Netherlands: "This cannot be positive for the Jews"

Netherlands: "This cannot be positive for the Jews"

Via Snouck, an interview with Henri Markens, a religious Dutch Jew and the former principal of a Jewish High School in Amsterdam-South, at the Institute for Global Jewish Affairs site.

Markens states the obvious - life has become much more dangerous for Jews in recent years. But there are several points of particular interest which are not directly related to physical safety.

1. It's unclear to me whether the article is written in the same order Markens addressed the issues, but note that the first point he mentions when it comes to Islam: Jewish slaughter. Earlier he talks about how the Jewish kippa is now seen as a provocation (by Muslims? by the Dutch?). The Muslim minority in the Netherlands (and in Europe, in general), being a much bigger, newer and more demanding minority is affecting the Jewish community just by being there. My wish to follow up on this development was one of the reasons I started this blog.

2. Markens talks about a visit by Rita Verdonk, the integration minister at the time:

"Verdonk also spent a Friday night at our home. At a certain moment I said: 'We Jews are well integrated into Dutch society, but we still keep our own identity. I wear a kippa in those neighborhoods of Amsterdam where it is possible, go to synagogue, and eat only kosher food. At the same time I also live within the larger Dutch society. These go together very well.' Verdonk had great difficulty understanding this."

Can an ethnic nation state ever accept a minority community that refuses to assimilate? If the Dutch don't understand the Jews, a long-time minority, how can anyone expect them to understand the Muslims?

3. On anti-Israelism and anti-Zionism:

Jews are more and more being identified with Israel, and the difference between anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism is marginal. The former-for instance, in politicians' statements-is generally a tacit way to express the latter.

Europeans kid themselves by saying that Antisemitism has been erased from the public discussion. Antisemitism is alive and well and just as virulent as ever. It is just expressed more 'politely'. Even anti-Israelism is not called by name but rather has a euphemism: anti-Zionism. This point is usually lost on Europeans, but also and more importantly on the Muslims, who do not realize their own interest in discouraging hatred against any minority group. Instead, they fan the flames.


The Impact of Islam

Markens says that the immigration of Muslims and the rise of Islam in the Netherlands have created problems for the Jews and will continue to do so. "Every few years there are problems concerning shechita [kosher slaughter]. The organizations for the protection of animals focus on Islamic slaughter. However, the Jewish method of slaughter is drawn into these attacks.

"The animal protection organizations address their criticism to the Agriculture Ministry. The ministry then issues stricter regulations for slaughter. Life is made increasingly difficult for Jews in the slaughterhouses. The animal protectors are no friends of the Jews and that is also true for many people working in the slaughterhouses. Several ritual slaughterers have told us that a number of employees of the slaughterhouses are rabid anti-Semites.

"There are about one million Muslims in the Netherlands. Their influence on the political system is increasing; they may even establish a national party. This cannot be positive for the Jews. The more power the Muslim community gains, the more it will weaken the Jewish community's relations with a number of ministries.

"In the most recent elections a large part of Dutch Muslims voted for the Labor Party. This party has for decades allowed unlimited Muslim immigration and has done nothing about hateful sermons in mosques. Labor is to a large extent guilty for the present political climate in the Netherlands. It was obvious that parts of the Muslim community would create problems. These have been 'solved' in the usual Dutch way, which means they have been neglected. At present Labor is changing its policy in this respect, having seen that a velvet-gloves approach did not work."

Contacts with Muslim Schools

Markens says Jewish students should meet more often with Muslim students. "If we promote this, there is some hope. It cannot be done only on an incidental basis. It has to be repeated with other groups. One must hope that the pupils will tell about these meetings to other members of their communities. Children tend to discuss only minute issues with each other. This is not the solution for the bigger problems, but it could be the beginning of future developments. I proposed to the highest levels of the Amsterdam municipality to facilitate meetings of this kind, but they did not react. Finally I established contact myself with a Muslim school.

"The problems with the Muslims also affect Dutch society as a whole, which is becoming increasingly anti-Israel. Jews are more and more being identified with Israel, and the difference between anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism is marginal. The former-for instance, in politicians' statements-is generally a tacit way to express the latter. Non-Jewish teachers who applied to join our staff made similar observations. I would also provoke these statements by saying to them: 'If you think the establishment of the state of Israel was a historical mistake, then you shouldn't come to work here.' Their standard reply was 'I wouldn't have reacted to the advertisement if I thought that way.'

"Children are usually more radical in their attitudes than their parents. When there had been another terror attack in Israel, the school in particular would react with a depressed mood. Very often a family who had a child at our school was related to or knew someone related to a victim of such an attack. Many families had lost family members or friends in this way."


Not Optimistic about the Future

Markens remarks: "I am not optimistic about the future of Dutch society. In 2003 we had visits at our school by Rob Oudkerk, then alderman of education from the Labor Party, and Lodewijk Asscher, who is now deputy mayor of Amsterdam representing the same party but at that time was the party's faction chairman.

"We told them how our pupils experience the increasing anti-Semitism in Amsterdam. This trend still continues. In 2005, near the metro station in Amstelveen where many middle-class Jews live, one of our pupils was beaten up by three or four non-Western immigrants. He was wearing a Star of David. An incident of this kind at that place was unusual. It is much more common that such things happen in Amsterdam proper. The closer one comes to the center of the city, the more dangerous the situation becomes.

"The phenomenon is more severe than the beating itself. I consider mental abuse to be more serious than physical harm. The consequences of the beating can be healed in an hour or at most a few months. The emotional abuse is frightening and one starts to behave accordingly. In the past a number of students wore kippot when traveling from school to the Amsterdam central station. Today this is no longer possible."


Source: Insights into the Situation of the Jews in the Netherlands

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