AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Dutch Jews warned against political abuse of the Holocaust’s memory following an Amsterdam synagogue’s controversial decision to host a commemoration that was organized by an anti-Israel group.
The Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, issued a statement condemning this perceived abuse on Wednesday, the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass” pogrom in 1938 against Austrian and German Jews that many Holocaust historians view as the opening shot in the Nazi-led campaign of violence against the Jews.
CIDI’s statement followed weeks of debate over the planned hosting on Nov. 9 at the Uilenburger Shul of a memorial organized by Platform Stop Racism and Exclusion, a far-left group that is shunned by local Jews for its members’ perceived animosity toward Israel and sympathy for Hamas.
“Abuse of the memorial event of this horrible night by political interest groups, be they left or right wing, is painful and objectionable,” CIDI wrote.
Termed “alternative,” the Uilenburger memorial ceremony will occur simultaneously with the main memorial event organized annually by the Central Jewish Board. This year, the event is to take place at the Portuguese Synagogue of Amsterdam and will feature an address by Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who usually does not speak at such a commemoration.
The Central Jewish Board of the Netherlands last week condemned the hosting in a synagogue of a Holocaust commemoration event by Platform Stop Racism and Exclusion as “provocative” and offensive, citing the group’s positions on the Israeli-Arab conflict.
According to the Nieuw Israelitisch Weekblad Jewish newspaper, the board of the Uilenburger synagogue had sought to rescind its invitation to Platform Stop Racism and Exclusion amid controversy, but decided to allow the event for fear of legal action by the far-left group.
In reaction to the event, activists from the Facebook group Time to Stand Up for Israel applied for and received a permit to hold a third Kristallnacht commemoration event on Wednesday. The event, which is scheduled to feature signs of support for the Jewish state, is to take place near Amsterdam’s monument for resistance fighters against the Nazi occupation.
Platform Stop Racism and Exclusion, previously known as NBK, has been commemorating Kristallnacht since 1992, often with the Jewish community. But in 2010, the Central Jewish Board severed its ties with the group because of its perceived attempt to tie the Holocaust to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
NBK activist Miriyam Aouragh in 2004 organized a commemoration service in Amsterdam for Ahmed Yassin, a Hamas leader whom Israel killed that year. In 2009, NBK’s Kristallnacht commemoration featured a speech by Yassin Elforkani, an imam who that year said Jews in Damascus used blood to make matzah.
Last year, the alternative memorial event organized by Platform Stop Racism and Exclusion was hosted at a municipal building and featured a lecture by the Arab-Israeli lawmaker Hanin Zoabi, who likened Israel’s actions to those of Nazi Germany. Citing the definition for anti-Semitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the Central Jewish Board called the comparison anti-Semitic in its statement last week.
Jewish communities and other groups across Europe and beyond were scheduled to commemorate the anniversary of Kristallnacht throughout this week.