporting the terrorist organization Hamas. CCOJB President Joel Rubinfeld and federal deputy Denis Ducarme delivered speeches offering their support for the populations [Israeli and Palestinian] in the region who are taken hostage by Hamas and its backers in Iran.Need we even ask, if police found any molotov cocktails among these protestors..? Was there even a remote chance that they would burn flags, riot, and storm the embassy in a fit of violent rage..?
"By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs from thistles?
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit..."