Saturday, 23 March 2013

Job's Choice

A couple of years ago Frits Bolkestein, the √©minence grise of a Dutch right wing political party (VVD), warned that there was no future for "recognisable" Jews in the Netherlands. He suggested that they emigrate to either the US or Israel.
Bolkestein is not an antisemite, far from it. His remarks were an angry reaction to the lack of effective measures to combat the Jew-hatred espoused by a growing number of Muslim immigrants.
Not many people agreed with him then. More do now, as this hatred has recently become more manifest to the general public.
Actually it is not a new problem. It has been around for at least ten years.
To my knowledge the first people to signal the growing antisemitism were Moroccan (yes Muslim) youth field workers in Amsterdam. I was working for the local government in Amsterdam at the time. The information was passed on to the mayor, whose name was Job Cohen.
At first the mayor with the Jewish name was not sure how he should react to this information. He was a prominent member of the Dutch Labour Party and a vociferous opponent of Islamophobia. Cohen also identified with Dutch Muslims. For him their position in Dutch society was equivalent to that of German Jews in the nineteen thirties.
Now he was confronted with information that Muslim youths supported the Nazis that had killed his relatives and would also like to see him and his family exterminated.
A difficult dilemma.
One could not accuse the Muslim youth workers of being anti-Muslim. For them the antisemitism was part of the broader problem of antisocial behaviour. Behaviour they wanted to change so that the youth would be able to complete a study and hold down a job.
But still. What to do?
He thought that making a big fuss would stigmatise the Muslim community and play into the hands of Islamophobes. It would also have weakened his position in the Labour Party. A party that was, to some extent, dependent on the votes of immigrants. And of course, money to combat the antisemitism would have to come from other projects, which meant political confrontations with groups who would receive less subsidy.
So Job decided to do nothing.
The right personal choice. He later became leader of the Labour Party and almost the first Prime Minister of the Netherlands with a Jewish name.
Well done Job! However, the consequences of Job's choice were not so positive for the Jews of Amsterdam.
Immigrant areas of Amsterdam are now Jew-free. The Jews have left these areas. If a Jew has to enter an immigrant area he/she removes all recognisable Jewish attributes. Men usually wear a neutral hat or cap.
Muslim youth now use the word "Jew" as an expletive. It does not have to be used with an adjective, The word on its own is enough. This new expletive is also used in all lower secondary schools where there is a sizeable number of immigrant pupils.
Holocaust education in these schools is a kind of joke. The teachers trying to explain how evil the Nazis were and the pupils cheering for the genocide.
Wilders' anti-Islam party has also benefitted electorally, as some blame the glorification of Nazis on the Islam.
A number of vocal left-wing groups blame the hatred on the Jews themselves. According to these groups, calling for the extermination of all 14 million Jews in the world is the logical reaction to Jewish support for Israel. A prominent columnist in de Volkskrant, an influential daily newspaper, even maintains that Dutch Zionists should be tried for treason. 
For me the major consequence of Job's choice is that he has proved that Bolkestein is right; there is no future for "recognisable" Jews in the Netherlands.
Jews are the canaries in the coal mine. This prompts the question, who will be the next group to suffer? My money is on the gays.
However, most Dutch people are neither Jewish nor homosexual. So, to paraphrase Job: let's do nothing.

1 comment:

  1. Just came across your blog. I spent part of my childhood in Holland--long ago, the Fifties. The war was in the recent past, there was this collective narrative as to how the Dutch hoodwinked "the Germans." As a 10-13 year old child, I believed this of course.

    This turned out not to be true. Au contraire.

    I do not know what to think, now, about my Dutch friends of that era. Or fear to think of myself taken for a little foreign fool.

    Gotverdomme.

    Interesting blog about...an "interesting" country.

    All the best.

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