Marc Weitzmann in Tablet:
Last May 24, a Saturday, at 3:27 p.m., according to the accusatory file, a man appeared at the doorstep of the Jewish Museum of Belgium. Out of his bag he pulled a Magnum .357 and fired. The bullets hit Emanuel and Miriam Riva, a couple of Israeli tourists in their mid-fifties who had just entered the place. Each was struck in the back of the skull, and they died on the spot. (Later on, a witness showing up a few minutes after the killing would post on his Facebook page a picture of Miriam’ s body lying in her blood, her hand still carrying the museum’s pamphlet program; what her children, ages 15 and 16, living in Israel, thought of the photograph is not known.) Letting go of the Magnum, the shooter then took from his bag a Kalashnikov, aimed it at a 65-year-old woman by the name of Dominique Sabrier, and shot her, also in the head.
A retired art publisher of Polish descent, Sabrier had left France for Brussels only two months before. Her reason for moving, ironically enough, was, according to her friends, the anti-Semitic atmosphere that now permeates France. The Toulouse killing had scared her, as had the hate demonstration in Paris the previous winter—when, for the first time since World War II, anti-Jewish slogans were chanted in public in the French capital. In Brussels, a city Sabrier knew, she hoped to live a quiet retirement. She had registered for law classes at the Free University of the town and was volunteering as a tourist guide at the museum.
Alexander Strens, 25, found the time to seek refuge under his reception desk—before the killer found him and shot him, once again in the head. Strens, hired at the museum’s communication department the previous year, was the only victim still alive after the shooting. Sent to the Saint-Pierre hospital of Brussels, he was declared brain dead there the next day. He died on June 6, raising the murder total to four. Although Strens’ mother is Jewish, his father is a Muslim Berber from Morocco and, in accordance with the wishes of both families, he was buried in the Muslim cemetery of Taza.
Then, with Strens—and with no more reason than it had when it started, the massacre ends. The surveillance video shows the shooter running away, bag in hand. He disappears.
Brussels is the capital of Europe. The day after the shooting, an election was held for a new European parliament. Xenophobic nationalist parties across the continent were predicted to win a lot of seats even before the killing, and as soon as the news broke the already perceptible tension among the continental political class was imbued with a new sense of frailty and paranoia: Was the scheduling of the massacre just a coincidence? Or was a message being sent—and by whom? Europe was under siege, no doubt, and humiliated, too.