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March 11, 2021 1:56 pm

Antisemitic Outrages Cast a Pall Over The Hague’s Image as ‘City of Peace and Justice,’ Dutch Jewish Leader Says

avatar by Ben Cohen

The International Court of Justice in The Hague in session in January 2020. Photo: Reuters/Eva Plevier.

A Jewish leader in the Netherlands has questioned whether The Hague can “decently call itself the city of peace and justice” amidst an upsurge of antisemitism locally.

The administrative capital of the Netherlands and its third-largest city, The Hague is home to most of the foreign embassies in the country as well as over 200 international organizations, including the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The city is the fourth major center for the United Nations after New York, Geneva and Vienna.

Speaking to a meeting of The Hague City Council on Wednesday night on the issue of tackling antisemitism, Ronny Naftaniel — the executive director of Dutch-Jewish advocacy organization CIDI — noted that in 2019, an antisemitic incident was reported in the Netherlands “on every other day and 8.25 percent of it came from The Hague.”

A total of 182 antisemitic incidents targeting Dutch Jews was reported in 2019 — the highest since record-keeping began and a disturbing 35 percent increase on the previous year.

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Continued Naftaniel: “That is catastrophic and raises the question of whether The Hague can decently call itself the city of peace and justice.”

Judith Oudshoorn, a councillor for the center-right VVD Party, told the same meeting that “everyone should be able to feel safe and free in our city; unfortunately, this is not always the case.”

Oudshoorn asserted that “antisemitism is still very much alive, also in The Hague, and a specific approach to antisemitism is needed.” She stressed that the reluctance of some Jews to wear their kippot in public for fear of provoking physical assault was an unacceptable state of affairs.

The meeting also heard from a local rabbi, Marianne van Praag, who argued that ignorance of Jewish history was an important factor fueling the problem. School students who visited the synagogue on organized tours “know that Jews were deported in World War II, but they have no idea how it happened and what consequences it had,” Rabbi van Praag said.

The meeting endorsed a 15-point action plan focused on combating antisemitism and building awareness of sites of Jewish significance in The Hague. The plan includes the appointment of a city official to oversee the fight against antisemitism and providing extra support to teachers who educate students about the Holocaust.

One councillor from the far-right, anti-immigrant PVV Party sparked anger when he told the meeting that its deliberations were a waste of time.

“Any proposals to combat the hatred of Jews are dead in the water if we open the floodgates to thousands of immigrants from Islamic countries,” PVV councillor Sebastian Kruis exclaimed.

Kruis was countered by a Muslim council member who pointed out that the ongoing problem of antisemitic chanting at Dutch soccer matches — which the action plan pledges to address — was not an issue of Muslim antisemitism.

“There is undoubtedly antisemitism in the Muslim community, but the PVV is wrong to apply this to all Muslims,” Islam Democrats councillor Tahsin Cetinkaya responded.

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