The Netherlands’ Growing Antisemitism Problem: Five Minutes to Midnight
by Hans Wallage
According to a new report from the Amsterdam-based Anne Frank House, nearly 40 percent of teachers in the Netherlands witnessed one or more antisemitic incidents during the last year. A total of 42 percent of teachers surveyed said that they had been confronted with antisemitic rhetoric and the trivialization of the Holocaust in their classrooms.
At CIDI, the Dutch Centre of Information and Documentation Israel, we are not surprised by these numbers. And sadly, antisemitism is not a problem that resides only in classrooms. The high number of incidents in the report can also be witnessed in other layers of Dutch society. Many people believe in and share conspiracy theories about Jews, leading to antisemitic hate speech and classic antisemitic comments. It is why we at CIDI state that it is now five minutes to midnight when it comes to dealing with hatred of Jews and Israel. We need to work together on an extensive plan to tackle two main triggers of antisemitism: the conflict in the Middle East and soccer rivalries.
The report shows that the Middle East conflict is a first trigger of antisemitism. In recent years, the debate in the Netherlands has been characterized by growing anti-Israel rhetoric, in which Jews, Israel, and the conflict are often mixed up. The Dutch media landscape plays a critical role in that: there is little room for a nuanced analysis or historical background in news coverage and opinion pieces. More and more often, there is also a glaring lack of knowledge about the conflict, resulting in very one-sided, incomplete, and sometimes even incorrect reporting. In recent times, the conflict has been increasingly depicted from a perpetrator-victim perspective, with barely any attention for the fact that Israel is fighting a war against terrorists, who aim to kill civilians. The recent “Israel apartheid” comment of a well-known presenter of the late night talk-show Op1, on Dutch state TV, is one of the many examples that show the changed rhetoric in our media landscape. More attention must be paid to objective and nuanced information in reporting on Israel, whereby the different perspectives are highlighted.
The report also demonstrates that soccer rivalries in and outside stadiums are a huge trigger for antisemitic agitation. Since the 1970s and 1980s, supporters of the Amsterdam soccer club Ajax nickname themselves as “Jews.” This Jewish identity is based on the historic (and largely inaccurate) perception of their club being rooted in the Jewish community.
At first glance, the nickname seems harmless, as Ajax supporters claim to be proud of the so-called “Jewish” identity of the club and its fan base. However, supporters of rival clubs use this identity as a stick to attack the team. As a result, antisemitic lyrics that have nothing to do with soccer can be heard during every professional match. “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas,” “Jews burn the best,” “it’s cold and stormy, throw some Jews on the fire,” and “whoever does not jump is a Jew” are some of the slogans, part of a large repertoire of antisemitic slurs. A
Although this problem has existed for decades, nothing has been done about it so far. Politicians, soccer organizations, and supporters’ groups shift responsibility and point to each other. In addition, this hatred is often dismissed as a rivalry issue and therefore not considered antisemitic. The opinion of the Jewish community is not taken into account in this. It is high time to ban the word Jew from Dutch soccer stadiums. The national soccer association KNVB, soccer clubs, and supporters’ associations must take responsibility for this. The KNVB should immediately stop soccer matches when antisemitic remarks, songs and other incidents occur in the stadium. Soccer clubs and supporters’ associations must be held accountable for their supporters, if necessary with fines or points deduction.
The figures in the Anne Frank House’s recent report confirm the need for a national and collective policy to tackle antisemitism. At CIDI we have been committed to this for years, but as the above text amply shows, we also need other parties in society to participate in order to increase the chances of success. Let’s hope that politicians and policy makers do not stop at words, but actively stand side by side with us in actions, so that we can expel this many-headed monster from our society together. Antisemitism is not only a problem for Jews. It is a problem for all of us.
Hans Wallage is a researcher for Antisemitism at the Dutch Center of Information and Documentation Israel.