Jewish World

Questions of
tolerance and
Holland’s Jews watch hesitantly as the
country goes to the polls amid rising
nationalism and an anti-Muslim backlash
By Tibor Krausz, Amsterdam

IN THEIR hometown of Amsterdam, Ba- “Not all [Moroccans] are scum,” he elu-
ruch Spinoza and Anne Frank have long cidated in an off-the-cuff interview with a
been upheld as the famously liberal city’s television reporter in February. “But there
twin beacons of moral guidance. is a lot of Moroccan scum in Holland who
The rationalist philosopher, whose bronze make the streets unsafe, mostly young peo-
statue in front of City Hall is a popular tour- ple. And that should change.”
ist attraction, has been celebrated for his That change should start with putting an
vocal advocacy of religious tolerance. The end to all immigration from Muslim coun-
vivacious teenage diarist, whose wartime tries, Wilders has insisted repeatedly over
hiding place in a cramped little attic now the years. He implored Dutch voters to
serves as part of the Anne Frank House in “please make the Netherlands ours again”
central Amsterdam, has, in turn, come to by voting his party into office so he could
personify, as a high-profile victim of it, the make good on that policy pledge. “We
enduring evil of intolerance. should be tolerant to people who are toler-
As locals cast their ballots in general elec- ant to us,” he explained. “We should be in-
tions on March 15, questions of tolerance tolerant to people who are intolerant to us.”
and intolerance are again on many people’s One wonders what Baruch and Anne, one
minds across the Netherlands. The anti-im- the son of Portuguese Jewish refugees, the
migrant Freedom Party is riding high in the other a German-born immigrant to Amster-
polls thanks to the unabashedly populist dam, would make of the blustering Dutch
stance of its maverick leader, Geert Wilders. nationalist, who is himself partly of Indo-
nesian immigrant heritage. Perhaps they
You can encounter would see Wilders, like his legions of crit-
ics at home and abroad, as a jumped-up
manifestations of fascist, a “far-right extremist,” a “vulgar
muscular Islamism rabble-rouser,” and an out-and-out “Islam-
even during leisurely Or, perhaps, they could see why his
anti-immigrant message has come to reso-
strolls around town in nate with a large segment of Dutch society,
which seems to have reached the end of
Amsterdam its much-vaunted tolerance when it comes
to some questionable forms of “cultural
enrichment” that mass immigration has
A vociferous critic of Islam, Wilders, 53, brought to the Netherlands.
has likened the Koran to Hitler’s “Mein
Kampf” and insisted that Islamist ideolo- THE DUTCH Jewish writer Leon de Winter
gy is more dangerous than Nazism. He has has called Wilders “a necessity in today’s
vowed to ban the Koran and close down political landscape” because the politician
all the mosques in the Netherlands if he’s dares to challenge the prevailing political
elected prime minister – although he hasn’t narrative that deems it a moral obligation
explained how he would go about doing all by European nations to facilitate the mass
that. Wilders has also pledged to follow the immigration of Muslim migrants while
example of the United Kingdom and take simultaneously portraying their growing
the Netherlands out of the European Union presence as an unquestionable benefit to
so that the country could better defend its their host nations. “These feelings of dis-
borders against illegal entrants. comfort, of desperation, about very lax
With his impish features and bouffant migration that are felt [among] the general
Riding a wave of anti-Muslim populist hairdo dyed platinum blond, Wilders resem- public here in Holland [are], I think, a bit
sentiment, Geert Wilders has promised bles less a firebrand than an eccentric sci- more intense among the Dutch Jews,” de
to ban the Koran and close down the ence teacher. Yet, circumspect he isn’t. The Winter explains.
Netherland’s mosques should he become politician recently dismissed young Moroc- You can encounter manifestations of mus-
prime minister can immigrants with criminal tendencies as cular Islamism even during leisurely strolls
“scum.” around town in Amsterdam. On a recent

Jewish World

wintry afternoon, hundreds of Turkish res- But some of the cultural fault lines be-
idents gathered at the city’s historic Dam tween natives and immigrants from pre-
Square, right in front of the Royal Palace. dominantly Muslim nations are no laughing
The women wearing hijabs and chadors, the matter, for they have been drawn in blood.
men bearing Turkish flags and pictures of
President Reçep Tayyip Erdoğan, they had EAST OF Dam Square, in the bicycle lane
come to listen animatedly to fiery speech- of a nondescript street named after the
es in support of the Turkish strongman, an 18th-century Swedish botanist Carl Lin-
avowed Islamist who has done much to roll naeus, a few wilting flowers placed on the
back secularism in Turkey. pavement mark the spot where the film
Their indignant tirades amplified by loud- director Theo van Gogh, the great-grand-
speakers, bearded men, presumably from nephew of the post-impressionist painter
Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Par- Vincent, was murdered in cold blood on
ty, berated Western nations for supporting the morning of November 2, 2004. Van
Kurdish independence and sang the praises Gogh was bicycling to work, in the style of
of Turkish nationalism. Dutch street per- many an Amsterdammer, when he was am-
formers in their Yoda and Crypt-Keeper bushed and shot repeatedly by Mohammed
costumes, who are among the usual inhabi- Bouyeri, a second-generation Dutch Mus-
tants of the square, appeared forlorn and out lim of Moroccan descent, who proceeded to
of place beside the heaving crowd of agitat- slash the dying man’s throat before pinning
ed Turkish immigrants. a note to his chest with a knife.
It’s hard to imagine that stalwarts of The note was addressed to Ayaan Hirsi

Wilders’ Freedom Party would ever dream Ali, a Somali Muslim immigrant who, as a
of staging a Dutch nationalist rally in down- member of the Dutch parliament, had been
town Istanbul – or that they would be al- an outspoken critic of regressive Islamic
lowed to get away with it. practices. She and van Gogh had just pro-
But such is European-style multicultur- duced a short film, “Submission,” which
alism: a largely monocultural phenomenon sought to highlight the abuse of women
whereby tolerance is routinely a one-way in Islamic cultures and what the two saw
street. as scripturally sanctified misogyny in Is-
lam. In doing so, they instantly earned the Muslims shout slogans in Amsterdam
We once colonized murderous enmity of homegrown Islamists during a demonstration in solidarity with
such as Bouyeri. the people rising up across the Arab and
people, and now Bouyeri’s open letter to Hirsi Ali was a Muslim world, in 2011
we’re getting rambling screed of Islamist grievance-mon-
gering in which he accused her of being in
colonized in return the service of Islam’s alleged arch enemies, its patron saints of enlightened rationalism
the Jews, “who are a product of Talmudic like Spinoza, being Dutch meant being free
schools” and dominated Dutch politics, as to criticize all religions – and poke fun at
Bring up the subject of Muslim mass evidenced by Amsterdam’s then mayor, Job them if he so wished.
immigration, and locals you encounter in Cohen, who was himself Jewish. Before his murder, van Gogh, a portly and
Amsterdam over a beer or coffee (or can- “How do you feel about the fact that a aging enfant terrible of sorts with a sullen
nabis joint, if you so choose) will instantly mayor is leading Amsterdam who sub- stare and a cigarette habitually protruding
shy away from anything beyond paying lip scribes to a religion that allows Jews to lie insouciantly from between his lips, waved
service to the virtues of “diversity.” Once to non-Jews?” Bouyeri wanted to know. aside offers of police protection, insisting
they feel at ease, though, they may well “How do you feel about the fact that you are he had nothing to fear because “no one kills
become more forthcoming, bemoaning part of a government that supports a state the village idiot.” (His suicidal nonchalance
what they see as an increasingly fissiparous [Israel] with an ideology that advocates was all the more surprising, given that two
society. genocide [against Palestinians]?” years prior a friend of his, the openly gay
“We once colonized people, and now Although both van Gogh and Bouyeri politician Pim Fortuyn, had been murdered
we’re getting colonized in return,” quipped were Dutch citizens, they had wholly dif- in broad daylight by a left-wing activist for
a middle-aged IT professional over brunch ferent views of what that meant. For the his frequent criticisms of Islam.)
in a tea house near the city center. “We only irreverent film director, steeped in Amster- For Bouyeri, on the other hand, being
have ourselves to blame!” dam’s centuries-old liberal traditions with Dutch was an accident of birth. He saw

himself primarily as a Muslim who Security at several synagogues and Jew- The Anne Frank House – one of
belonged to the global community of true ish community centers around Amsterdam Amsterdam's most popular tourist
believers, the Ummah, and whose religion has been beefed up with a visible and per- destinations – now requires heavily armed
claimed rightful sovereignty over all manent police presence. De Winter, an out- police to stand guard against terrorist
nations with the laws of divinely inspired spoken critic of homegrown Islamism, has threats
shari’a trumping the petty man-made laws compared Jewish schools in Amsterdam to
of the Netherlands. heavily fortified “bunkers.” It’s “a scandal
For Islamists everywhere, mocking or [and] total insanity that this is happening, Dutch Moroccan man who was linked to
criticizing Islamic beliefs is haram. It’s a that Jewish kids have to be protected like Amsterdam’s Arrayan Mosque, belonged to
crime that warrants the death penalty, and this in our age,” he elucidates.  the Hofstad Network, the same homegrown
Bouyeri decided to act on that Islamic pre- Willem Wagenaar, a researcher at the Islamist terrorist network that had counted
cept by murdering van Gogh. Anne Frank House, cautions against undue Bouyeri among its members. Aziz Oilkadis,
Over a decade on, a sense of unease, panic, however. “Anti-Semitism is a big chairman of the board at the Sunni mosque,
fear even, remains palpable in Amster- problem everywhere [in Europe], but if you tried to downplay reports that his house of
dam. As across much of Western Europe, compare the situation in Amsterdam to that worship was a hotbed of jihadism. “Do I
from Malmö to Marseille and from Berlin in Paris or Brussels, it’s less visible,” Wa- know jihadists? We know so many people,”
to Brussels, mass immigration from Mus- genaar says. That said, he adds, “Extreme Oilkadis told a Dutch newspaper. “That
lim-majority countries has facilitated the jihadists know no borders and the threat of means nothing.”
spread into Amsterdam and other Dutch cit- being targeted by them is there.”
ies of some deep-seated cultural pathologies Last November, Dutch media reported TO LOCAL Jews, that does mean
from the Middle East: a spike in virulent an- that the country’s intelligence service had something. They have been feeling
ti-Semitism, a lingering threat of terrorism, uncovered a terrorist plot by a local Islamist increasingly under threat for years. In 2014,
a diehard form of religious obscurantism cell to target a synagogue and kill a large the country’s ultra-Orthodox chief rabbi,
that brooks no criticism or dissent. number of Jews. Its alleged mastermind, a Binyamin Jacobs, reported that two

Jewish World

“Mediterranean-looking” youths (read: ophy. By its lights, tolerance should not de- stores; they run small businesses; they
Muslim immigrants) tried to run him cay into selective permissiveness whereby headline artistic shows.
down at an Amsterdam gas station in what certain groups are reflexively held to lower Some also stand up for the country’s
appeared to be a copycat version of the car standards of conduct than the rest of society. liberal values. In the wake of the Charlie
ramming attacks carried out by Palestinians “Because of the large influence of the Left Hebdo massacre in Paris in January 2015,
against random Israeli passersby. and extreme Left in the Netherlands, the the Moroccan-born mayor of Rotterdam,
That same year, in response to Israel’s problem [of Islamist terrorism] is not tak- Ahmed Aboutaleb, bluntly told his core-
military operation to stop an incessant en seriously enough,” Awi Cohen, a board ligionists: “If you can’t accept humorists
barrage of rocket attacks from Gaza, local member of the Dutch chapter of Israel’s who create a newspaper, then may I tell
Muslims held anti-Israel mass rallies in The Likud Party, recently told an online Jewish you to [expletive] off.” Aboutaleb, the son
Hague and other Dutch cities with partici- newspaper. “They don’t want to acknowl- of an imam, elucidated: “If you don’t like
pants chanting “Death to Jews!” and “Death edge the problems that come from immigra- freedom here, for heaven’s sake pack your
to Israel!” in Arabic. tion and ‘multiculturalism,’ and call issues bags and leave.”
“There’s a clear correlation between raised about safety ‘Islamophobia.’”
events in Israel and the flare-up of Wilders would certainly agree with that. Because of the large
anti-Semitism in Amsterdam,” Wagenaar Last December, the controversial politi-
observes. “Being an ‘anti-Zionist’ among cian, who has been under constant police influence of the Left
young people from a migrant background,
Turkish or Moroccan, seems to be a popular
protection for over a decade to save him
from would-be assassins, was convicted of
and extreme Left in
identity marker.” “inciting discrimination” for prompting his the Netherlands, the
In other words, to fit in with your peers supporters, at a 2014 rally in The Hague, to
in immigrant communities, you just have to chant that they wanted “fewer” Moroccan problem [of Islamist
hate the “Zionists.” immigrants.
Much of it, though, is relatively harmless terrorism] is not taken
grandstanding, akin to the casual anti-Se- THE NETHERLANDS is a small country
mitic slurs dished out by supporters of rival of 17 million, and a fifth of citizens are
seriously enough
teams at the non-Jewish fans and players already of a foreign background. Of immi-
of Amsterdam’s famous soccer club, AFC grants, some 400,000 are of Turkish and an- Instead, large numbers of immigrants
Ajax, in a long-running case of sporting ri- other 400,000 are of Moroccan origins. from North Africa and the Middle East
valry. Although Ajax has never been a Jew- According to a government-commis- continue packing their bags back home and
ish club, its supporters, calling themselves sioned report, in some predominantly coming to the Netherlands. In the first half
“super Jews,” have adopted the Star of Da- Moroccan neighborhoods in Dutch cities, of last year, nearly 100,000 new arrivals en-
vid and Israel’s flag as their improvised em- youth crime rates have reached 50 percent. tered the country, mostly as part of the con-
blems, thereby inviting routine anti-Semitic Forty percent of Moroccan male youths, tinent-wide migrant crisis. Amsterdam saw
abuse from rival soccer fans. between the ages of 12 and 24, have com- over 15,000 new residents added last year to
mitted a crime documented by police. More its current population of 850,000.
SOME JEWISH commentators, though, than 60 percent of Dutch-born Moroccans They’ve been seeking asylum and the
have faulted not the Arab-Israeli conflict between the ages of 17 and 23 drop out of prospects of a new life. Many, however,
or youthful peer pressure but rather the school without basic qualifications, while a have also brought with them atavistic be-
pervasive culture of political correctness similar percentage among older Moroccan liefs and cultural practices that place them
in the Netherlands that has replaced good male immigrants live on welfare. at odds with the mores of Dutch society at
old-fashioned classical liberalism. Hundreds of Dutch Muslims, meanwhile, large. These beliefs include a reflexive Jew
The former ascribes a permanent sta- have joined the ranks of fighters for the Is- hatred, as the sociologist Mark Elchardus
tus of victimhood to select groups seen as lamic State in Syria and Iraq. Some of them has documented within Moroccan immi-
“disadvantaged” and “marginalized,” such even raised the black flag of the movement grant communities, albeit the subject re-
as Muslim immigrants, and effectively ab- on the streets of a predominantly Muslim mains largely taboo in polite society.
solves them, individually and collectively, district in The Hague in open defiance of In December, the Muslim founders of the
of responsibility for any of their unwhole- local authorities. Dutch Free Democracy Party, which will be
some ideas or deeds ‒ in the manner of the To be sure, many Turkish and Moroccan competing in the March 15 parliamentary
disingenuous “Islamic terrorism has noth- immigrants are fine and upstanding citizens elections, caused an uproar by posting a se-
ing to do with Islam or Muslims” excuse. who have contributed much to their adopt- ries of anti-Semitic slanders on their official
The latter emphasizes the importance of ed new home. You see them everywhere in Facebook page. They insisted that “Jews are
rationalism, secularism and individual re- Amsterdam: they drive taxis; they work in worse than the devil”; suggested that Adolf
sponsibility in the vein of Spinoza’s philos- restaurants, kebab shops and convenience Hitler was a Jew; and accused Wilders of

being a “pawn” in the hands of wily Jews WITHIN HOURS, however, it transpired The threats facing Dutch Jews have not
who use him to “stir up trouble in Holland.” that el-Hajoui, a former activist for the prevented some from celebrating holidays
Wilders hasn’t endeared himself to local Dutch Socialist Party, had been singing a in public spaces, such as this 2016
Muslims by being a staunch supporter of different tune on his Twitter account. In one Hanukka gathering in Amsterdam
Israel who spent time on a kibbutz in his post, he had opined that “Hitler was nothing
youth and has called the Jewish state “a bea- compared to the Israelis. Someone would
con of light in a sea of Islamic darkness.” [have] had to finish his work 60 [years] a long line of visitors files past exhibits –
Even Dutch Muslims promoted as para- ago.” In another, he had called for the mass pages from Anne’s diary, sepia photos of the
gons of peaceful coexistence in the coun- murder of Israeli Jews: “Only answer to Franks – in almost reverential silence.
try’s media may turn out to be rabid Jew Israel is total extermination, annihilate the Out on the picturesque streets with their
haters on closer inspection. cockroaches.” myriad canals and flamboyantly gabled 17th
In mid-February, Rachid el-Hajoui, a Mo- So much for mutual respect and peaceful century houses from the city’s “golden age,”
roccan immigrant who works at a pizza par- coexistence. when Spinoza called Amsterdam home,
lor in the town of Tilburg, went on prime- Such bloodcurdling calls for the “exter- life bustles. Nazi goons no longer prowl in
time television to speak out against what mination” of Jewish “cockroaches” would search of Jews, yet murderous hatred is in the
he said was growing anti-Muslim animus have been familiar to Anne Frank. air again. From around a corner at the Anne
in Dutch society. He called for mutual re- In the “Secret Annex” of a canal house Frank House, burly, heavily armed policemen
spect and peaceful coexistence. “I want my where she hid with her family until they heave into view. They’re here to guard the
family and everyone to live in harmony,” he were discovered in August 1944 and de- museum against possible terrorist attacks.
stressed. ported to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, A sign of the times in Amsterdam.  