Dr. Manfred GerstenfeldThe writer has been a long-term adviser on strategy issues to the boards of several major multinational corporations in Europe and North America.He is board member and former chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and recipient of the LIfetime Achievement Award (2012) of the Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism.
Geert Wilders’ populist Freedom party (PVV) plays a central role in the upcoming Dutch parliamentary elections on 15 March. There are several reasons for this. Germany’s open borders, the Brexit referendum, and the election of Donald Trump as US President, have drawn much attention to populism and in some places stimulated it. Wilders’ condemnation by a Dutch court after he shouted, along with his supporters, that he wanted less Moroccans, may have brought the PVV additional voters. In various polls, however unreliable, the PVV has come consistently at the top for many months already. It possibly could double its number of parliamentary seats to 30 out of a total of 150.
The party’s election program makes a coalition with other parties difficult to impossible. Dutch parties usually publish a detailed platform, which they submit to the Central Planning Bureau to calculate whether the proposed actions translate in a workable budget. Wilders considers this approach nonsense. He has announced that the PVV election program will not be much more than a single page, which he has already published.
In 2016, a member of the Senate from the Liberal Party VVD compared – without significant substantiation -- the PVV to the Dutch Nazi-collaborator party NSB, and likened Wilders to Hitler. Wilders, on the other hand, says that Islam is potentially more dangerous than Nazism.
Wilders’ latest position is that the Koran should be “tolerated.” He says that it is full of violence. Earlier Wilders had proposed that the Holy book of Islam should be forbidden, as it contains more anti-Semitic hatred than Hitler’s Mein Kampf. The statement about the comparison with Mein Kampf had been made already in the past by the late PVV Euro-parliamentarian Hans Jansen, a well-known Arabist.
Wilders maintains that he is in favor of the closure of all mosques and Islamic schools. He remarked: “the world would be shocked if there were Nazi temples in the Netherlands. Islam does not belong to our country.” Furthermore the PVV wants the Netherlands to leave the European Union, to which the country makes a net financial contribution of several billion Euros.
According to the PVV, the military police should guard the Dutch borders and drones should fly over the country. Other items the PVV supports are: zero acceptance of asylum seekers, abolition of all development help as well as ending financial support for Greece.
The Netherlands is traditionally a “polder country.” Its main cities in the West are on dried land, under the sea level. This has led to a national “polder mentality” where the historic enemy is the sea. Once the dam breaks all citizens have to collaborate to keep the water out. If some refuse, all may drown. This polder mentality finds its way into many proverbs. One is “we all have to go through one door.” That means inter-alia that one has to be careful never to insult somebody too much. It created a relatively mild debating atmosphere for many of the post-war decades.
All this has changed due to the immigration of about one million people from Muslim countries, mainly Turkey and Morocco. They and their descendants represent six percent of the population, and many have a very different mentality from the Dutch. A study by the Social-Cultural Planning Bureau found that forty percent of those belonging to the Turkish and Moroccan communities do not feel at home in The Netherlands. Many youngsters see in Islam an alternative to Dutch identity.
Anti-Israelism is also timulated by the desire to attract Muslim votes without “paying with anything substantial.”
A certain Islamization has taken place due to the large influx of Muslims. What Islamization exactly means, however, has never been properly defined. The emergence of the PVV is a reaction to “multiculturalism” gone largely wrong. The party states that it wants to “de-Islamize” the Netherlands. Yet it would be wrong to call the PVV a right-wing party, as on social matters it is rather on the left.
The election threshold is very low. One only needs about 0.7% of the votes to gain a seat in parliament. There are many parties. Currently, the liberals under Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the Labor party jointly form the cabinet. Both are likely to face heavy losses. Labor may well lose more than two thirds of its 38 seats. As none of the parties wants a coalition with the PVV, an Israeli-type coalition cabinet of numerous parties may have to emerge. It would probably have substantial inner contradictions.
The left-wing parties - the Socialists (SP), the Green Left, the Party for the Animals, and the Labor Party, as well as the left-liberal D66 are all anti-Israel and even supportive of sanctions if Israel doesn’t meet their criteria in peace negotiations with the Palestinians. These people conveniently look away from the promotion of genocide of Jews by the largest Palestinian party, Hamas. Their anti-Israelism is also stimulated by the desire to attract Muslim votes without “paying with anything substantial.”
The main anti-Israel inciters in parliament are two former staff members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sjoerd Sjoerdsma of D66, and Michiel Servaes - who regularly mentions the Jewishness of his mother – from the Labor Party. In the elections, a small anti-Israeli immigrant party, mainly of Turks and Moroccans, is likely to obtain a seat or two.
Immigration from Muslim countries has been highly negative for both Israel and the Jews. One reason is its massiveness. Another is its lack of selectivity. A global study by the Anti-Defamation League found that 80 percent of Moroccans and 69 percent of Turks hold major classic antisemitic prejudices. Antisemitic incidents come disproportionately out of the Muslim community, as do the most extreme ones, including a plan – which was fortunately prevented – to bomb an Amsterdam synagogue.
There are other indirect consequences to Muslim immigration, such as that a combination of shortcomings in Muslim ritual slaughter, along with anti-Islamic sentiment have led to a strong “anti-unstunned ritual slaughter” movement, to which the PVV also belongs. On this issue, the party– which is pro-Israel -- is diametrically opposed to the Jewish community, which would also be affected by anti-ritual slaughter laws. Also, in view of Muslim practices, male circumcision comes under public criticism from time to time, which would be inconceivable if the small Jewish community were the only ones to practice it.
Finally: some of the parliamentary candidates have Jewish ancestry. One of them is the new leader of the Labor Party, Deputy Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher, who descends on his father’s side from a well-known Jewish family. He has made remarks such as: “I do not want to live in a country where Kristallnacht can only be remembered with armed guards before the door.” And “[antisemitic] insults made me more Jewish.” Yet Asscher cannot change the anti-Israel policy and incitement of his party, even if he wants to. The only candidate who identifies with and is active in the Jewish community is Gidi Markuszower, who currently is a member of the Senate. He is number four on the PVV list, and thus certain to be elected.