Yochanan VisserThe writer is director of Missing Peace Information an Israeli public diplomacy organization operating in The Netherlands and Belgium. He is a frequent publicist for the main Dutch paper De Volkskrant and for several other media outlets in The Netherlands.
Three weeks ago, an inquiry about the way the Dutch state funded media NOS reported on Operation Cast Lead was published in the Netherlands and Israel. The report was made by the group Israel-Facts, which is monitoring the Dutch media. The report showed that NOS was distorting the facts in its reports beyond belief.
We compared the reports of NOS with the German state-funded media outlet ARD. We discovered that ARD
The number of anti-Semitic incidents exploded since the beginning of the war.
succeeded in giving a comprehensive picture of the war in its reports when it reported on the same subjects as NOS. ARD gave room to IDF spokesmen, NOS did not. ARD reported on the Israeli front in the same fashion as it did on the Palestinian front, while NOS only showed the Palestinian front with one exception on December 31; NOS then reported about the situation in Ashkelon. But on December 31, Dutch people are not interested in news, but in fireworks and muffins.
NOS hired a Palestinian TV crew, in blatant violation of her own journalistic code. Not surprisingly, this crew only reported about humanitarian disasters in Gaza. Some of these reports later proved to be false, but NOS did not deem it necessary to correct them. A NOS report about Israeli Channel 10 was full of distorted facts, picturing the Israeli reporters as biased and accusing them of presenting the Israeli public with a sterile picture of the Palestinian front in Gaza from which shocking pictures have been removed.
An "expert" invited by NOS gave an "explanation" on January 6 for the Hamas rockets on Israel - it was supposedly a punishment for "the occupation of Gaza." The same expert called the ban on reporters entering Gaza an Israeli measure to hide "dirty business".
Not surprisingly, in Holland, the number of anti-Semitic incidents exploded since the beginning of the war. Jews were harassed in Amsterdam by Moroccan gangs; shots were fired at a Jewish health centre. At an anti-Israel demonstration, "Hamas Hamas, Jews to the gas" was shouted in the presence of a Dutch leftist member of parliament who partook in chanting for a third intifada in front of the camera. At a WIZO meeting two weeks ago in Amsterdam, an IDF reservist was attacked with shoes by three Dutch activists.
The NOS news show is the prime source of news for most Dutchmen, so a report about the mishandling of her duty to bring impartial news should generate a lot of media attention and attention by politicians. We have sent copies of the report to all media outlets in Holland, as well to all political parties, yet only one marginal Christian party decided to take action and submitted questions to the responsible minister.
The mainstream media in Holland refused to pay attention to the report, even after we contacted many editors personally. Here also, a minor Dutch Christian paper (Reformatorische Dagblad) was the only one that paid attention to the case.
One of the editors of De Volkskrant, a left-leaning newspaper was willing to publish an op-ed about the report, but was overruled by his superiors. He wrote that he personally thought the conclusions of the report reflect the truth.
With the help of many bloggers and pro-Israel organizations, such as Christians for Israel, we managed to get the report widely published on the Internet. From talkbacks on these websites and ours we learned that many Dutchmen were shocked about the way they were deceived by NOS. Tens of thousands read the report, but the majority of the Dutch public has yet to find out the facts about Israel's Gaza war.
This way of dealing with a scandal in Holland is not a new phenomenon; in the recent past, there were two instances were a scandal was hushed up. The first case was the scandal surrounding the massacre in Sebrenica, Serbia, where more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslims were allegedly butchered by the Serbs while under protection of Dutch UN soldiers. Pictures of the Dutch collaboration with the deportation of the Muslims and atrocities committed by the Serbian militia disappeared at the Dutch ministry of defense. Only seven years after the massacre an inquiry was launched by the Dutch Parliament, after pressure from victims and soldiers who witnessed the atrocities, but who were forced to maintain silence by their commanders.
Later, a scandal about the theft of nuclear secrets from Urenco in Holland by the founder of the Pakistani nuclear weapons program, Abdul Khan, and the assistance by Dutch entrepreneur Henk Sleebos in the illegal Pakistani nuclear weapon program, brought to the surface the cover up of this case by the responsible Dutch security service and the Dutch government.
More recently, the Dutch government finally admitted that the Dutch military committed war crimes in Rawagede, Indonesia, in 1947, where hundreds of male citizens were executed in cold blood. Until today, the Dutch government refuses to compensate the victims of this massacre.
Dutch media are, with very few exemptions, blaming Israel for all the violence.
There is a pattern in Dutch society to cover up issues which are hardly compatible with the image of a tolerant liberal country, always ready to preach truth and morals to others.
As for the attitude to Israel, the Dutch media are, with very few exemptions, blaming Israel for all the violence in our region and all the ills in Palestinian society. Just this week, Dutch TV broadcast a VARA/NPS documentary in which Israel was blamed for wasting billions of euros in foreign aid to the Palestinians. As if the EU itself had not admitted that there had been embezzlement of EU aid by the Palestinian Authority.
In light of the rapid deterioration of the way the public debate about Israel in Holland is conducted and the increase of anti-Semitic incidents, which are clearly related to the way the Dutch public is informed about the Middle East conflict, it seems high time Dutch media clean up their act and start reporting the facts. NOS should set the example by breaking the silence about the media bias report and by admitting the distortions in her reporting.