Online Antisemitism still too often goes unpunished in the Netherlands, and that needs to change, said Eddo Verdoner, the National Coordinator for Combating Antisemitism (NCAB), in his first work plan, sent to parliament on Thursday. Normalizing the Jewish culture can go a long way in fighting Antisemitism. And that can be achieved by, for example, King Willem-Alexander and Prime Minister Mark Rutte giving television addresses on Jewish holidays like Rosh Hashanah, he said, Trouw and NOS report.
According to Verdoner, who the Cabinet appointed last year, the current approach to Antisemitism is still too focused on violations in the physical space. A study by Utrecht University showed that about 200,000 Antisemitic posts were circulating on social media in the Netherlands in 2020. All kinds of classic Antisemitic conspiracy theories, such as the claim that Jews want to oppress the Dutch, gained popularity again during the coronavirus pandemic. Some of these were even shared by politicians, like FvD leader Thierry Baudet.
“This kind of conspiracy thinking poses a national threat. Antisemitism is a virus that affects the basis of our democratic constitutional state,” Verdoner said. And Jew-hatred is on the rise in the Netherlands. The Public Prosecution Service (OM) registered 58 cases of Antisemitism last year, 38 more than in 2020. The police register 627 reports, almost 20 percent more. The Information and Documentation Center on Israel (CIDI) saw incidents rise by 36 percent last year. And by no means all incidents are reported, Verdoner said.
The NCAB advised stimulating people’s willingness to report, among other things, by offering the police and OM training to recognize Antisemitism better and provide more support to victims. He pointed out that 30 percent of Dutch Jews considered emigrating between 2013 and 2018.
Prevention is also crucial, starting with normalizing Jewish culture in the Netherlands. “The Holocaust has cost the lives of more than 102,000 Dutch Jews. As a result, there are fewer Jews who can propagate their culture. Unfortunately, unknown means unloved,” Verdoner said. “Make it crystal clear that Jewish life is also part of Dutch culture.”
Last week Monday, Ministers Sigrid Kaag of Finance and Dilan Yesilgöz-Zegerius of Justice and Security wished the Jewish community a good Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year. That was amazing, Verdoner said. “But it could be better.” He would like to see the King of Prime Minister make a TV appearance on a Jewish holiday. “I think it’s a signal that it’s normal to be Jewish in the Netherlands.”
He also advised stimulating and facilitating music and film festivals and performances about Jewish life. Because he believes that being familiar with Jewish life can help “suppress the head” of Antisemitism.
Education can play a big part here too. The NCAB pointed out that 12 percent of Dutch history teachers sometimes receive negative reactions to lessons about the Holocaust and that a quarter is, therefore, more cautious in these lessons. He, therefore, advised giving teachers support in the form of training courses and teacher assistants and training teachers on how to deal with Antisemitic incidents.