Are Dutch Jews canaries in the coal mine?
Are Dutch Jews canaries in the coal mine?

In the Netherlands, a three part TV program on anti-Semitism is being broadcast. It deals with, respectively, the Netherlands, the UK, and France. The Dutch Jewish Broadcasting organization (Joodse Omroep) charged Hanneke Groenteman, an experienced TV journalist, with conducting the interviews. She is a child Holocaust survivor. Her own statements about her ignorance of Dutch anti-Semitism as she discovers it in the documentary illustrate how much she has been in denial for many years about the anti-Semitism in the public domain and elsewhere in the Netherlands.

Groenteman is a member of the five-person Council of Recommendation of Another Jewish Voice (EAJG), a Jewish anti-Israel group. When established, one of its activists was the most extreme Dutch Jewish anti-Semite of the time, the late Hajo Meijer.

The documentary’s title “The Canary in the Coalmine”[1] is catchy, but unfortunate. In the old days, coal miners took a canary down into the mine with them. When it stopped singing they knew that there was poisonous gas in the mine and that they had to escape. The bird thus had to die so that the miners could live. The badly-chosen metaphor is that the Dutch at-large can learn from the racist acts against the Jewish community.

This is unlikely to happen as the Dutch have learned far too little from the Holocaust. During the Second World War more than 100,000 of the 140,000 Jews in the Netherlands at the outbreak of the war were deported and murdered. Holland’s successive governments are the only ones in formerly Nazi-occupied Western Europe who obfuscate the attitudes of their predecessors during the war. They refuse to admit that the Dutch government and then Queen Wilhelmina in exile in London did not care at all about the fate of their Dutch Jewish citizens.[2]

One Jewish interviewee in the documentary is Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, the Chief Rabbi of the Ashkenazi communities outside the three major Dutch cities. He tells Groenteman about the many cameras surrounding his house in the town of Amersfoort. He also mentioned that a car once tried to run him over.

Evers mentioned that even in the upscale neighborhood in which he lives, he sometimes hears shouts of “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas.
Another rabbi, Raf Evers, is leaving the Netherlands to become Chief Rabbi of Dusseldorf in Germany. He said that there were parts of Amsterdam he would never visit. Evers mentioned that even in the upscale neighborhood in which he lives, he sometimes hears shouts of “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas.” Furthermore, some religious Jews who are recognizable as such from their clothing say to the interviewer that they intend to leave the country.

David Beesemer, the former chairman of the Maccabi sport organization, said that polarization in the country is rising. He thinks it quite possible that in the future there could be a civil war in Europe. Another interviewee is Max van Weezel, a leftwing Jewish journalist who in 2006 coauthored a book about the Netherlands titled Land of Hatred and Envy.[3] He said that during the 2014 Gaza conflict he had considered leaving the Netherlands.

Van Weezel recommends teaching more history and civics as part of a solution. Long term recommendations of better education have, however, often become a code-word for saying that there is no solution in view. Those who suggest this often do not realize the underlying meaning of their recommendation.

Though not all anti-Semitism in the Netherlands comes from Muslims by far, theirs is the most virulent. The Jewish interviewees, however, do not emphasize this. Jewish silence about the hatred felt towards them by many Muslims has also recently been exposed by Meindert Fennema, a non-Jewish political scientist.[4]

Also some Dutch Muslims were interviewed. The most interesting is the young novelist Mano Bouzamour, who has a Dutch Moroccan background. He recounts that he and his brother listened to classical music at home. When it was too loud for his mother she said “stop the Jewish music.” He relates how after having a Jewish classmate for the first time, he rid himself gradually of the anti-Semitic prejudices from his home and environment. In the past he has mentioned that his critical observations in a novel on phenomena in the Muslim community have led to mass hysteria there.[5]

The other Muslims interviewed are street youth, for whom anti-Semitism and using the curse “cancer Jew” are common. The documentary shows also a brief scene of ISIS youth marching with flags of the terrorist organization in the summer of 2014 in a Hague Muslim neighborhood. They shout “death to the Jews.”

A 45-minute documentary can only deal superficially with the issue of Dutch anti-Semitism. It would have been much better if all three programs had been devoted to the Netherlands, the more so as a program on European Muslim behavior in a number of countries has been broadcast by the Israeli TV's Channel 10. This four part program on Muslims in Europe was made by an undercover Israeli journalist. One part deals exclusively with Muslim anti-Semitism in various European countries. Buying that excellent documentary would have been much cheaper.[6]

With more time available for the Netherlands it would have been possible to show that extreme anti-Semitism among Muslims is far from limited to street youth. One can find it among many students,[7] entire Muslim communities,[8] a shopkeeper talking to a Jewish client,[9] and in a large number of other situations. With more time it would also have been possible to bring many examples of Jew-hatred on social media, including extreme anti-Semitism on Islam-promoting sites.[10] Groenteman stresses that through this assignment she has become well aware of the danger of anti-Semitism in social media.

The Jewish Broadcasting Organization should be complimented for initiating this movie. After the Holocaust, many Germans as well as other Europeans said “we did not know about it.” The Dutch public can no longer claim that they could not know how anti-Semitism degrades their country.

The documentary also raises a major question about Groenteman herself. She has closed her eyes for many years toward hatred of Jews going on in front of her own nose. How does she then have the gall to support incitement against Israel by being a member of the Recommendation Council of the EAJG?

Finally: the documentary was made before it became known recently that at the beginning of 2016 the Dutch police had arrested a Moroccan, of about forty years old who was suspected to be a leader of a terrorist cell. The cell had intended to detonate two bombs. One of these would have targeted an Amsterdam synagogue.[11]




[3] Margalith Kleijwegt en Max van Weezel, Het land van haat en nijd (Amsterdam: Balans, 2006). [Dutch]



[6] Four-part Israeli television program called Allah-Islam, the Spread of Islam in Europe, which had been broadcast by Israel’s Channel 10 TV, made by Zvi Yehezkeli.