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Militant Islam Monitor > Articles > Radical Islam in the Netherlands- A case study in failed European policy -Dutch politician flees to United States for safety

Radical Islam in the Netherlands- A case study in failed European policy -Dutch politician flees to United States for safety

Anne Frank isn't home : Antisemitism and hypocrisy in Dutch society- Wartime & Postwar Dutch attitudes towards the Jews -Myths and Truths
January 4, 2005

MIM: Manfred Gerstenfeld's sober assessment of the potential inability of the Dutch government to deal with the threat of radical Islam seems to be born out by the latest news that Ayaan Hirsi Ali has fled for safety in the United States. Threats to politicians lives 'come with the territory' and one wonders if her situation, which has been ongoing since 2002 is really drastically different then that of Geert Wilders and others, such as "The Friends of Theo van Gogh' who were the subject of an open letter disquised as a petition, initiated by a radical Islamist called Fadi Hirzalla warning them to 'stop upsetting Muslims'.The 'petition' was also signed by Abdul Jabber Van Ven an Islamic convert cleric who declared on Dutch television that he had "been filled with happiness after hearing about the murder of Theo van Gogh". http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/358

Ali's departure not only sends a message that the terrorists have managed to disrupt the democratic process in Holland by laying siege to politicians, it also implies to Dutch citizens that Ali does not have enough faith in the ability of the Dutch government and law enforcement to guarentee her safety.

Ali's fellow WWD party member Geert Wilders, who is attempting to set up a new political party called 'Groep Wilders' with a platform designed to stem immigration and enforce tough anti terrorism laws has all but been silenced by his inability to find people who are brave enough to work with him in the face of the threats to his life.

Dutch MP flown to safety after threats


The Hague - Somali-born member of the Dutch parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an associate of murdered filmmaker Theo van Gogh, has been flown out of the Netherlands for her own safety, the Volkskrant reported on Tuesday.

Hirsi Ali, 35, who is seen as an apostate by many Dutch Muslims, assisted Van Gogh in making his film Submission, which criticises violence against Muslim women in the Netherlands.

According to the Volkskrant, she was flown out of the country from a military airbase on November 10, as Dutch police and secret services were raiding a house in The Hague, where they made arrests in connection with suspected terrorist offences.

The ministry of defence declined to comment but did not deny the report.

Ali Hirsi has not appeared in public since the murder of Van Gogh on November 2. Van Gogh's killer pinned a letter to his body with a knife in which threats were uttered against the parliamentarian.

According to her political associates, she is expected to return to parliamentary work on January 18, at the end of the Christmas recess.

Van Gogh's murder, in broad daylight on a busy Amsterdam street, generated outrage and soul-searching in the Netherlands over the status of the million-strong Muslim population, most of them from Morocco and Turkey. - Sapa-DPA



MIM: It is a documented phenomenon that increased tolerance for Islam has lead to a rise in anti semitism.

Manfred Gerstenfeld's assessment of the AIVD -Dutch Intelligence and Security Service Report is that Dutch society may not be able to save itself from the fifth columnists which it has brought into their country

.At the same time many left wing liberals and non religious Jews are thwarting any attempts to curb immigration or enforce stricter terrorism laws to deal with radical Islam by disingenuously invoking the spectre of the Holocaust .

As Bernadette de Wit pointed out in her article; 'There is no such thing as Islamphobia' the multiculturalists cannot seem to differentiate between an individuals right to dislike Islam and Muslims and the victims of organised genocide.

Manfred Gerstenfeld's articles on Radical Islam in the Netherlands and 'Antisemitism and Hypocrisy in Dutch Society' may help to clarify those differences.


Radical Islam in The Netherlands:

A Case Study of a Failed European Policy

Manfred Gerstenfeld

· On December 23, 2004, the Dutch Ministry of the Interior published a 60-page report entitled From Dawa to Jihad. Prepared by the Dutch general intelligence service (AIVD), it describes radical Islam and examines how to meet its threat to Dutch society.

  • Among the close to one million Dutch Muslims, about 95 percent are moderates. This implies that there are up to 50,000 potential radicals.

· Since September 11, 2001, phenomena such as the growth of radical Islamic groups, polarization between Muslims and the surrounding society, limitations in the process of integration, and Islamist terrorism have increased in The Netherlands.

  • The capability of Dutch society to resist the threat of radical Islam is considered low, though recently a greater desire has become apparent among the Dutch population to become more resistant. Also within the Dutch Muslim community resistance against radical forces is low. The moderate organizations and individuals are not able to counterbalance the radical forces.

· An earlier AIVD report dealt with Saudi influences in The Netherlands, mentioning a number of mosque organizations that originated from Saudi missions and financing. The Amsterdam Tawheed mosque, which in the past has put extreme anti-Semitic statements on its website, is linked financially, organizationally, and personally with the Saudi Al Haramain Foundation. Several other mosques are supported financially by Saudi charities.

  • The Dutch report places the blame for the origins of the problem squarely on the deeply-rooted ideology of fierce opposition to the Western way of life among certain Muslim groups. It does not claim that the problem of radical Muslims would disappear if there were peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Israel and Jews are not mentioned in the report.

Dutch Intelligence Report Examines Radical Muslim Threat

On December 23, 2004, the Dutch Ministry of the Interior published a 60-page report entitled From Dawa to Jihad.1 It was prepared by the AIVD, the Dutch general intelligence service, and examines how to meet the threat of radical Islam to Dutch society. Although the report is conceptual in nature, it is evident that to achieve even a part of its goals, substantial legal and behavioral changes in Dutch society will be necessary.

This also became clear during the parliamentary debate that followed, in the statement by Maxime Verhagen, faction chairman of The Netherlands' largest party, the middle of the road Christian Democrat party (CDA) of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, which has 44 of the 150 seats in the Chambers. He proposed that judges should be able to take away constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech and assembly, from radical Muslims.2 No other party supported him.

The Minister of the Interior, Johan Remkes, observed that the prevention, isolation, and limitation of increasing radicalization is important. He added that this should be done by "all layers of Dutch society."3 There is, however, no way that this can be realized in the current societal climate of The Netherlands.

Understanding Dutch Culture

The general attitude of Dutch society over the past decades can be characterized by two Dutch words. The first is "gedoogcultuur," which literally means "a culture of permissiveness" but has become synonymous with "closing one's eyes" to multiple transgressions of the law. These include disparate matters such as soft drug use, immigration policies, safety of industrial and commercial operations, as well as many other subjects. It reflects a basic anti-authoritarian attitude that is quite common in Dutch society.

The second key word is "poldermodel," which means that efforts are made to reach a very broad national consensus on important issues. Though mainly used in the economic arena, this approach reflects Dutch society at large. The Dutch like to find solutions to problems through discussions without defining positions too sharply. This model can be explained as a legacy of Dutch history. In the past, people living behind dikes, at below sea level, had to cooperate with each other when there was danger of flooding. Both the gedoogcultuur and the poldermodel have already come under major criticism in recent years.

The AIVD report attempts to be as factual as possible. On such a problematic subject, however, this means that it cannot be politically correct as it defines part of an identifiable ethno-religious community as a danger to society. One may wonder whether the ministry would have found it politically convenient to publish the report had not Muslim radical Mohammed Boyeri cruelly murdered provocative Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh in an Amsterdam street on November 2, 2004. In the following weeks there were tens of arson attempts against Muslim institutions and Christian churches. Prior to the murder, it was almost unthinkable for a government agency report to single out the Muslim community. The AIVD justified its publication by noting that it was responding to complaints by local authorities that they did not have enough information about radical Islam.

The Report's Key Elements

The AIVD report explains that the key ideological aim of radical Islamic groups is to target the Western way of life, and to confront alleged Western political, economic, and cultural domination. Such groups may be either nationalistic or religiously-oriented. The report notes:

  • Among the close to one million Dutch Muslims, about 95 percent are moderates. This implies that there are up to 50,000 potential radicals.
  • Recruitment in The Netherlands for the armed radical Muslim struggle – mainly among descendants of immigrants – is not incidental but rather a trend.4 This issue was discussed in an earlier AIVD report published in 2002,5 that mentioned that there had been at least ten recruiters at work in The Netherlands and assumed that there were several tens of Muslim youngsters in various stages of the recruitment process.
  • In recent years, and in particular since September 11, 2001, phenomena such as the growth of radical Islamic groups, polarization between Muslims and the surrounding society, limitations in the process of integration, and Islamist terrorism have increased in The Netherlands.6
  • Of the eight categories of radical Islam defined, four aim at dawa [proselytizing], which from the report's perspective goes beyond proselytizing to the undermining of the democratic order through abusing democratic means. Four others are of a jihadic [holy war] nature, i.e., they use or promote violence. Most of these are present in The Netherlands.
  • In The Netherlands one finds types of dawa in the political Arab European League Movement (AEL),7 in a limited number of Salafist mosques,8 in Islamist missions, some of which are financed by Saudi Arabia,9 as well as among individual Muslim preachers.10 Other types of dawa are promoted on the websites of foreign radical Muslim scholars11 and in chatrooms.12 Teacherless autonomous radicalization takes place, inter alia, in jails, in some Muslim schools, and in mosques.
  • In The Netherlands one also finds various forms of support for jihad. For example, the international radical organization Hizb ut Tahrir, which promotes jihad in a hidden way, has a presence.13 There are also local Muslim terrorist networks.14
  • The capability of Dutch society to resist the threat of radical Islam is considered low, though recently a greater desire has become apparent among the Dutch population to become more resistant.15
  • The resistance within the Dutch Muslim community against radical forces is low. The moderate organizations and individuals are not able to counterbalance the radical forces.16

Measures Proposed

The report also indicates in broad terms how the threat of radical Islam should be combated. It suggests a continuous legal check on the activities of radical Muslims regarding discrimination, hate-promotion, and incitement. However, this kind of surveillance is largely alien to the Dutch legal and police culture of the last decades. The report also repeats earlier proposed measures such as checks on the movement of money. Furthermore, while noting that improvement in the economic situation of the Dutch Muslim population is laudable, it notes that there is no proof that this limits radicalization.17

Other measures proposed are mainly medium and long-term strategies, including the distribution of better information on radical Islamic groups, collaboration with moderate forces in the Muslim community, encouraging more moderate forms of Islam, and the promotion of identity-creation among Muslims.

Other recommendations mentioned, without any concrete proposals regarding their execution, include the development of positive role models for young Muslims to replace the criminal role models that are positively viewed by some Muslim youth, as well as democracy education.

Mention is also made of the need to consider working with the authorities in those countries that send out radical Islamic missionaries, but this issue has not yet been discussed in The Netherlands.18

Why is the Report Important?

While many elements in the report have appeared in the media over the years, its importance lies in being an official document of the Dutch government. In the past, the Dutch government has largely avoided confronting the overall threat of Islamic radicalization to which its predecessors' policies on immigration, integration, and neglect of law enforcement have contributed.

Equally important are some issues that the report fails to mention, which are the inevitable outcome of its conclusions. Radical Muslims can, by definition, only be found in the Muslim community and are dispersed throughout it. To be effective in the struggle against radical Islam, Dutch Muslims will have to be watched and scrutinized by the police and the intelligence services much more intensively than most other sectors of Dutch society. This singling out implies giving less priority to Dutch equality and privacy laws. In addition, since radical Muslims mainly interact with other Muslims, a crucial element of success will be the collaboration of moderate Muslims with the police in informing on suspected individuals.

The main foreign promoters of dawa and jihad who influence their Dutch disciples are not analyzed in the report in any detail, nor are the most influential foreign Muslim preachers of anti-Western hatred and violence named. There is little specific mention of the role of foreign governments and charities.

Saudi Influences

An earlier AIVD report, however, dealt with Saudi influences in The Netherlands.19 It mentioned that in The Netherlands there were a number of mosque organizations which are Salafist in nature, that originated from Saudi missions and financing. The Amsterdam Tawheed mosque, which in the past has put extreme anti-Semitic statements on its website, is linked financially, organizationally, and personally with the Saudi Al Haramain Foundation. Three other mosques are linked with the private Saudi mission, Al Waqf Al Islami, that is related to key figures in the Saudi establishment.

Though not explicitly Salafist, there are several other mosques in The Netherlands which are supported financially by Saudi charities, private philanthropists, or government bodies. Sometimes the payments are not made to the mosques directly but to the imams. The report considers both the origin and destination of this financing to be obscure.

Most of the radical imams come from Egypt, Syria, Sudan, or Somalia. Many have studied in Saudi Arabia. For a long time in a number of ultra-orthodox mosques, extremist sermons have included saying that secular people, socialists, or democrats were allies of Satan. Stoning was preached as a punishment for extra-marital relations, etc.

While it has not been proven that jihad has been openly promoted in Dutch mosques, there have been sermons with jihadic tendencies, such as requests to Allah to kill "the enemies of Islam" such as Bush and Sharon and the enemies of Islam in Kashmir and Chechnya.

The ambassador of Saudi Arabia in early 2004 promised full transparency on financing. However, since then, very little has happened on that matter. While there has been some recent moderation in the sermons, the AIVD now believes the incitement takes place elsewhere in smaller, closed meetings. The report concluded that there were no indications that the risks and size of Islamic radicalism and jihadism in The Netherlands had changed in any way recently.

Israel Aspects

From an Israeli perspective, the report is most important for what it does not say. It places the blame for the origins of the dawa and jihad problem squarely on the deeply-rooted ideology of fierce opposition to the Western way of life among certain Muslim groups. It does not attempt to hide behind the frequent Western escapist claim that the problem of radical Muslims would disappear if there were peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Israel and Jews are not mentioned in the report.

Accepting the report's findings and conclusions means that the Dutch political system admits, de facto, that its societal model of excessive tolerance for intolerance and crime has failed. In this, it could become a European paradigm. However, whether a more realistic domestic policy in The Netherlands and a better insight into the extreme forms of Muslim culture will also mean a better understanding of the Middle Eastern reality remains to be seen.


1. "Van dawa tot jihad. De diverse dreigingen van de radicale islam tegen de democratische rechtsorde," Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties, 2004 [Dutch]. (Hereafter "the Dawa Report.")

2. "CDA: Ontneem extremist rechten," Trouw, 24 December 2004 [Dutch].

3. "Nota AIVD: ‘westerse leefstijl doelwit radicalen,'" NRC Handelsblad, 23 December 2004 [Dutch].

4. The Dawa Report, p. 6.

5. "Rekrutering in Nederland voor de jihad van incident naar trend," AIVD 2002 [Dutch].

6. The Dawa Report, p. 23.

7. The Dawa Report, p. 40. This movement is strongest in Belgium, but also has a Dutch branch.

8. The Dawa Report, p. 42.

9. The Dawa Report, p. 43.

10. The Dawa Report, p. 43.

11. The Dawa Report, p. 43.

12. The Dawa Report, p. 43.

13. The Dawa Report, p. 46.

14. The Dawa Report, p. 47.

15. The Dawa Report, p. 50.

16. The Dawa Report, p. 50.

17. The Dawa Report, p. 58.

18. The Dawa Report, p. 57.

19. "Saoedische invloeden in Nederland, Verbanden tussen salafitische missie, radicaliseringsprocessen en islamistisch-terrorisme," AIVD, 2004 [Dutch].

* * *

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is Chairman of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is an international business strategist who has been a consultant to governments, international agencies, and boards of some of the world's largest corporations. Among his nine books are Europe's Crumbling Myths: The Post-Holocaust Origins of Today's Anti-Semitism (JCPA, Yad Vashem, WJC, 2003), The New Clothing of European Anti-Semitism (Editions Café Noir, 2004) [in French], co-edited with Shmuel Trigano, and American Jewry's Challenge: Conversations Confronting the 21st Century (Rowman and Littlefield, 2004).


MIM: The AIVD report Van Da'wa tot Jihad can be downloaded in it's entirety on pdf file from the AIVD website:


Nota Van dawa tot jihad

Het tegengaan van de dreiging van de radicale islam vereist de brede inzet van alle bestuursorganen, zowel op internationaal, nationaal als lokaal niveau. Zij moeten daarvoor alle beschikbare instrumenten inzetten, uiteenlopend van het stimuleren van gematigde krachten tot en met het strafrecht wanneer de wet wordt overtreden. Dat schrijft minister Remkes in de brief aan de Tweede Kamer waarmee hij het AIVD-rapport ‘Van dawa tot jihad, de diverse dreigingen van de radicale islam tegen de democratische rechtsorde' aanbiedt. Volgens Remkes is het voorkomen, isoleren of indammen van radicalisering een belangrijke manier om terrorisme duurzaam te bestrijden.

Het rapport van de AIVD laat zien dat de radicale islam bestaat uit een veelheid van stromingen, bewegingen en groeperingen. Die beslaan het gehele spectrum van aan de ene kant ‘jihad' (in de betekenis van de gewapende strijd) tegen het Westen tot aan de andere kant ‘dawa' (via missionering uitdragen van radicaal-islamitische ideologie). Het AIVD-rapport signaleert dat ook vanuit de meer dawa-georiënteerde vormen van de radicale islam dreigingen tegen de democratische rechtsorde kunnen uitgaan. Die diversiteit maakt dat iedere vorm van radicale islam een aparte tegenstrategie vereist. Het rapport bevat voor alle betrokken instanties bouwstenen waarmee zij op maat gesneden tegenstrategieën kunnen ontwerpen.

Het rapport gaat niet in op de concrete dreiging die uitgaat van radicaal-islamitische groepen of netwerken. Het gaat volgens Remkes om een conceptuele bijdrage zowel aan het onderzoek naar de radicale islam als aan de ontwikkeling en uitvoering van een brede tegenstrategie. Het rapport schetst acht vormen van radicale islam. Die verschillen in de wijze waarop zij al dan niet met geweld hun doelstellingen willen bereiken. Ook de mate waarin zij al dan niet openlijk te werk gaan maakt verschil uit. Verder streven sommige stromingen naar een totaal andere staatsinrichting dan de westerse democratische rechtsstaat, terwijl andere zich richten op een totaal andere wijze van samenleven. Deze laatste vormen gaan veel verder en zijn veel intoleranter: niet alleen moeten er politieke veranderingen komen; het hele leven en de intermenselijke verhoudingen in de samenleving moeten worden ingericht op basis van de sharia. De stromingen die dit nastreven worden in het rapport van de AIVD onder de noemer radicaal-islamitisch puritanisme beschreven. Vooral de dawa-activiteiten van deze stromingen dragen momenteel bij aan de radicalisering van sommige moslimjongeren in Nederland omdat zij prediken dat de Westerse samenleving moreel verderfelijk is en een bedreiging vormt voor de 'zuivere' islam.

Minister Remkes heeft het rapport van de AIVD als beleidsondersteunend document ook toegezonden aan de burgemeesters, de Commissarissen der Koningin, de korpschefs van politie en de Nationaal Coördinator Terrorismebestrijding.



No. 22 1 July 2004 / 12 Tammuz 5764

Anti-Semitism and Hypocrisy in Dutch Society

Manfred Gerstenfeld

  • Verbal and violent anti-Semitism in the Netherlands is probably greater today than it has been during any other time in the last two centuries except the Nazi occupation.

  • Excessive Dutch tolerance has become an incentive for crime. Developments in anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism are a good indicator of what is happening in Dutch society at large.

  • Due to the relatively high crime rate among the Dutch Moroccan community and international Arab anti-Semitic hate propaganda, Jews are above average targets for their racists' behavior. Easily recognizable Jews often try to hide their identity in public.

  • There are other reasons why the international image of the Dutch attitude toward the Jews should be corrected. The Dutch government has still not publicly acknowledged the major assistance of the Dutch bureaucracy in the preparatory stages of the murder of Dutch Jews by the Germans during the Holocaust. It also continues to misrepresent the post-war discrimination against the Jews in the Netherlands.

Anti-Semitic Songs in the Tramway

"You have to kill Jews, but it is forbidden." At the beginning of May 2004, I entered Amsterdam tramway no. 24 from the front. In the back were four youngsters between the ages of thirteen and fifteen, chatting in fluent Dutch. They looked Middle Eastern or North African, and were most probably of Moroccan immigrant ancestry. They did not even notice me sit down.

After a few minutes, one of them began to sing. The words of one of the songs was this essay's opening sentence, which rhymes in Dutch. No one reacted in the tram, which runs from an affluent neighborhood in Amsterdam South to the Central Station. The youngster continued to sing other songs. The "kill the Jews" song was apparently part of his repertoire. It was not specifically directed at me; I sat more than ten rows ahead of him and was not wearing a skullcap. If anything, he could only see my back.

When I spoke with some Dutch Jewish friends later, they said that there was nothing exceptional about this occurrence. One replied that in such cases she goes over and asks the singer: "Who taught you that?" She said that she is one of the few Dutch Jews who is so fed up with the Netherlands that she is preparing to leave for Israel. She also mentioned that some of her gentile neighbors say things like, "It is not very nice what you people are doing to the Palestinians," thus holding her, as a Dutch Jew, responsible for Israel's actions. Her ancestors have lived in the Netherlands for centuries.

Another friend responded that even if people would want to reprimand the youngster, they are afraid because he may pull out a knife. He added: "Today the kid only sings; imagine what he may do ten years from now."

A Dutch rabbi told me that he is regularly insulted by young Moroccans and remarked: "But in France it is much worse."

When I was invited to a Bar Mitzvah reception in one of Amsterdam's major hotels, there were several guards around the hall. I asked whether this is common. The reply was: "No, only at Jewish receptions."

Tolerance Stimulates Crime

Whoever visits the Netherlands is often impressed by the superficial helpfulness of many Dutch people. It is one of those countries where one is best served if one asks for the closest bus stop. Dutch tolerance, however, has long been an incentive for crime. Developments in anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism are a good indicator of what is happening in society at large. "Make no mistake," a Dutch Jewish journalist told me, "there is fear of the immigrant Muslims among the non-Jews as well." The difference, though, is that non-Jews run a much smaller risk of being assaulted by incited hooligans of Moroccan ancestry.

The evidence of Dutch tolerance and what it leads to is not limited to case stories. A major life style study of Dutch youngsters was carried out in 2004, based on interviews with 35,000 youngsters in the second and fourth years of high school in two eastern Dutch provinces.

Forty-seven percent of those interviewed indicated that they had committed at least once in their lives a punishable crime such as threatening somebody with a gun, vandalism, harassment, or stealing. More than one out of ten youngsters interviewed carried a weapon last year. More than five percent was involved in severely violent crimes. In 2003, about one out of every three pupils was the victim of theft, harassment, and the destruction of belongings.1

A few years ago, a leading Dutch daily published an article based on government information, which stated that there was probably a substantial number of war criminals among the more than 25,000 Afghan refugees in the Netherlands. They included not only communist military personnel who had tortured others, but also members of the Hezb-i-Wahdat, a coalition of Shi'ite movements whose routine methods of torture - according to a report of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs - included skinning prisoners alive or forcing them to eat human flesh.

The ministry document also said: "A much-used method of torture included the fighters' forcing somebody who had been arrested to kneel, bound, on the street, after which they struck nails into his head until he died."2 At the time, no Afghan war criminal had ever been brought before a court in the Netherlands.

Burning the Israeli Flag and Holocaust Manipulation

Excessive Dutch tolerance manifests itself in many ways. After the killing of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin by Israel in March 2004, a number of pro-Palestinian organizations held a protest meeting in the Dam Central Square of Amsterdam where the national monument in memory of the Second World War stands. Among the organizers was the Arab European League (AEL), which promotes the destruction of Israel. During the meeting, the police watched passively while an Israeli flag was burned.3 When asked, a police spokesman said that it is permissible to burn a national flag as long as it does not endanger people or property.

Dutch mainstream politicians are quite willing to debate publicly with AEL leaders, something they would not do with Dutch neo-Nazis. Despite the overwhelming facts proving this, many Dutchmen - politicians and others - find it difficult to understand the idea that leaders and people in minority groups can be violent racists.

It is a mistake to think that the Dutch authorities have no policies at all concerning what is permitted against Jews and Israel. When a violent pro-Palestinian demonstration took place in Amsterdam in April 2002, the socialist mayor of Amsterdam Job Cohen - who is Jewish - said that he had defined the limit for himself: he would not accept racist slogans. "We accept anti-Israel slogans, but not anti-Jewish ones. We also do not accept a banner equating a swastika to a Star of David. The swastika is so connected to racism that it crosses the line."4

Among the many examples of how far Dutch tolerance will go, yet another - which was mainly directed against Jewish sentiments - involved the manipulation of the Holocaust on behalf of animals. An animal rights movement organized a demonstration, "Holocaust on Your Plate," in the Leidse Plein, another major square in Amsterdam. On its panels and folders, the suffering of animals was illustrated with pictures of the Holocaust. The police initially took the panels and folders away, but they were soon returned upon the instructions of the prosecutor, who said that comparing animal suffering with that of Holocaust victims is not a criminal act in the Netherlands.5

Limits to Freedom of Expression

Freedom of expression in the Netherlands has its limits, however. Around Liberation Day at the beginning of May 2004, Goodbye Holland, a two-part documentary by the Dutch moviemaker Willy Lindwer, an Emmy Award winner, was shown on television. It dealt with the considerable Dutch collaboration with the Nazis during the war as well as with the discrimination against the returning Jews to the post-war, democratic Netherlands.

In the first part of the movie, Lindwer interviewed a retired policeman, Jan Mulder, who expressed support for his pro-Nazi boss during the war, the Dutch police chief of Groningen, Philip Blank. The latter was in charge of arresting the town's 3,000 Jews, 90% of whom did not return from the extermination and other camps. After the Netherlands was liberated in 1945, Blank was condemned as a war criminal although later on his sentence was drastically shortened. The policeman's wife entered into the conversation with Lindwer and said: "My mother said that if the war ends at 12 o'clock, a Jew will already cheat you at 5 past 12."

The broadcasting company NCRV, which had given Lindwer the assignment, removed this scene - an act with which Lindwer disagreed - after the policeman's son, Tieme Mulder, threatened to sue it.6 The broadcaster also decided to censure the second part in which one of the few surviving Groningen Jews, who was interviewed in the movie, mentioned that a local football club, Be Quick, did not admit Jews before the war. After the club president announced that he would sue the NCRV if it portrayed the club in a negative manner,7 the broadcaster eliminated Be Quick's name from the movie.

In Israel, the documentary was shown uncensored on Holocaust Day. Lindwer told Israeli newspapers that the movie is also his farewell to the Netherlands because it has become an unpleasant country to live in for a conscious Jew.

A Visitor from Israel

On a Dutch Jewish website, Dani Evers, a visitor from Israel to the Netherlands, recently wrote: "There is something that disturbs me [in the Netherlands]. People tell me I have to disguise my identity. It is not advisable to walk here with a kippa. I have to hide my tsitsit, the religious fringes which usually come out of my clothes. The synagogue where I will pray is unlikely to have a nicely designed bulletin board outside with the name of the community where they announce the times of the service."

Evers asked one of his friends why he is willing to live with this rather than come to Israel. He replied: "The tramway here has never been blown up with the victims dispersed over tens of meters."

Evers writes that only later did he realize why he is uncomfortable in the Netherlands: "I cannot walk anymore without a straight back. I cannot accept having to hide my identity under a common looking cap and to disguise being Jewish. I do not want to hide behind a poker face when I want to be proud of what Israel has achieved. I do not want to hold discussions with people whose real intention is to wipe you off the map."8

Among the Worst in Europe

The summary of a report on European anti-Semitism published by the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) - which covered the first half of 2002 - mentioned: "France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK witnessed rather serious anti-Semitic incidents such as numerous physical attacks and insults directed against Jews and the vandalism of Jewish institutions (synagogues, shops, cemeteries)." The Netherlands, reputed in the past to be a country where anti-Semitism was a relatively minor phenomenon, thus found itself included among Europe's leaders in this type of racism.9

This finding by a leading European research institute is not an isolated one. In November 2003, the European Union published one of its Eurobarometer polls. It asked which countries the Europeans saw as a danger to world peace. Fifty-nine percent of Europeans considered Israel to be such a country. This was the highest percentage with respect to any country, including states such as Iran that are major supporters of terrorism.10

With 74%, the Netherlands had the highest percentage of respondents who considered Israel a danger to world peace. The next in line was Austria, whichuring the Holocaust participated more zealously in Nazi activity than Hitler's Germany - if that is possible.

The Anxieties of Dutch Jews

A few days before the Eurobarometer results came out, a Dutch daily, De Volkskrant, published an article about the anxieties of today's Dutch Jewish leaders. Several of them not only spoke about anti-Semitism in the Netherlands, but also related their personal experiences. They told of the verbal insults they are subjected to on Dutch streets when wearing a skullcap.

Ruben Vis, secretary of the NIK, the umbrella organization of the Dutch Ashkenazi community, said that he is regularly insulted when wearing a kippa in public. Sometimes he is pushed in the tramway. He now never wears his kippa in the western and eastern quarters of Amsterdam, and rarely in the center of the city places where there are many Dutchmen of Moroccan descent.

Youth rabbi Menachem Sebbag relates how a Dutch youngster of Moroccan descent approached his wife with a screwdriver and said, "I'll cut your heart out." Sebbag - who has a Moroccan father - understands the Arabic words with which he is insulted, such as: "I'm going to slaughter you like a pig." Sometimes they shout at him: "Sharon supporter, murderer." He now goes out as little as possible and says, "Since I stopped going anywhere, I have less problems." Once he had a Coca Cola can thrown at his head. The Dutch papers usually mention that the perpetrators of these crimes are of Moroccan descent.11

Killing Jews?

Another newspaper article quotes Gideon van der Sluis, the young cantor of a synagogue in the Amsterdam de Pijp neighborhood. He tells the interviewer that when he wears a white kippa on Shabbat, every time he passes a pizzeria where Moroccan youngsters gather, the group curses him saying, "Yahud, yahud, Dirty cancer Jew."

Van der Sluis says that this "is a major problem and is becoming worse. Five years ago, if you heard one such remark a year it was a lot. Now it happens every week. There are parts of town such as the Indische Buurt, the Transvaalbuurt, and the West where Jews can no longer walk with a kippa." Itai Gross, another youngster who was interviewed, says: "Until now, it has been limited to cursing, spitting, and hitting." Referring to the murderous anti-Semitic attacks in Istanbul, he adds: "A Jew will also be killed here sooner or later."12

On 4 May 2003 - the national Memorial Day for the victims of the Second World War - several commemorative ceremonies were disturbed. In one area in Amsterdam, de Baarsjes, youngsters shouted, "Jews have to be killed," about twenty times during the two minutes of silence in memory of the dead. The perpetrators were young Dutchmen of Moroccan descent. In another part of town, Slotervaart, youngsters played football with the memorial wreaths.13

Are All Dutch Equal?

It is difficult to assess what plays in the conscious and subconscious minds of the journalists who mention the origins of those who assault Jews. Are they trying to suggest that one does not find such behavior among the Dutch whose parents or grandparents are not Moroccan?

Does the mention of the attackers' Moroccan descent imply in media code that one cannot hold Dutch society responsible for the anti-Semitic attacks because these youngsters do not "really" belong to Dutch society as it sees itself, despite their Dutch passports? Or does it mean that everyone may have equal rights and duties in the Dutch egalitarian society, but the fact is that some of those of Moroccan ancestry cannot be expected to behave in a civilized way?

The reports might even imply that these Moroccan descendants are too difficult for the Dutch police and justice authorities to handle. Hence, not much should be expected from the Dutch national and local governments when a disproportionate number of Moroccan youngsters - compared to average Dutchmen - attack other Dutch citizens, a disproportionate number of whom are recognizable as Jews.

The answers to these questions will gradually be revealed in the coming years. They lead to other unpleasant questions. If the Dutch authorities, who are responsible for enforcing the law and enabling the country's Jews to live with no more threats than the average Dutchman, consider Jews who are recognizable as such to be somehow "less equal" in the egalitarian Netherlands, would it mean that Dutch society, de facto, concedes that the Jews have to live in this way as "they always did" in Europe's anti-Semitic societies?

Never before in Dutch Democracy

The latter, however, is not necessarily true. To this author's best knowledge, the high frequency of these incidents is a first time occurrence in the history of the Netherlands as a democratic state (i.e., while not under the 1940-1945 German occupation). There were probably relatively fewer incidents per Jew before the Second World War when the Jewish community numbered 140,000 and hundreds of thousands of Dutchmen supported the Dutch National Socialist Party in the elections. In other words, there are substantial indications that verbal and violent anti-Semitism in the Netherlands is greater today than it has ever been in the last two centuries, other than during the Nazi occupation.

There is also what is today considered by some to be "good news." The attacks against the Jews in the Netherlands are indeed not as bad as in France. With one exception, no Dutch synagogues have been burned since the Second World War. However, stones have been thrown through synagogue windows, synagogue walls have been marked with graffiti, and Jewish cemeteries have been occasionally desecrated. As far as the latter is concerned, the perpetrators are usually extreme rightists.14

Does this mean that the Netherlands is an anti-Semitic country? Not necessarily. Summing up a series of facts usually does not give a complete picture of a country. Many enemies of Israel in the foreign media discovered this long ago by continuously providing their audiences with selected negative pictures and facts - as several correspondents of Dutch media currently in Israel do regularly. Nevertheless, the above elements do give some indications about a reality in the Netherlands that is very different from how the country is presented in the international press.

A More Classic Approach

To provide another perspective on Dutch anti-Semitism, one can also take a more classic approach toward describing it. There is a broad range of anti-Semitic activities in the country of which only a small part is reported in the media. They manifest themselves as Muslim, extreme left and right wing, and Christian anti-Semitism.

The next question to be addressed is how the level of anti-Semitism in the Netherlands compares to that of other countries. In October 2002, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) published a survey on European attitudes toward Jews in five countries: Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands.15 In June of that year, it did the same for France, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Germany and Belgium.16 In the survey, eleven questions were posed to the people sampled. Those who agreed with six or more of the statements listed were considered the "most anti-Semitic."

According to the survey, 7% of the Dutch population harbors strong anti-Semitic views. That is considered good news these days since 34% of the Spanish population came into this category, as did 23% of the Italians, 22% of the Swiss, and 19% of the Austrians.

Eighteen percent of the Dutch population believe Jews have too much power in international financial markets, 15% responded that Jews do not care what happens to anyone other than their own kind, 35% thought Jews stick together more than other Dutchmen, and 48% believe Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their own country.17

The last prejudice is the most absurd because most Jews in the Netherlands are so assimilated that many of them are often unrecognizable even by other Jews. Only 8,000 Jews in the Netherlands belong to any Jewish organization, out of an estimated 40,000 who can perhaps be considered Jewish. Nobody knows what the majority of Dutch Jews think about current affairs.

The ADL updated its ten-country survey in early 2004 and found a general decrease in anti-Semitic attitudes. Only the United Kingdom and the Netherlands showed an increase in anti-Semitism compared to two years earlier; it reached 9% in the latter. The figure of those Dutch who considered that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their own country had declined from 48% to 44%.18

Figleaf: Anne Frank

One cannot discuss the Jews' present situation in the Netherlands without referring to what happened in the past. There is a widespread myth that there was no anti-Semitism in the Netherlands before the war. While this is largely true for extreme, violent anti-Semitism, many other less aggressive forms of anti-Semitism and discrimination existed. Social anti-Semitism was substantial, but details have not been adequately researched.

During the Second World War, 74% of the 140,000 Dutch Jews were murdered, a higher percentage than in any other Western European country. Due to the Anne Frank paradigm, the myth of the good Dutchman has persevered in giving the impression that large parts of the Dutch population resisted the Nazis and helped the Jews. Much attention is given to the remarkable Dutchmen who hid her and none to those who betrayed and arrested her.

The truth about Dutch collaboration with the Nazis is very different from what is commonly known outside the country. The Dutch authorities sent the Jews on their first steps to their extermination on German orders; the Germans required very few of their own people for this. Dutch policemen arrested the Jews. The policemen were well aware of the criminal character of their acts; it is the role of the police to arrest suspected criminals, not innocent citizens or babies.

Government Denial of the Truth about the War

Dutch railway employees transported the Jews to the transit camps. Dutch policemen guarded them there. There was a small minority of Dutchmen who helped hide the Jews and they deserve great respect. The numbers of Dutch Nazi collaborators during the war, however, exceeded those active in the resistance. Relative to the size of its population, the Netherlands had the most Waffen SS volunteers in Western Europe.19 Furthermore, out of the 24,000 Jews who were hidden, 8,000 were betrayed by Dutchmen for a reward which in today's money amounts to perhaps 30 Euro per victim. Almost all of them were murdered in the death camps.20

The Dutch government-in-exile in London cared little about the fate of the Jews who were deported to Poland.21 It did not instruct the Dutch under occupation not to collaborate with the Nazis. After the war, the Dutch transport minister praised the Dutch railways for not striking when they transported the Jews because that would have been bad for the Dutch economy.22 In more than four years of radio speeches from London, the Dutch queen, Wilhelmina, devoted a total of five sentences to the Dutch Jews and their fate.23

Recent Dutch governments still deny, despite all evidence to the contrary, that the Netherlands has any responsibility for the fate of the Dutch Jews during the war. Gerrit Zalm, the deputy prime minister and leader of the VVD Liberal party, was finance minister when an official in his department wrote in his name to a Holocaust survivor: "In regard to the fate of the Dutch Jews during the Holocaust, the Dutch Government is of the firm belief that it has not forsaken its civic duties toward its Jewish citizens."24

After the war, the surviving Jews were discriminated against in many ways by successive Dutch democratic governments.25 Though substantial evidence exists to the contrary, the Dutch government denies until today that many cases of this discrimination were intentional.26

Anti-Semitism in the Netherlands: 2001

It is relatively easy to obtain a broad overview of the major manifestations of classical anti-Semitism in the Netherlands today. The Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI) has a detailed website describing current events of classical anti-Semitism in the Netherlands.27 Its main findings for 2001 and 2002 are summarized here.

In 2001, there were four cases of violence against Jews on their way to Amsterdam synagogues; threats at knife point, stone throwing, etc. Easily recognizable Jews or Jewish officials such as the CIDI director Ronny Naftaniel were menaced. There were also bomb threats against Jewish institutions.

Verbal violence manifests itself in many ways. A rabbi visiting prisoners has been shouted at in various prisons: "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas." This is a particularly common cry at football games, but it also happens in other places such as public transport. Dutch supporters are the main culprits on the football fields. Elsewhere, this cry is typical of youngsters of Moroccan descent or skinheads.

Swastikas on houses and insults at school or the workplace were also reported to CIDI. "They forgot to gas you" is a recurring expression. CIDI is a target of email and fax threats. It is difficult to quantify the number of incidents because probably only some are reported. The number of anti-Semitic incidents that CIDI knew about was approximately 200 in 2001, which is about the same as in 2000. It increased to 337 in 2002.

In 2001, windows of the guard's house at one of the Jewish cemeteries near Amsterdam were smashed on two occasions. Several Jewish cemeteries were also desecrated. At Oosterhout, seventy graves were vandalized with swastikas, runic letters and signs such as "Juden raus" (Away with the Jews) and "Wir sind zurück" (We are back).

The perpetrators - who belonged to an extreme right-wing organization were caught and sentenced to less than one month in prison. The Jewish community expressed its disappointment with the lenient punishment. Later in the year, swastikas were found on tombstones in the Zaltbommel Jewish cemetery. Several Jewish institutions and war monuments have been defiled with swastikas or vandalized.

In the Netherlands, Muslims traditionally demonstrate against the United States and Israel on the last day of Ramadan with a march instituted by Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran. A few neo-Nazis occasionally join the demonstration.

2002: More of the Same

There was more of the same in 2002, and only a few selected examples of the anti-Semitic acts mentioned on the CIDI website can be related here. In April, a Jewish girl went to get her brother at a non-Jewish school. She asked his classmates about his whereabouts and one of the children replied, "In the gas chamber." The school principal told the Jewish child's mother that she thought it was terrible, but that she could not do anything about it.

Violence increased in 2002. In the youth football competition, an Orthodox Jewish team playing against a team of young Dutchmen of Moroccan origin was beaten up. One Jewish boy had a brain concussion, another's ankle was damaged. Moroccans pursued the Jews into the locker room. Several bystanders made the Hitler salute.

In January 2002, eighty extreme rightists marched in Rotterdam, shouting, "Honor to the Waffen SS." The mayor of Rotterdam forbade the demonstration, but the extremists appealed to the judge who decided that the Dutch constitution permits the freedom to demonstrate. A year earlier, a judge in Maastricht rendered a similar decision. There were more desecrations of war monuments. Many incidents can be described as classic anti-Semitism and do not contain any specific anti-Israeli i.e., neo-anti-Semitic elements. Others do.

One peak of Dutch anti-Semitism occurred at a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Amsterdam in April 2002 in which a Jew was beaten up and others were insulted. There are, indeed, many cases of anti-Semitism; far more than the Netherlands has experienced for decades. The ADL study also proves that anti-Semitism is an integral - albeit not dominant - element of Dutch society.

Future Developments

Even more important than describing the current Dutch reality is assessing the key factors which may influence the development of anti-Semitism in the Netherlands and evaluating what can be done about them. One major conclusion is that there is a connection between classical anti-Semitism that targets Jewish individuals and the new anti-Semitism that focuses on Israel.

One cannot assess what the future may bring without reflecting on Dutch society and its values. Over the last few decades, Protestant Christianity - for a long time the dominant religion - has lost much of its influence on Dutch society. About half of the Dutch declare that they have no religion. This raises the basic question: what are Dutch values? This is a question brought up from time to time by the Dutch prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende, a Christian Democrat. In a broader sense, this question is also valid for Europe. It remains unclear what the Dutch people have in common. The Dutch are more a pragmatic than an intellectual nation.

The issue of national values emerged after the Dutch government changed in 2002. Its catalyst was the murder in the spring of Pim Fortuyn, the leader of the new LPF right-wing populist party, shortly before the national elections. His murderer belonged to an extreme animal rights movement.

Shifting Majorities

In a society devoid of classic values, new values are rarely more than skin deep. Majority opinions can shift rapidly. 9/11 proved this. Suddenly a poll found that a majority in the Netherlands is willing to expel trouble-making Muslims, even if they hold Dutch nationality.

Many among the Dutch left believe in a vague form of multi-culturalism. They think Dutch society should connect to some extent to the specificity of residents of non-European origin - who are commonly called allochtones in the Netherlands - creating a place in society for their values without assimilating them. This position is not very tenable when it concerns values such as blood revenge and female circumcision. Today, however, the word multi-culturalism does not elicit particularly positive connotations even on the part of Labor, the main left-wing party.

Large numbers of Muslims do not identify with Dutch history. In some schools with many allochtones, the so-called black schools, teaching the Shoah had to be abandoned because teachers were intimidated by Muslim pupils.

The other important view in the Netherlands is that Muslims will have to adapt more to Dutch society. Those who believe this hope they will ultimately be better integrated. They proclaim that Dutch society must find ways of integrating the Muslims without knowing how this should be done.

Many believe a core of Muslims - or more explicitly, Dutchmen of Moroccan origin - will never be integrated. They prefer not to contemplate in too much detail what that might mean for Dutch society.

Future Threats to Dutch Jews

One can only speculate on the future of anti-Semitism in the Netherlands. While Dutch right-wing anti-Semitism is extremely unpleasant, it is unlikely to become a major danger to the Dutch Jewish community. Its violent form is limited to miniscule fringes of Dutch society. There are no elected officials in the Netherlands - even locally - who support them or approve of their violence. However, if the general situation of overall insecurity in the Netherlands remains what it is, rightist extremists may cause some problems.

The future of Muslim anti-Semitism in the Netherlands is less clear. Three important factors may influence its development. The first is the globalization of genocidal anti-Semitism, hate, and calls for violence against Jews. These originate in the Arab world and are spread by their media. Osama Bin Laden has shown that in post-modern society, one does not need many fanatics to inflict major casualties far from home.

The latent potential for violent anti-Semitism in Dutch-Muslim society is there. If the Nazi-inspired anti-Semitic hate campaigns in the Arab world continue, there is no reason to believe that all Muslims in the Netherlands will be immune to this totalitarian and racist incitement. As the initiators of this hate propaganda are outside the Netherlands, the Dutch authorities cannot control this on-going incitement.

The second factor likely to influence the future of anti-Semitism in the Netherlands is Middle Eastern events, as broadcast by Dutch and Arab TV-stations. Less media attention to the conflict in the Middle East, for whatever reason, might weaken Muslim anti-Semitic attacks.

Security and Justice

The third important factor concerns the internal situation in Dutch society. For all practical purposes, the Netherlands cannot be defined as a state where justice reigns. The percentage of prosecuted crimes is low. At the same time, the relative crime rate among the allochtones in the Netherlands is disproportionately high vis-à-vis the population at large. This is not only true for Muslims, but also for people whose parents came from the former Dutch colonies in Latin America.

Forecasts are by nature speculative. One can develop horror scenarios, saying that there are potentially enough Muslim fanatics and/or hooligans in the Netherlands to cause the local Jews major problems in the future. On the other hand, one can assume that if the Netherlands becomes a generally more secure country as a reaction to the murderous Islamist threats against the West, the extremists in the Moroccan community will be watched more closely and criminal elements will be punished more severely. This will diminish future threats to law-abiding Dutchmen and, in an above average way, to the Dutch Jewish community.

From Anne Frank to Gretta

Another subject requiring analysis is the new anti-Semitism. Discriminatory attitudes toward Israel exist on various levels in the Netherlands. Media reporting from Israel is often biased. Although CIDI fights this distorted reporting, its activities in this field are less effective than those concerning anti-Semitism.

Discriminatory attitudes toward Israel are popular in Dutch left-of-center circles. They are supported by a small but noisy and well-financed group of anti-Israeli Jewish extremists who are organized in a group called "Another Jewish Voice."

Dutch anti-Israel activism has become internationally notorious thanks to a person who is not known for any merit of her own. Gretta Duisenberg is publicly recognized only because she is the wife of the former president of the European Central Bank, Wim Duisenberg, who does not distance himself from his wife's remarks.

In 2001, Mrs. Duisenberg organized a boycott campaign against Israel. When asked on Dutch television how many signatures she had, she said 6,000. When asked, afterwards, how many she wanted to collect, she replied "6 million" - an obvious reference to the Holocaust. A Dutch Jewish lawyer took her to court without much success. On 9 November 2003, she participated in a demonstration in the Leidse Plein in Amsterdam, where an Israeli type of checkpoint for Palestinians was set up. Only the presence of Palestinian suicide mass murderers would have made it realistic.28

In January 2003, following suicide attacks in Tel Aviv where more than twenty Israeli civilians were killed and more than 100 wounded, Gretta Duisenberg said that the attacks showed that the spiral of violence has to be broken, which would happen if Sharon ends his aggression. 29

What to Do?

Can one do anything about the Dutch anti-Israel bias? A friend of this author - an Israeli woman of Dutch origin - used to buy her clothes from a Dutch designer. She asked his employees whether it was true that he had signed the appeal to boycott Israel. They let her speak to him on the phone. When he confirmed it, she immediately left his shop. Afterwards, the designer faxed the anti-Israel manifesto he had signed to her hotel.

On her return to Israel, she faxed him a reply that included the following lines: "An anti-Semite is someone who applies double standards against Jews or Israel. Nothing has been heard from the signatories of the Duisenberg proclamation when hundreds of thousands of people were murdered in an atrocious way in Rwanda following the United Nations decision in 1994 to partially withdraw."

Her fax continued: "If I do you injustice, will you please send me all the petitions which you signed then against the United Nations. It is certainly known to you that the United Nations afterwards admitted their extensive failure."

She sent this fax at the end of 2001 and did not receive a reply. This indicates that one reason why anti-Israel attacks are so freely initiated by various people is because nobody takes them systematically to task.

Political Discrimination

Political discrimination against Israel is common, particularly by Dutch so-called progressive politicians. One example is the former leader of the Dutch Labor party (PvdA), Ad Melkert, who led his party to one of its greatest defeats in the May 2002 general elections. He proposed in a TV discussion in April 2002, during Operation Defensive Shield in Israel, that all members of the European Union recall their ambassadors from Israel.

When this was unsuccessful, he proposed in the Lower Chamber of the Dutch Parliament to recall the Dutch ambassador from Tel Aviv. The motion fell one vote short of a majority and was therefore rejected. It was supported by the Labor party and other left-of-center parties.

Dutch left-wing politicians could have proposed recalling Dutch ambassadors from many other states, had they compared the behavior of those states with that of Israel. The parties which supported Melkert never proposed such a motion. Their attitude reflects profound anti-Israeli bias. Since then, the coalition members in the Iraq War have frequently shown much less concern for Iraqi civilians than Israel does for Palestinian civilians. They have also killed many more than Israel ever did. However, the Dutch Labor party has not proposed recalling any Dutch ambassadors.

For decades, a standard answer of many accused of classic anti-Semitism was: "Some of my best friends are Jewish." New anti-Semites have developed another version of this motif. When one reproaches them for applying double standards to Israel as compared to other countries, their answer is frequently: "From our friends we expect more than from others."

Dutch Hypocrisy

The widespread hypocrisy among the Dutch political left is even more extreme. Its attitude could be summarized as: "From our friends we expect much more than from ourselves." One can prove this by analyzing how the Dutch themselves fall short of the behavior a significant number of them wish to impose on Israel. It would have been easy to illustrate this statement by quoting examples of Dutch behavior during the German occupation and the collaboration of the Dutch authorities with the Germans in bringing the Jews to their death.

The same can also be proven, however, from a more recent case that can be considered the paradigm for European hypocrisy against Israel. It concerns not only the Netherlands, but also the amorphous body of the United Nations, the French, and some individuals from other countries.

In 1993, the Dutch government decided to participate in a UN peacekeeping force in Bosnia. On 16 April of that year, the Security Council declared that the town of Srebrenica was a safe area for the Bosnians. The Canadian government announced that its soldiers there had to be relieved. Several countries were asked to replace them, but all refused.30

An Assignment "Full of Honor"

In December 1993, Dutch generals told the minister of defense that stationing a Dutch battalion in Srebrenica was an assignment "full of honor. It was not simple, but doable."31 So a Dutch contingent was sent to Srebrenica.

On 11 July 1995, the Bosnian Serb army conquered the Srebrenica enclave. The Dutch battalion (Dutchbat) of UNPROFOR (the United Nations Protection Force), the only UN soldiers in the town, fled the Srebrenica area for Zagreb. After the Dutch left, 6,000-8,000 Bosnians were murdered, making it the largest slaughter of civilians in Europe since the Holocaust. The inhabitants of Srebrenica had thought they were safe because of the United Nations' declarations and the presence of Dutch soldiers.

Only many years afterwards was it revealed that there was never a proper Dutch government discussion and decision to send the Dutch troops to Srebrenica and that the Dutch troops did not properly debrief their Canadian predecessors upon arrival. Only seven years after the event did the Dutch minister of defense explicitly admit that he knew the town was indefensible well before the mass murders took place.

Late Reactions

Five years after the massacre, Dutch army voices rather suddenly began publicly saying that Srebrenica was a "mission impossible" from the start.32 There was no more talk "that it was full of honor." Only in 2002, seven years after the massacre, was a parliamentary enquiry committee in the Netherlands finally appointed. As stated above, the Dutch left-wing politicians do not expect from their own country what they demand from Israel. One should recall that the Israeli Kahan committee reached its conclusions on the Sabra and Shatilla massacre of Palestinians by Lebanese Christians in February 1983, less than five months after the event.

The parliamentary ad hoc committee in the Netherlands on the Srebrenica affair, the Bakker Commission, did its work only five years after the event. The Netherlands Institute for War Documentation, (NIOD) charged with a detailed investigation, studied the event for about five years and published its findings in 2001. The way the Dutch carried out their inquiry on Srebrenica compares poorly to the Israeli inquiry on Sabra and Shatilla.

Incompetence, Irresponsibility, and Negligence

In recent years in the West, there has seldom been such a murderous chain reaction of incompetence, irresponsibility, and negligence as that of the various Western actors in the Srebrenica affair. The behavior of the Dutch was one among several substantial factors which facilitated the mass murder although the Dutch claim that the major responsibility resides with the United Nations - an ideal body to assume responsibility because there it can evaporate globally.

The Dutch failure in the Srebrenica disaster should be attributed to whole layers of Dutch society, not just to the government. Parliament only began asking questions three weeks after the massacre. It emerged many years later that the Dutch minister of defense was not properly briefed by his army commanders. It took the Dutch longer to appoint the NIOD to carry out a study on Srebrenica than it took the Israeli Kahan commission to complete the Sabra and Shatilla enquiry.

The Dutch press had incited the Dutch government to send troops to Bosnia without investigating the possible consequences. The first time Dutch intellectuals reacted in an organized way to the tragedy was on the fifth anniversary of the massacre. The NIOD study, which took five years to complete, claimed that the Dutch government in those fateful days of June 1995 could not have known that the Bosnian Muslims were at risk. Two ministers have since said that this conclusion, reached after so many years of study, was incorrect. Former minister Jan Pronk of the Labor party declared before the parliamentary inquiry commission in 2002: "We all knew that the Serbs considered all boys and men above fifteen years as soldiers and might murder them."33

Feasting on Beer and Music

The Dutch soldiers escaped from Srebrenica to save their own skins. Afterwards, when the first news of the mass murder was already known, they feasted on beer and music in Zagreb. The Dutch prime minister, the crown prince, and the defense minister traveled there and participated in the festivities. Dutch historian Henri Beunders wrote a year later: "While the Bosnians were standing up to their knees in blood, the Dutch soldiers in Zagreb were standing up to their ankles in beer, being applauded by Crown Prince Willem Alexander, Prime Minister Kok and Minister Voorhoeve."34

Only several years after the massacre did it become known that among the Dutch soldiers were racist radicals who had made the Nazi salute while wearing UN uniforms in Srebrenica. One soldier took pictures which showed indications of the murders taking place; the film was ruined when the army laboratory developed it. The Dutch authorities denied that this was done intentionally.

At first sight, it may not be apparent that the Srebrenica case is related to the anti-Israeli attitude among parts of the Dutch population. Nevertheless, in order to understand the "new anti-Semitism" against the State of Israel in Europe, the Srebrenica case provides an extraordinary paradigm. The major layers of Dutch society - including the government, parliament, army, media and intellectuals - have systematically and in a prolonged manner failed to deal with this issue. Dutch criticism of this dramatic failure of the Netherlands was much milder than the frequent Dutch criticism of Israel.

While Dutch governments seem to have major problems confronting matters with deadly consequences for which they are responsible, this does not prevent them from regularly criticizing the Israeli government about its behavior in infinitely more difficult circumstances. Earlier this year, the Dutch foreign minister, Bernard Bot, again selectively criticized Israel on the occasions of the killings of the Hamas leaders, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi.

A Changing Image

The Netherlands has enjoyed a positive image in world Jewish opinion for many decades. This began to change in recent years. One reason for this is that it is gradually becoming known that major underlying "facts" concerning the Dutch role in the Second World War - which contributed to this image - were false. The myth of the good Dutch is slowly being dismantled. In Israel, the screening of Lindwer's Goodbye Holland has contributed to this.

The second reason for the changing world opinion is that the Netherlands has become integrated into the European Union where French prominence has been a major force behind an anti-Israeli policy. The very negative Dutch opinion of Israel has been confirmed by the recent Euro-barometer poll. The third reason is that news about the anti-Semitic incidents in the Netherlands is slowly reaching the international Jewish community.

There is a fourth reason why the image of the Netherlands in Jewish eyes should be corrected. The Dutch government has still not publicly acknowledged the role of the Dutch authorities in the preparatory stages of the murder of Dutch Jews by the Germans. Nor has it apologized for the almost total lack of interest in the fate of Dutch Jews by the Dutch government-in-exile in London during the Second World War. It also continues to misrepresent the intentional post-war discrimination against the Jews in the Netherlands by the Dutch authorities.

In conclusion, whoever speaks today about European anti-Semitism cannot analyze just its standard elements. European anti-Semitism and European hypocrisy about Israel are so closely interwoven they have become inseparable. They are indeed Siamese twins. Analyzing anti-Semitism in the Netherlands without analyzing Dutch hypocrisy gives a distorted picture. Attitudes toward Jews and Israel in the Netherlands are such that a much more detailed analysis is justified.

Based on a lecture at the Institute for Research on Dutch Jewry at the Hebrew University on 26 November 2003.

* * *


1. ANP, "Helft jongeren Oost-Nederland pleegt strafbaar feit," de Volkskrant, 6 May 2004 [Dutch].
2. As quoted in de Volkskrant, 9 October 2001 [Dutch].
3. Hans Moll, "Politie kijkt toe bij vlagverbranding," NRC Handelsblad, 29 March 2004 [Dutch].
4. Jan't Hart, "Cohen: ‘Kanker-Utrecht is ook te ver,'" de Volkskrant, 23 April 2002.
5. Emily Gordts, "Holocaust-actie beledigend," Trouw, 9 April 2004 [Dutch].
6. Wouter Smilde, "Documentairemaker versus opdrachtgever," Trouw, 4 May 2004 [Dutch].
7. Dagblad van het Noorden, 3 May 2004 [Dutch].
8. Dani Evers, "Een paar dagen op bezoek in mijn geboorteland wat voel ik daarbij," www.joods.nl, 13 May 2004 [Dutch].
9. Werner Bergman and Juliane Wetzel, "Manifestations of Anti-Semitism in the European Union: First Semester 2002 Synthesis Report on behalf of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia," Center for Research on Antisemitism, Technical University Berlin, March 2003.
10. European Commission, "Iraq and Peace in the World," Eurobarometer Survey, No. 151, November 2003.
11. Steffie Kouters, "Joden voelen zich ontheemd in hun eigen Mokum," de Volkskrant, 1 November 2003 [Dutch].
12. Paul Andersson Toussaint, "Nieuw taboe: ‘jodenvriendje zijn,'" De Groene Amsterdammer, 31 January 2004 [Dutch].
13. "Allochtonen verstoren herdenking vierde mei," Het Parool, 8 May 2003 [Dutch].
14. www.cidi.nl/.
15. ADL, "European Attitudes Toward Jews: A Five Country Survey," October 2002.
16. ADL, "European Attitudes Toward Jews, Israel and the Palestinian-Israel Conflict," 27 June 2002.
17. ADL, "European Attitudes Toward Jews: A Five Country Survey," October 2002.
18. ADL Press Release, "ADL Survey Finds Some Decrease in Anti-Semitic Attitudes in Ten European Countries," 26 April 2004.
19. Sytze Van der Zee, Voor Fuehrer, Volk en Vaderland: De SS in Nederland, (Alphen a/d Rijn: Sythoff, 1997), pp. 56-7 [Dutch].
20. Ad van Liempt, Kopgeld: Nederlandse premiejagers op zoek near joden (Amsterdam: Balans, 2002) [Dutch].
21. Dienke Hondius, "A Cold Reception: Holocaust Survivors in the Netherlands and their Return," Patterns of Prejudice, vol. 28, no. 1 (London: Sage Publications, 1994).
22. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Isaac Lipschits, Europe's Crumbling Myths: The Post-Holocaust Origins of Today's Anti-Semitism (Jerusalem: JCPA, Yad Vashem, WJC, 2003), p. 185.
23. Nanda Van der Zee, Om Erger Te Voorkomen, (Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 1997), p. 194 [Dutch].
24. Letter of Mr. A.W.B.M. Hendriks, the director of Legislation, Government, and Judicial Affairs, on behalf of the minister of finance, to Prof. E. Landsberg, 29 September 1999 [Dutch]. Private communication.
25. Isaac Lipschits, De Kleine Sjoa: Joden in Naoorlogs Nederland, (Amsterdam: Mets & Schilt, 2001) [Dutch].
26. Government of the Netherlands. Regeringsreactie naar aanleiding van de rapporten Tegoeden Tweede Wereldoorlog, 21 March 2000 [Dutch].
27. www.cidi.nl/.
28. Rob Rombouts, "Protesten tegen Israëls Palestijnse Muur," Het Parool, 10 November 2003 [Dutch].
29. ANP, "VVD noemt reactie Gretta Duisenberg eenzijdig en walgelijk," de Volkskrant, 6 January 2003 [Dutch].
30. Manfred Gerstenfeld, "Srebrenica: The Dutch Sabra and Shatilla," Jerusalem Viewpoints, No. 458, 15 July 2001.
31. Bakker Commission Report, 2000, p. 146 [Dutch].
32. NRC Handelsblad, 31 May 2000 [Dutch].
33. NRC Handelsblad, 21 November 2002 [Dutch].
34. NRC Handelsblad, 13 July 1996 [Dutch].

* * *

Manfred Gerstenfeld is chairman of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. The latest of his seven books is Europe's Crumbling Myths: The Post-Holocaust Origins of Today's Anti-Semitism (Jerusalem: JCPA, Yad Vashem, WJC, 2003). His next book, which he co-edited with Shmuel Trigano, will appear later this year: The New Clothing of European Anti-Semitism (Editions Café Noir) [In French].




Manfred Gerstenfeld

Why Were So Many Dutch Jews Killed? / Eichmann's Pleasure / Feeding the Myth: The Anne Frank Story / Coldness and Abuse of Power / A New Museum of Dutch War Failures? / The Postwar Issue Revived / The Commissions of Inquiry / The Scholten Commission's Abuse of Confidence / Twelve Billion Dollars Not Returned? / Dutch Co-responsibility for the Jewish Fate? / Obtaining a Seal of Approval from the Jews / Paying as Little as Possible / An Israeli Aspect

The myth that the great majority of the Dutch people had a highly positive attitude toward the Jews during World War II, identified with their suffering, and took risks to help them has gradually been unmasked in The Netherlands itself over the past decades. The historian Nanda van der Zee summed this up in 1997: "The vain national self-image of the most tolerant people on earth, which had assisted its Jewish fellow-citizens so 'charitably,' was corroded in the 1960s when another generation born after the war started to ask questions."

Israeli historian Joel Fishman has also refuted a follow-up myth. He has referred to the treatment of the Dutch Jews in the postwar years by the country's democratically chosen government. The internationally known Dutch political scientist Arent Lijphart wrote that Holland "has no minorities that are disfranchised, deprived of their civil liberties, or subject to systematic discrimination." Fishman has retorted that Lijphart's statement could only be true if "the Jews in The Netherlands counted for absolutely nothing, and their history was of no consequence."

Internationally, the benign Dutch war image has held on for over fifty years. In its introduction to The Netherlands, the 1999 Jewish Chronicle Travel Guide still writes: "the Germans transported 100,000 [Jews] to death camps in Poland, but the local population tended to behave sympathetically towards their Jewish neighbors, hiding many."

Israel, where at least the authorities should know better, is no exception. One former Israeli ambassador to The Netherlands told this author that he regularly corrected draft speeches of visiting high-ranking Israeli politicians, to prevent them from thanking theDutch for their "extraordinary efforts" for the Jews during World War II without mentioning the substantial collaboration with the Nazis.

There were no extermination camps in The Netherlands, and the Dutch did not actively participate in the killing of Jews. The mass atrocities, for which Germany and so many other European nations supplied willing executors, did not take place on Dutch soil. Few people, however, would consider this itself a sign of great humanity.

Why Were So Many Dutch Jews Killed?

The percentage of Jews from The Netherlands murdered by the Germans and their associates in World War II was higher than in any other Western European country. There were approximately 140,000 Jews in The Netherlands at the outbreak of the war, representing 1.6 percent of the Dutch population, though in Amsterdam they comprised as much as 9.5 percent of the city's population. Some 107,000 Jews were deported from The Netherlands, of whom 102,000 were murdered. Most of the remainder went into hiding, were married to non-Jews and thus freed from deportation, or fled abroad.

Several explanations have been given for this high percentage of Dutch Jews killed. Before The Netherlands capitulated five days after the German invasion in May 1940, Queen Wilhelmina and most members of the Dutch government fled to England. The Germans had initially intended to install a military government, but in the legal vacuum resulting from the flight, Hitler saw the opportunity to insert a civil Nazi government almost immediately.

The head of the Reich's civil government for The Netherlands, the Austrian Nazi leader Dr. A. Seyss-Inquart, reported directly to Hitler. Seyss-Inquart brought with him several other Austrians who later were to show their efficiency, inter alia, in administering the looting and deportation of the Jews. The historian Jozeph Michman, former chairman of the Jerusalem-based Center for Research on Dutch Jewry, suggests that another reason for the high impact of the Holocaust in The Netherlands is that Hitler had special designs on the country and wanted to make it part of the Reich after the war.

Eichmann's Pleasure

Since The Netherlands was well-administered and well-documented, it was relatively easy to round up the Jews. Orders were given by the occupiers and executed by the Dutch authorities. Yet another reason sometimes given for the high Jewish death-toll is that The Netherlands is a small and flat country in which it is more difficult to hide than in Belgium or France. This is a weak argument since, in the later war years, many hiding places were found for Dutch workers who had been called up for labor service in Germany.

After the flight of the Queen and the government, the highest remaining authorities in The Netherlands were the secretaries-general of the ministries, the senior ranking civil servants. These officials--in an inferior position vis-a-vis the German occupiers--were out of their depth, and helped to put the Dutch bureaucratic and institutional apparatus at the disposal of the occupiers. This greatly facilitated the deportation of the Dutch Jews after their property had been systematically looted.

In their preparations for the extermination of the Jews living in The Netherlands, the Germans could count on the assistance of the greater part of the Dutch administrative infrastructure. The occupiers had to employ only a relatively limited number of their own. Dutch policemen rounded up the families to be sent to their deaths in Eastern Europe. Trains of the Dutch railways staffed by Dutch employees transported the Jews to camps in The Netherlands which were transit points to Auschwitz, Sobibor, and other death camps. Van der Zee writes that with respect to Dutch collaboration, Eichmann later said "The transports run so smoothly that it is a pleasure to see."

Well before the deportations, the systematic looting of Jewish properties had begun. For instance, on German orders, the Dutch banks sent out forms to Jewish clients enabling the transfer of their deposits to LIRO, the "looting bank" instituted by the Germans to expropriate money from the Jews. Many Amsterdam stock market traders made good profits on the sale of shares and bonds taken from the Jews.

Other respectable Dutch citizens just "accommodated" themselves. Jacques Presser, a Jewish historian who wrote the official history of the persecution of Dutch Jewry during World War II, was interviewed shortly before his death in 1970 by filmmaker Philo Bregstein. Presser said that when he was dismissed as a high school teacher during the war, what affected him even more than the dismissal was the name of the person who had signed the dismissal letter: "That was a man who then and years after the war--I believe even justifiably so--had a reputation of total rectitude. I could only relate it to my general situation as a Jew, and was aware that, within the context of the interests at play, I was a dispensable piece of small change."

Feeding the Myth: The Anne Frank Story

The myth of the exceptionally benign Dutch attitude feeds on several motifs. One is the February 1941 solidarity strike in Amsterdam and a few other cities; the other is the Anne Frank story. Her diary is widely read throughout the world. The house in Amsterdam where she was hidden occupies a respectable place among Europe's most visited museums. The way in which she is remembered focuses on the courage of those who took risks to hide her. Her diary statement that she believed in the good of man is widely quoted. Society prefers to remember noble individuals rather than traitors.

The one-sided Dutch "resistance image" was heavily propagated in the postwar period. It conveniently ignored the fact that the vast majority of the nation accommodated itself to circumstances. The traumatized and impoverished remnants of Dutch Jewry were in no political or personal position to fight this distortion of history. They had to start from scratch to build up a new existence and, to keep their sanity, they had to look to the future. Some of the survivors were ill. After the Holocaust, many did not want to identify with the community. Furthermore, those who had been hidden during the war had mainly seen the better side of the Dutch. The majority, who had experienced a more representative truth, were no longer alive.

Nor was the Dutch Jewish community in those and later years an equal partner in negotiations with the Dutch government. The country's bureaucracy did not facilitate the fight of this community and its individuals to regain their property. Immoral application of Dutch inheritance tax laws enabled the state to appropriate a substantial part of the assets of those who did not return.

Coldness and Abuse of Power

The immediate postwar attitude of the Dutch government reflected a coldness and abuse of power against this vulnerable community in many other areas. The remnants also had to fight an uphill battle to return Jewish war orphans to family members or Jewish institutions. The government commission appointed to decide on these cases was stacked not only with Christians, who had their own agenda, but also with baptized and assimilated Jews. In another example of Dutch insensitivity, for several months after the war a number of stateless Jews of German origin were locked up in the same camps as Nazis and their collaborators.

Michman told this author two stories which he had heard first-hand from those involved, and which illustrate that Dutch postwar authorities were well aware of discrimination against the Jews. Joop Voet, later Dutch honorary consul in Tel Aviv, worked at the Beheersinstituut, the government body which acted as custodian of the property of enemies as well as of missing persons, nearly all of them Jews. Voet was often told there that "legal restitution to the Jews would be in conflict with the postwar economic reconstruction of The Netherlands."

The other story concerns a visit to postwar Dutch Prime Minister Schermerhorn, a member of the Dutch Labor party, by one of his former school colleagues who lived in Mandatory Palestine. Also present was Karel Hartog, then secretary of the executive of the NZB, the Dutch Zionist organization. Hartog later reported on the visit to his organization's executive, of which Michman was a member. The prime minister had told them that they could not expect him as a socialist to help restore money to Jewish capitalists.

A New Museum of Dutch War Failures?

The time has come to provide a more balanced view of Dutch behavior during World War II. One could imagine the construction of a "Museum of Dutch War Failures" next to the Anne Frank house, to be visited with the same ticket. One major exhibit could be about Anne Frank's belief in man's goodness, in contrast to her latter experiences when one or more Dutch betrayed her and she died in the German concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen.

Other exhibits could show pictures of individual Dutch collaborators who betrayed Jews and sent them to their deaths in exchange for a reward which, even if inflation-corrected, comes to less than twenty dollars in today's terms. Yet another exhibit could include pictures of the majority of the members of the Dutch High Court of Justice who, in the early days of the occupation, did not consider the German-imposed removal of non-Aryans, i.e., Jews, from Dutch official life to contradict the country's constitution. With this decision, they supported the removal from office of Court President L.E. Visser, who was Jewish.

The number of Dutch Nazi collaborators during World War II exceeded the number of those active in the resistance, even if one does not include in the first category the unknown number of those who stole Jewish property. Many cases are known of Jews who hid their possessions during the war with non-Jewish acquaintances and neighbors, who then denied any knowledge of this when the Jews returned after the war.

It is also not widely known that--relative to its population--The Netherlands had the highest number of Waffen SS volunteers in Western Europe. Giving these facts as much attention as the hiding of Anne Frank would help to balance the international perception of Dutch attitudes during World War II.

The Postwar Issue Revived

In postwar Netherlands, considerable attention has been given to documenting the war's history. After the war a special institute was established for this purpose and continues to carry out research, known today as NIOD, The Netherlands Institute of War Documentation. However, the attention paid to the immediate postwar period was very limited. Throughout the decades, only a few writers, both Jewish and non-Jewish, have mentioned that, overall, the returning Jews were less than welcome in many places in The Netherlands, that Jews had been discriminated against in postwar restitution cases, and that there were expressions of anti-Semitism both by the Dutch government and in Dutch society.

Yet a change is now taking place. In recent years, there has been an intensified international debate on the fate of Jewish property during and after the war. This debate has also touched The Netherlands, where some new facts have been discovered that have helped bring this issue into the limelight. One involves Dutch government employees in charge of the restitution of looted Jewish property who, in 1968, auctioned off some remnants of it among themselves at ridiculously low prices. Another involves the accidental discovery of part of the LIRO archive in an Amsterdam building which once belonged to the Ministry of Finance.

The previous Dutch government realized that major damage to the country's image could occur if fragments of negative information on Dutch behavior during and after the war kept being exposed in the international media. The excessively positive image of the Dutch during World War II could rapidly switch to a negative one. The recent Swiss experience has shown how individual pieces of bad news can rekindle a publicity storm time after time.

In one ironic twist of fate, until recently, a painting from a "contested" prewar Jewish collection was found to have been hanging, until recently, in the Dutch ambassador's residence in Israel. After the Dutch authorities had already ordered it to be removed, the story was published in Israeli newspapers. The more the investigations continue, the more negative information will be revealed.

Books and newspaper articles continue to report additional stories which further erode the myth of Dutch behavior during the war. In the recently published book Dienaren van het Gezag (Servants of Authority), historian Guus Meershoek analyzes the attitude of the Amsterdam police during the war. Among many examples of misbehavior, he mentions how on one occasion Dutch policemen entered a Jewish cafe, searched the people there, took away the jewels they found which the Jews--according to German orders--should have handed over to LIRO, noted them in the police records as found objects, and then distributed them among themselves.

The Commissions of Inquiry

The Dutch government thus decided that it should become pro-active on this issue. In 1997 it instituted four commissions of inquiry to investigate the looting of Jewish property during the war and restitution afterwards. Furthermore, a body called SOTO, headed by historian Conny Kristel, a NIOD employee, was established to assess the postwar treatment of returnees. Although SOTO does not deal exclusively with Jews, they are its main concern.

Some commission reports have already been published. The Kordes Commission, which dealt with the LIRO bank, demonstrated in its final report an understanding of how cold the treatment of the remaining Jews by Dutch postwar governments had been, and recommended that payments now be made to the Jews for several wrongs. One of these involved the fact that the Dutch government did not return most of the taxes taken, without the knowledge of the owners, from looted Jewish accounts during World War II by Dutch tax authorities, including for years after the account owners had been gassed.

One major objection to the Kordes Commission's conclusions concerns their opinion that it was correct to apply the Dutch inheritance tax laws to the fortunes of the murdered Jews. This subject could become an academic case study. It is a paradigm of how a normal law in a democratic country can become a perverse tool if applied in an extreme situation, particularly against a politically weak community. The Dutch government instituted its inheritance tax laws for a normal society in which the vast majority of people die a natural death. It then used these laws to appropriate money from the estates of a community which it had been unable to protect, 75 percent of whom were murdered over a two- to three-year period.

The Scholten Commission's Abuse of Confidence

Another government commission of inquiry, the Scholten Commission, has come under major criticism. Most of the commission members are former board members of banks or insurance companies; thus they can hardly be considered impartial and fit to supervise an independent inquiry into institutions from which they have received money in the past.

The report of this government-appointed commission was paid for by the institutions it investigated, which undermines its value. Only a minority of the institutions approached agreed to cooperate with the commission's researchers. Thus, the first report from the Scholten Commission was methodologically flawed, as has been pointed out in reactions to it.

Detailed critical comments on this report were also made by the CJO, the central Jewish consultation body which encompasses the main organizations of the Dutch Jewish community. It charged the Scholten Commission with "abuse of their confidence," a particularly radical statement for the very prudent representatives of Dutch Jewry.

The historian Isaac Lipschits, one of the first authors to draw attention, decades ago, to postwar discrimination against Dutch Jews, told this author of yet another shortcoming of the commission's researchers. He visited one of the banks that was willing to cooperate, where he was very well received by its archivist and given a detailed file on the safe-deposit boxes of Jews which had been broken open--on German orders--during the war. The archivist told Lipschits that the researchers of the Scholten Commission had been told about these files but had shown no interest in them.

Twelve Billion Dollars Not Returned?

It remains unclear how much was looted from Dutch Jews during the war and what percentage was restored afterwards. The Van Kemenade inquiry commission is expected to publish an estimate at the end of 1999. The local branch of the international KPMG auditing firm was hired to develop these figures.

In Spring 1999, the historian Gerard Aalders, a NIOD employee, published the book Roof (Looting), on the expropriation of Dutch Jewish property during World War II. The numbers he suggests remain the subject of debate. Lipschits believes Aalders' estimates are far too low, and that the amount may be close to 2.5 billion guilders at that time, of which less than 50 percent was returned after the war.

Based on Lipschits' rough estimates, and multiplying what was not returned by a factor of at least 20, to compensate for inflation and interest over 50 years, one reaches a figure of about 25 billion guilders, or twelve billion dollars at 1999 values.

The Dutch government is obviously responsible for what happened with regard to the restitution of Jewish property after World War II. Aalders, who gave a lecture at an international symposium organized by the Center for Research on Dutch Jewry in November 1998 in Jerusalem, was heavily criticized by the public for focusing on the question of whether the postwar restitution laws were correctly applied, rather than emphasizing their morally doubtful character.

Aalders published an article quite similar to his lecture in the main Netherlands daily NRC Handelsblad in which he described what had occurred after World War II: "For the robbed Jews who had been harder hit than any other group, no extra provisions were made. A public discussion as to whether that was desirable or not has never been held."

Dutch Co-responsibility for the Jewish Fate?

A more complex matter is the extent of Dutch government responsibility for what happened to the Dutch Jews during the war. One aspect of this concerns the flight of the government and the Queen to London and its constitutional impact. Another is the quality of the contingency plans left behind. Nor did the government in exile give clear instructions as to how the Dutch civil servants should behave when the Jews were isolated, looted, and transported to their death, while they did so on the occasion of other deportations. Queen Wilhelmina mentioned the suffering of her Jewish subjects only three times in her radio speeches to the Dutch people during five years of exile.

The issue is not that the Dutch officials under the occupation served the Germans and few of them were heroes. The issue is much more that the present Dutch government cannot claim that its wartime predecessors in exile did their utmost to provide clear instructions to the Dutch authorities under occupation as to how to behave on matters of discrimination against the Jews, making possible the accusation of their co-responsibility for the fate of the Dutch Jews in the war. For example, the Dutch police was a body meant to arrest criminals. However, it also systematically arrested innocent Jewish citizens on German orders. Can later Dutch governments be exempt from legal responsibility for those actions?

In 1998, Avraham Roet, an Israeli businessman of Dutch origin, founded the Israel Institute for Research on Dutch Jewish Assets Lost during the Holocaust, which has become a source of information for those seeking documentation in this field. Roet recently made public a letter sent to him by a well-known Amsterdam law firm in which one of the senior partners writes: "certainly morally, and arguably legally, the Kingdom is responsible for what happened to its subjects that it could not protect during the Nazi occupation."

Today, the Dutch government has a difficult task before it: it must manage a politically hot issue with both financial and image risks. One of its goals must be to avoid trouble with the world Jewish community. It has seen how the Swiss state and its institutions have experienced worldwide criticism from the media, boycotts by some American institutions, and problems with the American justice system.

The Dutch government is well aware that similar actions could be taken against major Dutch banking interests in the United States. For instance, the financial damage that class action suits could cause might far exceed the amounts the Dutch government intends to pay the Jewish community.

The Dutch government is clearly aware of the dangers. According to the Volkskrant daily, in a highly unusual step, the Dutch government has paid over $100,000 to Hill & Knowlton, a leading American public relations firm, to deal with issues concerning its restitution policies in the American media. The Dutch government justified its decision by stating that there had been reports in the media that the Dutch had not been diligent enough after the war in returning looted art, brought back from Germany, to its rightful owners.

Obtaining a Seal of Approval from the Jews

One of the Dutch government's major political goals, in its quest for damage-control, is to obtain recognition that, while its predecessors may have failed, it is now acting reasonably under the circumstances. The only people who can give this seal of approval--we might call it "a kashrut stamp"--are the Jews. From the Dutch government's point of view, it is unfortunate that there are so many potential Jewish counterparts. From the Jewish side, this may be an advantage. If the results of the negotiations are not satisfactory, there will be so much criticism of the negotiators from other Dutch Jewish interests that any such approval would become ineffectual.

Ideally, the present Dutch government would like to receive testimony of good conduct from the representatives of all Dutch Jews around the world. This is impossible. The government will thus, at best, have to make do with certification by the leading bodies of Dutch Jewry and Jews in Israel of Dutch origin.

In The Netherlands, the main Jewish body involved in these matters is the CJO, though its claim to exclusive representation is contested by some smaller organizations. In Israel the various organizations of Jews of Dutch origin have created an umbrella body, "Platform Israel." However, the thousands of Dutch Jews who emigrated to North America after World War II are not organized.

Another aim of the Dutch government must be to reach a generally accepted historical truth about the systematic looting of Dutch Jewry during World War II and the question of restitution thereafter. From the government's point of view, the best solution would be if the Dutch Jewish community would accept the validity of the conclusions reached by the government inquiry commissions.

After what has been published so far by the Kordes and particularly the Scholten Commissions, however, this would be a major historical and political mistake. The Jewish representatives should focus on the financial side of the negotiations, and leave the political and historical aspects to be judged by future generations. At least some of the Dutch Jewish leaders are aware of this. One said to this author, "We have to avoid falsifying history in exchange for money."

Paying as Little as Possible

There are indications that the Dutch government has at least one more aim: to pay as little money as possible to the Dutch Jewish community. The negotiations potentially could become very one-sided. The government is very powerful with a huge infrastructure and almost unlimited means. The CJO and Platform Israel represent small communities with limited organizational structures and few human resources.

On the other hand, the Jewish representatives have a few cards to play. The Dutch government must wish to avoid the involvement in the negotiations of international Jewish organizations such as the World Jewish Congress. These organizations are not dependent on the Dutch government, their financial claims will exceed those of the Dutch Jewish community, and they may even desire some additional international media exposure. These are excellent reasons for the Dutch government to try to keep world Jewry out of the negotiations.

Against this background, statements appear in the Dutch media which remind one of anti-Semitic stereotypes, for example, that Jews are money hungry. Some Dutch officials claim that the Jewish community should primarily aim "for recognition and not for money."

This led Hans Vuijsje, director of JMW, the Dutch Organization for Jewish Social Work, to write to one of these officials: "The statement that we should not talk about money but about 'recognition' is seen in our circles as chutzpah, cheek. It is the opposite of the facts. It is not the Jews talking all the time about money, but Dutch society. The question about 'recognition' is: for what? Not recognition as war victims, that has already been given [but]...recognition that the possessions of the Jews have been handled in a careless way."

An Israeli Aspect

One specifically Israeli aspect of the debate is that The Netherlands has heavily criticized Israeli policies on many occasions over the past decades, mainly within the framework of the European Union. These one-sided criticisms have often been dressed in the cloak of morality. It is obvious that they have been highly politically motivated, because there has been much less European criticism of murderous Arab dictatorships.

The studies of the Dutch government's own commissions of inquiry strengthen what was known before, that democratically elected Dutch governments and several major institutions behaved immorally toward the Dutch Jews when this was profitable. The further research of the inquiry commissions will demonstrate consistent moral failures of a series of Dutch governments.

These can be used as a powerful argument against the Dutch government when the European Union tries to put pressure on Israel in the forthcoming peace negotiations. A nation that has frequently exercised discrimination against a weak minority should concentrate, in the future, on its own shortcomings before criticizing other nations.

The debate on this issue will undoubtedly heat up in the near future when further commission reports are published and negotiations begin with the Dutch government on what will be returned to the Jews. At present it seems quite probable that the work of the commissions of inquiry and SOTO will not accomplish what the Dutch government wants. They will not mark the end of the investigations of how the Dutch government and society treated the Jews in the postwar years, but rather may well signify their beginning.


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