Determined to Make Israel's Voice Heard

Manfred Gerstenfeld interviews Kees van der Staaij, leader of the Dutch political party SGP.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld ,

Manfred Gerstenfeld
Manfred Gerstenfeld
Manfred Gerstenfeld

“The rank and file of the SGP, a Dutch Protestant Christian party has felt a strong connection with Israel for a long time. The Bible, the State of Israel and the Jewish People all hold a special place with us. This connection seems to have gotten stronger in the past decades. It goes beyond the important role of the Bible in our conscience. The creation of the State of Israel in 1948 led to an acceleration in our thinking.”

Cornelis Gerrit (Kees) van der Staaij, a lawyer, was born in 1968. In 1998 he became a member of the (Lower Chamber) of the Dutch Parliament on behalf of the SGP.  He has been its leader since 2010. The SGP holds 3 out of 150 seats in the Dutch Parliament.

“Today there is much antagonism in the Netherlands and elsewhere against Israel, which is very one-sidedly accused of wrongdoing. Even Israel’s right to exist is being contested. In addition, anti-Semitism in the Netherlands is on the rise.

“These developments led to giving Israel a special place in our party’s platform and make supporting it one of our top priorities. Both in the Dutch and European Parliaments, we devote much attention to Israel. In the past parliamentary period, our Euro-Parliamentarian Bas Belder was chairman of the Israel delegation of the European Parliament.

“The growing negative attitude toward Israel makes us even more determined to make sure that Israel’s side of the story is also heard. This is essential in view of the media’s bias. The reportage on Israel is often very prejudiced.

“I consider it important to visit Israel regularly and to have contact with other pro-Israel parliamentarians. We are united in a worldwide caucus. We have participated in its conferences in New York and Israel. It was extremely worthwhile to exchange experiences and discuss what can be done to combat the anti-Israelism.

“In March 2014, the Dutch Parliament accepted my motion to promote trade with Israel. It charges the Dutch government with making clear in a transparent and convincing way, that it encourages economic relations and collaboration between Dutch and Israeli companies and institutions. This was a concrete step in creating a counterbalance against the policy of dissuasion in this area.

“Concerning anti-Semitism in the Netherlands, I would be very happy if a broad and targeted study were conducted. However a political minority is opposed to this and refers only to past and current studies. If in the future there will arise a political opportunity for such a study, we will encourage it.

Anti-Semitism in the Netherlands is becoming more intense and brutal. The internet plays a major role in this.
“It is important that one gets an insight into the background of the anti-Semitism and the prejudices at their origin. The more so as CIDI, the Dutch anti-Semitism monitoring organization has indicated that anti-Semitism in the Netherlands is becoming more intense and brutal. The internet plays a major role in this. The threshold of what can be expressed publicly is now much lower than in the past.

“In the Netherlands, there is an inclination to dilute anti-Semitism within a general policy against discrimination. If one isn’t careful, focusing specifically on anti-Semitism will be disrupted. It then becomes rather ineffective. We have an absolute duty to make sure that Jews can feel at home and safe in the Netherlands. I want to make an effort in this direction because I would find it shameful if this weren’t the case.

“We also have to link anti-Semitism to the policy of absorption of immigrants. Key figures in the Muslim community who can make an important contribution should be engaged in the fight against anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to find the right people, to speak with them and have any influence. I am in favor of programs which force people to look into each other’s eyes. This can be very effective.

“There is great unease in Dutch society about the over-representation of Moroccans and Antillians in crime statistics. This has to be dealt with in a focused manner. The best way to tackle it is to cause their communities to start taking responsibility, so that these figures will drop drastically.

“Another problem is that due to secular ‘uniformity thinking’ minorities are put under pressure. There is no feeling anymore for religion. Concerning ritual slaughter and circumcision, there is a significant inclination to impose the common secular opinion. One of the secular values is major sensitivity for anything that concerns animals. This is a clear trend of recent years.

“In the Netherlands there is also an extravagant ‘freedom of thinking.’ Dutch society is afraid to choose sides. Our party makes a strong effort to expose religious persecution in the Arab countries. Christians and Jews suffer greatly from it. We believe that problems have to be mentioned explicitly.

"I have even heard from well-educated radical Muslims in the Netherlands that if a Muslim changes his religion, it would be justified to cut his throat. Society should not allow this to be declared, even if it is just an opinion.”    

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