Belgian police have just finished investigating a complaint of a violent, rabidly anti-Semitic assault at a café patio in Brussels, during which a European Union official physically assaulted a female co-worker while uttering invective such as “dirty Jewess,” all in full view of many witnesses.
The incident took place at the “Italiano” café, close to European Union headquarters in the city. A 50-year-old Italian woman, a department head at the European Council, saw a man holding a metal plaque with the name “Mussolini” written on it while loudly praising the fascist leader of Italy. She remarked to him that “he was still a dictator.”
From that point on things escalated rapidly. “Dirty Jewess Hitler should have exterminated all Jews, just like Jews today are exterminating Palestinians,” he replied. It turned out that he was Stefan Gersh, a Maltese citizen, European Union official and the president of an EU labor union called Generation 2004.
According to the woman’s complaint, he didn’t stop there, hitting her on the head with the metal plaque he was holding, striking her and then seizing her by the throat and starting to choke her. Other people at the café then intervened and grabbed him, while he resisted, shouting, “All you Jews should have been killed.”
Some visitors to the café recognized the assailant, who had left in the meantime. They gave the woman, who is not Jewish, his name. She hurried to the police with a friend to lodge a complaint.
The next morning she felt pain and went to the Park Leopold hospital, where doctors diagnosed a concussion and internal hemorrhaging. Since then the woman, who asked that her name not be published, is also seeing a psychologist, suffering from anxiety and taking tranquilizers.
In the last few days she turned to Joel Rubinfeld, head of LBCA, the Belgian League against Anti-Semitism, giving him the details of the assault and copies of the complaint she filed, as well as detailed testimony from her friend who was beside her during the incident. Rubinfeld started investigating the incident and found further testimony from people present. The incident may have been captured on nearby surveillance cameras.
Based on Belgian laws against racism, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, the league also filed an official complaint against Gersh.
Rubinfeld told Haaretz on Wednesday, “This serious incident illustrates yet again that you don’t have to be Jewish in order to be a victim of anti-Semitism. In light of the multiple witness accounts, I’m sure that the ones responsible at the European Union will take the right steps, including firing the assailant. In the meantime we have demanded that he be suspended until the end of the investigation.”
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