Mystery In Belgium

May 27, 2014 3:02 p.m.

Many of us are concerned about the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe. And it was in that context that we heard the news of a gunman who opened fire and killed four people at a Jewish Museum in Brussels on Saturday. But it seems like there may have been both less and more to this killing than it first appeared.

The short version is that rather than an anti-Semitic attack on a Jewish institution in which the particular people killed are randomly chosen this may have been a targeted killing or assassination, possibly tied to the Israeli security services.

The big clue is this article by Amir Oren in Ha’aretz. The piece reads very vague. Oren notes the seeming professionalism of the killer, as revealed on surveillance videotapes of the crime. And he notes that the primary victims, Emmanuel and Mira Riva, were Israeli civil servants. Still, it’s all very vague and speculative.

Get TPM in your inbox, twice weekly.
Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

But as Jeff Goldberg notes in a Facebook post, Oren’s article reads like someone trying to say something within the confines of Israeli military censorship. (Oren is a military and defense writer. So this really isn’t the sort of thing you expect he’d just be spit-balling.) The Guardian also picks up on the story, adding some more details, including the claim that Belgian authorities are considering both the hate crime theory and retaliation killing.

Experts in Israel and elsewhere have said the manner of the killings suggested planning and execution by a trained specialist. On Sunday, Belgian police released a 30-second video clip from the museum’s security cameras showing a man wearing a dark cap, sunglasses and a blue jacket enter the building, take a Kalashnikov rifle out of a bag, and shoot into a room before calmly walking away.

Claude Moniquet, a Belgian counter-terrorism expert, told RTL that the perpetrator appeared to be a “cold killer, someone who had already seen death and already killed”.

In short, the video suggests the killer was a professional.

Military censorship in Israel remains very real. And I’m told the Israeli rumor mill is rife with rumors of intelligence work of one or both Rivas. But military censorship seems to be keeping most of it out of the press.

So if this was a retaliation killing tied to Israeli spy battles, why these two, a couple in their fifties with seemingly prosaic jobs? Oren speculates that it may have been a misidentification or simply payback for some other attack. In truth, when clandestine spy networks mount operations like this there’s so much we don’t know it’s almost hopeless to speculate.

But the news coming out of Israel strongly suspects that this was targeted rather than being a generic hate crime.

Latest Edblog
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Senior Editor for Content Strategy and Audience Development:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: