Menu JTA Search

In Holland, Rise of Anti-semitism Starts to Attract Public Attention

“Fascists are Zionists, just like Micha,” one participant writes on the Moroccan Web site www.maghreb.nl — just before Micha, a Dutch-born Jew living in Israel, blasts Israeli policy. Anyone who frequents the site knows that Micha very often is critical of Israeli policy. But attacks like the one on Micha on the Moroccan Web site are commonplace in the virtual community of Moroccans in the Netherlands.

Moroccan anti-Semitism is on the rise in Holland. Dutch Jews already have known it for several years: According to the Center for Information and Documentation about Israel, the Dutch equivalent of the Anti-Defamation League, the number of anti-Jewish incidents has been increasing since 1997.

Since the Palestinian intifada began in September 2000, however, the number of incidents has increased and their nature has changed, becoming more violent and physical.

Muslim immigrants — primarily Moroccan youths — are responsible for the sharp rise in incidents, according to CIDI.

In its 2000 annual report, Tel Aviv University’s Institute for the Study of anti-Semitism and Racism reached a similar conclusion: It registered an increase of 50 percent in violent anti-Semitic incidents in Western Europe, most of them in countries with large Muslim communities.

In cities like Amsterdam, Jews who until recently walked freely with their yarmulkes now prefer not to. Many say they have been subjected to name calling, physical attacks and aggressive behavior from Moroccan youths.

It began in neighborhoods such as West Amsterdam that are populated mainly by Moroccan immigrants. But even in the southern parts of Amsterdam, which since World War II have had a large Jewish population, many Jews prefer not to walk outside with visible signs of their faith.

Dutch society long has ignored or downplayed the situation. Common responses were that the situation really couldn’t be as bad as it seemed, or that Jews were too quick to label all criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism.

In recent weeks, however, the tide seems to be changing. On May 4, the day Holland commemorates its soldiers, Jews and other civilians who died in World War II, Moroccan youths disturbed various commemoration ceremonies in Dutch cities, mainly in Amsterdam.

It took a week until Michel Rog, a local politician for the center-left party D’66, filed an official complaint of anti- Semitism with Amsterdam police.

Rog is a member of the neighborhood council in the De Baarsjes area of West Amsterdam and participated actively in the local commemoration ceremony.

“Suddenly a group of 10, 20 young Moroccans came and began to shout ‘Joden moeten we doden,’ ” he said. They repeated the slogan, which means “We should kill the Jews,” again and again.

Similar incidents took place in other Amsterdam neighborhoods, where Moroccans disturbed speeches and the traditional two minutes of silence for the dead, shouting the same slogan or “Hamas Hamas, put the Jews into the gas.”

Elsewhere in Amsterdam, Moroccan youths destroyed flowers after the ceremonies, set them on fire or played soccer with them.

Non-Jewish participants in the ceremony were perplexed but remain divided over what the Moroccan youths could have meant.

Some, like Rog, feel the youngsters intentionally used anti-Semitic slogans on a day commemorating Jewish victims of Nazi persecution. Others think the incidents have no political meaning.

“They’re just bored and want attention,” one man said on a popular current affairs talk show on Dutch public television. “They don’t even know what they’re saying because they’re not familiar with Dutch and Jewish history. So how can they have bad intentions?”

Other Dutch media picked up the debate. Where does this come from, people asked, and who is responsible? Is it a lack of education? Incorrect information from their Moroccan parents?

“I hear outrageous things from my students,” said Gideon Simon, a young Jewish teacher at an Amsterdam high school. “This morning I was told that there were never 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust. This Moroccan student told me that ‘to the extent that Jews were killed, they wanted it themselves, because they had struck a deal about it with the Germans, so that the Jews could steal our country Palestine.’

“And that’s only one example,” he continued. “When I ask them where they get their information from, they tell me they hear this on satellite broadcasts from their home countries.”

The maghreb Web site’s chat forum appears to confirm Simon’s theory that Moroccan youths are continuously misinformed by anti-Semitic information coming from Middle Eastern and North African media.

“All right,”one participant said this week, “so go and tell the youth about the inhumane treatment of the Jews in the middle of the previous century. But please be so kind, now that you are providing extra education about Jewish suffering, not to stop in 1945.

“Tell the youths exactly about the second Holocaust, of the Palestinians, that continued decades long,” the participant wrote. “And please explain to those youngsters, then, that a people that has experienced something horrific does not hesitate to perform the very same on other peoples.”

Another chat participant, writing after last week’s terror attacks in Casablanca, wrote, “I’m sure that it’s the Ku Klux Klan. Or would it be the Jews themselves? After all the Jewish center” that was bombed “was empty due to the Sabbath.”

Many Muslim immigrants in Holland watch satellite broadcasts in Arabic, usually state-owned stations from the Middle East and North Africa. Until recent weeks, larger Dutch society was mainly unaware of — or at best indifferent to — the potential consequences for Dutch society.

Since the May 4 incidents, however, the number of anti-Semitic incidents that is making it into the media is steadily rising. On May 20, the daily newspaper Trouw published a picture from a leaflet with a hand-written message that had been displayed in the window of an Amsterdam restaurant: “All parked bikes here will be eliminated, as will descendants of Sharon,” a reference to the Israeli prime minister.

One of the people most criticized after the May 4 incidents is Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen. Several months ago, when he was mooted as the Labor Party’s candidate for the premiership, Cohen was widely praised for the diplomatic way he has maintained tolerance and understanding in the Dutch capital, which has residents of 168 different nationalities.

In his two years as mayor, Cohen — a secular Jew married to a non-Jewish woman — has cultivated good relations with all ethnic and cultural groups in the city. He often invites Muslim leaders to his office and visits Muslim cultural centers or mosques.

Following the May 4 incidents, many felt Cohen should stop talking to the Muslims and “take some action.”

“It’s time to establish clear limits, and you can only do that when you file official complaints with the police and prosecute people accordingly,” said Rog, the local politician who reported the May 4 incident. “Mr. Cohen only wants to talk.”

Cohen denies the allegations, but, in his many media appearances since May 4, has refrained from specifying how he plans to act against the increase in anti-Semitic incidents.

Recently, Cohen was shown remarks from a speech by an Amsterdam imam whom Cohen speaks to regularly, which explicitly called for Muslims to exterminate the Jews. Cohen restricted himself to a diplomatic denunciation of the speech.

NEXT STORY