Prominent representatives of the Jewish community in the Netherlands have expressed outrage over the Cabinet’s plans to cease providing funding for Jewish Broadcaster Joodse Omroep, the only Jewish broadcasting network in the Netherlands.
The announcement came earlier this week from Dutch State Secretary for Culture Sander Dekker and drew harsh criticism from well known figures in the Dutch Jewish community, as the move, which would be enacted by 2016, could possibly lead to the closure of the broadcasting company.
Awraham Soetendorp, a prominent rabbi in the Netherlands, said that the Cabinet’s policy will once again leave the “neshama, the soul of the Jewish community, out in the cold. It’s terrible that the Cabinet is threatening to remove us from the public broadcasting system. Particularly for the Jewish community, this will mean that our sense of inner security will be harmed once again. Because the more secure people feel in their own identity, the more open they are to the rest of society. That security is now under direct threat.”
“This is very bad for the Jewish community, for the Jewish Broadcaster itself and for my staff,” added director of the Jewish Broadcaster, Alfred Edelstein. “But the effect on the Netherlands will be the worst thing, because it threatens to eliminate cultural diversity from the airwaves. I don’t think that this once tolerant country, where Jews have formed an inextricable part of society for more than 500 years, deserves such a fate.”
The Jewish Broadcaster is the only media outlet through which Jewish people in the Netherlands can form part of the public broadcasting system. Setting up a broadcasting association requires at least 50,000 members, but the Netherlands simply does not have a Jewish population that is big enough to reach that number, said well-known TV presenter and journalist Frits Barend.
“Due to the tragic events of the previous century, the Jewish community can never reach that minimum threshold. A civilized government shouldn’t base decisions on numbers alone,” he said.
The Central Jewish Consultative Committee, a collaborative body comprised of the leading Dutch Jewish organizations, was similarly shocked by the Cabinet’s plans.
“Religious minorities will be gagged and their social position will be seriously undermined,” said Chairman Willem Koster.
The Jewish Broadcaster was established in 1973, and broadcasts on both public television and radio. It is Europe’s only state-funded, national Jewish media outlet.
Meanwhile, Israeli and Jewish officials in Denmark warned Jews on Wednesday to avoid openly wearing religious symbols and dress when moving about Copenhagen amid rising anti-Israeli sentiments.
"We advise Israelis who come to Denmark and want to go to the synagogue to wait to don their skull caps until they enter the building and not to wear them in the street, irrespective of whether the areas they are visiting are seen as being safe," Israel's ambassador to Denmark, Arthur Avnon, told AFP.
Avnon added that visitors were also advised not to "speak Hebrew loudly" or demonstrably wear Star of David jewelry, the news agency reported.