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February 15, 2022 4:39 pm

‘Witch Hunt’: European Jewish Students Outraged After Dutch University Staff Asked to Disclose Jewish, Israel Ties

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Photo: Steven Lek, Wikimedia Commons.

European Jewish student leaders have denounced a demand by an anti-Zionist group for Dutch universities to collect and submit information about staff relationships with Jewish, Israeli, and Zionist organizations, calling it an “antisemitic witch hunt.”

The Rights Forum (TRF) sent a freedom of information request to universities in the Netherlands last month, New Israelite Weekly reported, requesting that staff disclose any relevant interaction they had over the last ten years in order to ferret out “institutional ties with Israel universities, institutions and businesses and with organizations that propagate support for the State of Israel.”

This included information about student exchange programs with Israeli universities and any contacts with the Dutch government’s National Coordinator for Combating Antisemitism, as well as with the Central Jewish Board of the Netherlands (CJO), Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith, Simon Wiesenthal Center, and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, among others.

Dutch universities subsequently forwarded TRF’s letter to their employees, Jewish and non-Jewish, with instructions to supply the requested information, NIW reported.

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The European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS), an umbrella group representing 34 Jewish student unions and more than 200,000 Jewish students, slammed TRF’s letter as “completely irrational, conspiratorial and antisemitic” in nature on Monday, and said more than a dozen Dutch universities were participating in the “witch hunt.”

“Using antisemitic and conspiracy rhetoric to harm Jewish organizations is not new,” EUJS President Elias Dray said in a statement. “Such habits are supported by years of antisemitic and anti-Israel hatred, notably instigated by the Boycott, Disinvestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which conceals its antisemitism behind so-called anti-Zionism.” The willingness of Dutch universities to comply with TRF’s request “is the most alarming fact,” he said.

The EUJS called on the Dutch government to intervene and “promote the use and implementation” of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, which encompasses allegations that Jewish people are “more loyal to Israel or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nation.”

Other Jewish community leaders have spoken out against the TRF request, with Chief Dutch Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs saying last week that it suggests the existence of “some shadowy Zionist/Jewish cabal.”

“What really concerns me is the number of universities that were so compliant with such a transparently antisemitic request,” Jacobs said. “It reminds us that most mayors cooperated during the occupation to pass on the names of their Jewish citizens to the Germans.”

“The difference between anti-Zionism and antisemitism is now wafer thin,” he added. “In all my many years in Holland I can seldom remember such a toxic environment for Jews. This is an appalling submission to the base instincts of an openly hostile group towards Israel, the world’s only Jewish state.”

Pinchas Goldschmidt, chief rabbi of Moscow and president of the Conference of European Rabbis, similarly slammed TRF, saying it “has revealed its dystopian, antisemitic core.”

“We urge Dutch universities to use all available means to resist their attempts to stigmatize and incite prejudice against Jews,” Goldschmidt said.

The Rights Forum on Friday denied that it is motivated by antisemitism, arguing that debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Dutch universities lacks information about “possible direct or indirect involvement of Dutch and other academic institutions in Israel’s illegal colonization of occupied Palestinian territory and the Israeli arms industry.”

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