Like many Jews, as a youngster I associated Holland with windmills and tulips and a heroic people which bravely defended Jews during the Nazi occupation.
Alas, I subsequently learned that the record of the Dutch towards the Jews was nothing of the sort. There were tens of thousands of Dutch righteous gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews but there were far more collaborators, over 25,000 of whom even volunteered for the Waffen SS. Overall, the Dutch authorities willingly assisted in the deportation of the Jews. Anne Frank and her family were amongst those denounced to the Nazis. Of the 140,000 Jews living in the Netherlands before the war, over 100,000 were murdered.
Today, there is a popular misconception that the Dutch are an easygoing, tolerant, multi-cultured people.
In truth, Dutch society has become polarized as a consequence of the massive influx of non-Western immigrants, predominantly Muslim, who have shattered social stability. Muslims currently comprise one million out of a 16 million population, a disproportionate number of whom have police records.
Together with indigenous anti- Semites, some radical Muslims have effectively exploited the culture of permissiveness to violently promote their objectives.
Verbal and physical violence has escalated, climaxing in November 2004 with the brutal public street murder in Amsterdam of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh who was shot and stabbed to death by Mohammed Bouyeri, a Muslim radical.
Although this had a major impact on Dutch society, it did not become the watershed one may have expected. However the status of the 30,000 members of the Jewish community, already subjected to increasing anti- Semitic incitement and violence primarily emanating from the Moroccan Muslim community, continued to deteriorate.
The leading daily newspaper NRC Handelsblad published an article in June stating that anti- Semitism in areas of Amsterdam has become the norm rather than the exception. It identified areas in Amsterdam in which Jews with skullcaps or distinctive garb cannot walk in the streets without being affronted, spat at or even attacked.
In May, an outdoor commemoration ceremony for the last transport of 3,000 Jewish children deported during the Holocaust was disrupted by bikers shrieking “Heil Hitler” during the recitation of Kaddish.
Anti-Semitism also manifests itself in anti-Israel demonstrations where cries of “Hamas Hamas – Jews to the gas”; “Jew cancer”; and “Hitler let one get away!” are frequently heard. Football stadiums have become notorious arenas for anti-Israel and anti-Semitic chants. About half of the registered criminal utterances reported on the internet throughout Holland in 2009 were against Jews. It is believed that if full records were accessible, the proportion would be much higher.
LAST MONTH, the 280-year-old synagogue in Weesp became the first Jewish house of worship in Europe since the war obliged to cancel Sabbath services after the police had warned congregants of threats of violence.
In a recent letter to members of Parliament, the Jewish community stated that anti-Semitism was rampant, noting that the Jewish community is obliged to provide its own security at schools and all public functions, the costs for which have become unbearable.
Surveys among teachers in the major cities indicate that one out of five teachers have difficulties in relating to the Holocaust because of the hostile response from Muslim students. The Chairman of the Orthodox Rabbinate, Binyomin Jacobs, protested that “today there are many schools which simply stop providing lessons relating to WWII and the Holocaust due to fear of negative reactions from pupils from Muslim backgrounds”.
Jewish schoolchildren feel intimidated and the school authorities are either indifferent or unable to assist them. To avoid harassment, some children are obliged to change schools and even hide their Jewish identity.
A few weeks ago a local Jewish TV station (Joodse Omroep) broadcast scenes of anti-Semitic harassment in the streets recorded by a hidden camera which followed a rabbi accompanied by two students. This provided chilling testimony of the intimidation to which Jews are subjected.
In response, the Dutch police announced that they might use “decoy” Jews – police dressed in traditional Jewish garb – to entrap anti-Semitic hooligans. Rabbi Jacobs responded by stating that such initiatives would be futile unless accompanied by greater emphasis on education, stressing that not only Muslims were engaged in anti-Semitic agitation.
“I witness Dutch non-Muslim youngsters also shouting at me in the street” he stated.
Ironically, the major escalation of anti-Semitism in Amsterdam took place between 2001-2010, when Marius Job Cohen, a Jew, was mayor. Cohen’s grandparents were murdered in the Holocaust but he frequently expresses indifference to his Jewish origins. Now as leader of the Dutch Labor party he participates in attacks demonizing Israel as exemplified in the party’s platform in the recent elections.
Such behavior towards Israel is particularly shameful coming from the country whose UN peacekeeping force in 1995 in Srebrenica stood by while 8,000 Bosnian men and boys were massacred by the Serbs (there are reports that some even took part in seperating the women from the men). The Dutch peacekeepers then fled to Zagreb, where they held a beer and music fest in the presence of the crown Prince and the prime minister.
HOWEVER, THERE is now a potential for positive change on the political horizon. At the recent polls, contrary to expectations, the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) headed by Geert Wilders surged from its pre election nine seats to winning 24 out of the 150 seat Dutch parliament.
Nicknamed Mozart because of his blond hair and voted politician of the year in 2007, Wilders displays contempt for the hypocritical political correctness displayed toward Islam that has enveloped Europe. He resolutely calls for tough action against intimidation and threats from Islamic fundamentalists.
He describes Muslim migrants as a “Trojan Horse” and warns of the danger of Europe being transformed into Eurabia and European civilization coming to an end.
Wilders is an outspoken friend of the Jewish people and considers Israel to be “the West’s first line of defense”. He lived in Israel for two years and has visited the Jewish state more than 40 times.
Contrary to defamatory allegations directed against him, Wilders abhors fascism and publicly condemned politicians like France’s Jean-Marie Le Pen, the late Haider and other racists with whom he swears he would never associate.
His controversial call for the banning of the Koran (which he compares to Mein Kampf and claims incites to violence) and the production of a film depicting the brutality and denial of human rights prevailing in Muslim countries led to his being charged with incitement and hatred. The court proceedings became transformed into a political arena when the judge refused to hear the majority of witnesses Wilders presented.
Should Wilders be convicted of promoting hate speech it will have problematic implications in a country like Holland where calls for “death to the Jews” are regular occurrences and rarely prosecuted.
The trial outcome will also be a curtain raiser on what to expect from other European countries in the years ahead.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post