Former EU commissioner Frits Bolkestein’s advice to recognizable Jews in the Netherlands to leave for the USA or Israel, caused quite an uproar. Bolkestein later clarified that his remarks were meant as a wake up call in light of the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe.
The author of the book, Manfred Gerstenfeld (JCPA) is a Dutch Israeli expert on European anti-Semitism. He wrote the book because he believes that the treatment of Jews in the Netherlands provides insight to the society as a whole. He also says that the situation in the Netherlands mirrors the problems of the Jews in other parts of Europe.
Indeed, last week Belgian blogger Brabosch published an article about a recent RTBF TV news item. RTBF reported an increase of 100 % in Jewish emigration from Belgium this year, for reasons of anti-Semitism.
The explosion in anti-Semitic incidents in the Netherlands has been largely blamed upon the Muslim population in that country. Roughly one million Muslims live in the Netherlands compared to an estimated 40.000 Jews. But the rise in anti-Semitism in the Netherlands since 2000, is part of a much broader problem. Gerstenfeld tracks it back to the Dutch indifference and ignorance towards the fate of the Dutch Jews during the Holocaust. However, a largely unnoticed remark by Bolkestein about the link between the rise in anti-Semitism and the Israel Arab conflict could offer more insight to the root cause of the current problem.
The year 2000 also marked the beginning of the second intifada and ever since most Dutch media have conducted a relentless disinformation campaign about Israel.
It is this campaign that has changed the whole climate in which the debate about Israel in the Netherlands is taking place. In the resulting environment, Dutch Jews are held responsible for events taking place in Israel and ultimately it is no longer taboo to make anti-Semitic comments.
The Dutch media succeeded in distorting the story about Bolkestein’s remarks as well. Several headlines in news reports suggested that Bolkestein wanted the Jews out of the Netherlands. When interviewed about this, Gerstenfeld responded that the Dutch media misquoted Bolkestein’s remarks in order to make him look bad because of his support for Israel.
The Dutch mainstream paper Trouw went to lengths in order to prove Gerstenfeld and Bolkestein wrong when it published an article that presented recent data about anti-Semitism on the internet. These data was meant to prove that native Dutchmen were responsible for most anti Semitic incidents.
Trouw also wrote that Gerstenfeld exaggerated the rise in anti-Semitism. The paper argued that the data – which was provided by MDI, a hotline for reporting racist incidents – showed only a slight increase in the incidents. However, Trouw omitted the fact that MDI refuses to act on a great number of reported anti-Semitic incidents because it uses an outdated definition of anti-Semitism.
Trouw also ignored a recent report by the Center for Information and Documentation about Israel (CIDI) that presented clear evidence of the rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Dutch society
Trouw furthermore distorted Gerstenfeld’s conclusions about were the real responsibility for the increase of anti-Semitism lies. In fact, Gerstenfeld proves that the Dutch had a record of anti-Semitism long before Muslim immigrants arrived. In an op-ed in the Dutch paper De Volkskrant, he claimed that the Jews in Netherlands have always been the victim of a lack of action against anti-Semitism by the Dutch government.
For example during the Second World War, the Dutch government in exile in England displayed total indifference to the plight of Dutch Jewry. This policy even continued when in 1943 the Dutch ministers received evidence about the Nazi genocide against Dutch Jews. After World War 2, the Dutch government continued this policy of indifference towards the remaining Jewish survivors of the dead camps. For example, the treasury in the Netherlands helped the stockbrokers who had collaborated with the Nazi’s. But it was only towards the end of the twentieth century that the Jewish victims were finally compensated for their losses.
Indifference and ignorance
Contemporary attitudes towards anti-Semitism by the Dutch people and government show the same indifference and ignorance. A Dutch blogger, Asher Ben Avraham reported that during the last Chanuka celebration, the new mayor of Amsterdam van der Laan, called on the Dutch Jews not to stir up their own fear. That sounded pretty much as if the Jews were responsible for the disasters that have befallen them. It also suggested that the fear for racist attacks is the result of a psychological problem.
The Jewish leader of the Dutch socialist party PvdA Job Cohen came up with an even more disturbing idea about the problems with the Dutch Muslims. He compared their situation with the fate of the Dutch Jews during the beginning of the Nazi occupation.
The well known Dutch rabbi Evers told the paper Algemeen Dagblad that he has stopped using the Amsterdam light rail after he became the victim of repeated verbal attacks. He also reported that there are no-go zones for Jews in Amsterdam. Evers is well known for his blunt observations about attitudes towards Jews in Dutch society. In a radio show in 2001, a Dutch caller attacked Evers about the Israeli actions during Operation Defensive Shield.
In response, Evers argued that even though the Dutch have the reputation of being a tolerant nation they are in fact not. He said that ever since the Jews lived in The Netherlands they were officially treated as equals but in practice they remained aliens. This explains for a great part the indifference towards the plight of the Jews in the Netherlands during WO2, he said. Some 75 % of Dutch Jewry were murdered by the Nazi’s.
Wake up call
By now it is clear that Bolkestein’s remarks were meant as severe criticism of the way the Dutch government is handling the rise in anti-Semitism. He also meant to deliver a wake up call to Dutch society about the renewed indifference to the plight of the Jews and said that the problem is in fact a European problem. In an interview for Dutch TV, he expressed his concern for the wellbeing of the Jewish people and explained that contemporary anti-Semitism in the Netherlands has a clear link with the Israel Arab conflict. He did not expect that conflict to be resolved any time soon. He expressed pessimism towards the future of the Jews in the Netherlands, hence his advice to emigrate.
He also criticized the Dutch government for not providing adequate protection to the Jewish community.
Link to media reporting
However, one important issue Bolkestein did not address was how exactly the link between anti-Semitism in the Netherlands and the Mideast conflict came into being.
The recent CIDI study however, clearly shows the link between events in Israel and the drastic increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the Netherlands. CIDI recorded an explosion of anti Semitic incidents during operation Cast Lead in 2009.
At the same time an extensive investigation by two Dutch NGO’s into the way two main news providers in the Netherlands reported the war in Gaza, revealed that much of the Dutch public was effectively exposed to the Hamas narrative throughout the war. The reports published by WAAR and Israel Facts Monitor Group, proved that the Israeli narrative was ignored completely and that many reports contained incorrect or distorted information.
The investigated media, the state funded NOS Journaal TV news show and the leading daily NRC, together with many other media outlets in the Netherlands, continue to mislead the Dutch public as to the Middle East and Israel to this day. Some of the media even openly resort to incitement and publish outright lies. NRC for example, recently published a classic libel written by her Israel correspondent. In the article he dehumanized Israeli Jews and depicted them as hooligans. RTL 4 Television broadcasted a report during the WW2 Memorial Day on May 4 in which it highlighted the suffering of Palestinians living in the area of road 443 between Jerusalem and Modi’in.
Standing right next to an (invisible) almost finished new IDF checkpoint that meant to control renewed Palestinian traffic on the road, reporter Conny Mus said that the army had totally ignored a High Court order to open the road.
The long term exposure to this sort of biased and distorted reporting seems to be the main reason why Muslim immigrants and native Dutchmen alike develop anti- Israel and in some cases anti-Semitic views. Dutch public opinion about Israel is after all largely based on the mainstream media reporting. Meanwhile the new Dutch foreign minister Rosenthal seems to have understood this link as well. In an interview with Elsevier magazine he said the Dutch government will work to resist Israel bashing. But that’s not enough; Bolkestein’s remarks should serve as the starting point of a discussion and reflection about contemporary anti-Semitism elsewhere in Europe as well.
And last but not least this should lead to an immediate end of foreign media collaboration with the forces who are conducting a cognitive war in order to achieve the demise of Israel.
By now it is clear that this war has repercussions far beyond the borders of Israel.
Researcher for Missing Peace Information