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Daily Israel Report

Anti-Semitism Thrives on Dutch Social Media

Virulent anti-Semitic content thrives on a Dutch social networking website used by nearly half of the entire population of Holland.
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
First Publish: 9/3/2009, 11:58 PM / Last Update: 9/4/2009, 11:09 AM

Israel News photo: (Hyves.nl screen cap)
Virulent anti-Semitic content thrives on a Dutch social media website used by nearly half of the entire population of Holland, according to a report released Thursday. Yet, many of the online instigators appear to be Dutch-speaking Arabs.
Many of the online instigators appear to be Dutch-speaking Arabs.

The report, produced by investigators from Yad VaShem, the Dutch-language Israel Facts Monitorgroup and the Network on Anti-Semitism based in the Netherlands, was provided to all the political parties in the Netherlands, as well as to members of the Dutch government. As the Internet is becoming an increasingly important and influential facet of Dutch life, the investigators are hoping to provide some insight into how it is used in the Netherlands to propagate anti-Israel rhetoric and anti-Semitic views.

"Anti-Semitism and hatred toward Israel containing anti-Semitic content is a common phenomenon on the Internet in the Netherlands," the report declares. "Remarks which were unthinkable only ten years ago are now common practice and do not seem to raise eyebrows anymore." In fact, after three months of regular monitoring, the investigators concluded, "The climate in which the public debate about Israel and the Middle East conflict is taking place on the Internet is deteriorating."

Titled "Anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity on the Internet in the Netherlands", the report presents examples and trends of anti-Israel blood libels, violent anti-Semitic hate speech and, simultaneously, Holocaust denial, smearing Israelis as Nazis, and calls for returning Jews to the death camps. For the purpose of gauging online Dutch social media, the investigators monitored closed and open groups on the Facebook-like Hyves social networking website, which can claim around nine million members, and the talkback section of de Volkskrant, one of the leading newspapers in Holland.

Open Praise for Suicide Bombings
Among the public groups on Hyves, there are 35 groups that the report defines as either "pro-Palestinian" or "anti-Israel". The majority of these groups, according to the investigators, "are run by young Arab immigrants or descendants of Arab immigrants living in the Netherlands." While the most popular anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian groups have several thousands of members, the largest pro-Israel Hyves forum has 900.

"Posts which call for killing Jews are quite common. Others contain calls to burn Israeli flags. We also noticed public calls for Hitler to 'finish his job' or 'to gas the Jews'," the report explains, adding that the forums also host various libels against Israel and Jews. Perhaps more seriously, a pro-Palestinian group called "The Jihad Fighters" openly praises suicide bombers who target civilians.
A pro-Palestinian group called "The Jihad Fighters" openly praises suicide bombers.

While Hyves user rules forbid racist remarks and abuse can be reported, the report concludes that "the alert system that is supposed to stop racist comments does not stop anti-Semitic remarks and posts, nor does it stop outright hatred towards Israel."

Sophisticated Anti-Semitism
De Volkskrant is a respected left-leaning Dutch newspaper which publishes Israel-related opinion articles online on a fairly regular basis. The report on Netherlands anti-Semitism noted that "a
n average of 300 [talkback] reactions is normal for these articles, compared with fewer than 100 for other articles." The newspaper's website, visited by more than 200,000 visitors each month, has an opinion section that is fairly "evenhanded", according to the investigators.

While there were no outright calls for death to the Jews or similar talkbacks, the report said, anti-Semitic content was found in eight out of nine online discussions. Unlike Hyve, De Volkskrant was careful to follow up on complaints and often removed openly anti-Semitic or hate content.

As a result, the investigators found, "most anti-Israel activists seemed to be careful not to express straight anti-Semitic remarks. Jargon from the time of Nazi Germany however, was often used, as well as comparisons between Israel's actions and those of Nazi Germany." Other threads in some anti-Israel comments were various permutations of Holocaust denial, and lies about Israeli history or Jewish culture, the report said.

Utrecht Prosecutors Go After Online Muslim Hate
The report on anti-Semitism in Dutch online social media comes on the heels of prosecutors in Utrecht deciding to charge an Arab group for publishing a caricature on its website that insults the memory of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. The caricature, according to the prosecutors, insults Jews as a group and is therefore banned for publication in the country.

The case came to the attention of Dutch prosecutors after Ronny Naftaniel of the Center for Documentation on Israel filed a complaint with police, saying that the picture was discriminatory and racist. The Arab group says it placed the cartoon on its website to show the "hypocrisy" of European officials.