A 12-year-old Jewish boy studying in a school in Rennes-le-Château, south of Brussels, claims to have been the victim of an anti-Semitic attack by three fellow students, in what his mother has described as a “gas attack in showers.”
The Jewish boy’s mother filed a complaint last Thursday to the local police which is currently investigating the claims. The school itself also opened an internal investigation. According to the individual responsible for the investigation at the municipality of Rennes-le-Château, it was still not possible to determine the veracity of the charges leveled by the pupil. He also said that the city municipality is considering turning to an outside official in order to conduct the investigation.
The pupil’s mother has been quoted in the Belgian media saying that her son told her about the trauma which he underwent in elementary school. The boy complained about verbal and physical attacks which included obscenities, anti-Semitic jokes and punches which continued for between one and two years. Three pupils, one of whom is the son of one of the teachers, are responsible for the alleged attack.
According to the mother, the systematic abuse began in 2015 when her son told her that he had been “gassed in the showers” when the bullies sprayed him with deodorant and beat him with mops on his hands and on his back. The boy claimed that he had repeatedly informed one of the school teachers of the abuse for two years but its significance was downplayed. “My son will leave the school soon. It is important that the teachers take his complaints seriously,” she said.
The Belgian newspapers have reported that the case caused concern throughout the city, in the school, and in the city and municipality.
School officials claimed that they were aware that there was fighting between the children but they were unaware of any kind of anti-Semitic dimension. The three children, who were suspected of committing the anti-Semitic attack, denied the claims and even said that they joked with the Jewish boy and that they played games to see who could last the longest under while being sprayed with deodorant.
President of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism (BLAA), Joel Rubinfeld, said that he collected testimony from the students who said that they spoke about Hitler in the school. Moreover, Rubinfeld claimed that the testimonies corroborated that the same Jewish student was indeed assaulted. “I am concerned by the increase is such incidents in schools in Brussels and the general area,” he said. He further expressed his dismay that the municipality and the school did not do enough to handle the matter.
Israel’s ambassador to Belgium, Simon Frankel, commented on the issue: “The Israeli embassy is not familiar with the facts and will follow the case together with the BLAA.