Anti-Semitism in the Netherlands rises sharply

There was a 64 percent rise in such incidents in 2006 over a year earlier, the center’s recently published annual report on anti-Semitism in the Netherlands showed. “It’s not just the absolute numbers that Dutch society should worry about a priori” said Villegas Henriquez, “it’s the root of the rise that should alarm Dutch society.”

In 2005 the center reported 159 anti-Semitic incidents; in 2006 there were 261, ranging from threatening e-mails to defacing synagogues and other Jewish buildings, to physical violence. The good news is a significant decline in the latter category, from 23 to eight reported cases. “Unfortunately, this decline is countered by a huge increase in the number of anti-Semitic letters and e-mails,” the report said.

Anti-Semitic incidents peaked in July and August 2006, during the war between Israel and Hizbullah, and fell immediately with the cease-fire.

“Two major events marking 2006 account for many anti-Semitic expressions and for the image of the Jew and the Israeli they enhanced: the efforts invested by Iran to delegitimize Israel by denying the Holocaust, and the Second Lebanon War,” according to the Stephen Roth Research Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University.

“We do not feel responsible nor accountable for political developments or actions in Israel, even though we are [considered so] by Dutch society,” said Nathan Bouscher, 24, a student of Public International Law in Amsterdam. “Feeling connected to something is wholly different to feeling responsible for it,” he said.

“Most Jews in Holland feel strongly connected to the Jewish people and its culture. As an indispensable part of this identity, we also feel attached to the country of Israel. However, this does not mean that we automatically are part of Israeli identity,” Bouscher said. “People still find it very difficult to distinguish these different aspect of the Jewish identity.”

“Although it has become a blurred concept, there is a clear distinction between criticizing Israel’s legitimate existence on the one hand, while opposing its political policies on the other hand,” he said.

“The lines between anti-Zionism, anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism are very thin ones,” said Villegas Henriquez. “Which is precisely what the report reveals.”

“The remarkable aspect of it all is that you never see it happen the other way around,” said Villegas Henriquez. “Arabs, Muslims or Moroccans are never turned to whenever there seems to be mischief or controversial acts undertaken by one of their governments, leaders or party. For some reason, it has become [normal] to hold Jews all around the world accountable for events involving the Israeli people as well as the Knesset.”

A sharp line needs to be drawn between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, he said.

The profile of the anti-Semitic offender has changed since the second intifada, said Villegas Henriquez. “It used to be the Dutchman of North African descent, living in the bigger cities, who were mainly responsible for face-to-face incidents of anti-Semitism,” he said. This year’s report shows more anti-Semitic acts by native-born Christians. Villegas Henriquez ascribes this to an overall “hardening” in Dutch society, as well as to the Dutch media.

Western Europe showed a 54% increase of anti-Semitic incidents in 2006, according to the report, compared to a decrease of 17% in the United States. After the Netherlands, France accounted for the largest increase in incidents, followed by Britain and Belgium.

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