To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.
Animals are advancing in the Netherlands and Jews are regressing. There are many examples of this. A large building project was halted recently because it was the habitat of a protected owl. However, the habitat of the head of the Dutch Rabbinical Seminary, Rabbi Raf Evers – easily recognizable as a Jew by his clothing – is not protected. Due to aggressive behavior the rabbi has encountered – mainly from Muslims – he no longer uses public transportation and ventures out of his home as infrequently as possible.
Another example is the proposed law on the prohibition of ritual slaughter. The proposal has wide support among the Dutch population for whom, apparently, it is easier to understand the supposed mindset of a cow than that of an Orthodox Jew. The bill is presently supported in the Dutch parliament by a large majority, with only the three Christian parties opposing it, despite the fact that it would affect a small amount of kosher slaughter – 3,000 cows per year – and some halal slaughter.
The leader of the tiny left-wing Party for the Animals, Marianne Thieme, had supported her proposed law with poor scientific data and false claims, several of which have been debunked.
One of the myths she propagates is that the Rabbinical Assembly condones stunned ritual slaughter. The R.A. has since requested an apology from the Party for the Animals for this untruth. A recent study by world-renowned food science expert Professor Joe Regenstein at Cornell University is devastatingly critical of the Dutch scientific reports on which Thieme bases her claims. Advertisement
In the meantime, some cracks have begun to appear in the positions of the major parties that support the bill. In the largest opposition party, Labor – which draws the most Muslim voters – there is strong opposition in Amsterdam and several other branches. And there seems to be opposition to the bill in the country’s largest party, the Liberals of Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
There were also newspaper reports that there is substantial dissent in the Freedom Party of Geert Wilders. This anti-Islam Party had not understood that Orthodox Jews would become the main victims of the proposed law, since a majority of Muslims are willing to consume halal meat from stunned animals. Several PVV parliamentarians are very pro-Jewish and fight against the manifestations of anti-Semitism in the Netherlands.
Wilders probably understands by now that the many negative reactions to the proposed law from foreign Jewish organizations may have an impact on his international projects. When speaking abroad, the last thing Wilders needs are questions as to why he supports a major anti-Jewish measure at home.
But even if a compromise is found, damage to the Dutch image abroad has already been done. The long list of foreign Jewish organizations that have approached Parliament or the Dutch government with criticism of the bill has no precedent in Dutch history. It is clear to these organizations that if this law passes it will unleash further attacks on Jewish rituals in Europe.
Those who have expressed their criticism include the Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the American Jewish Committee, the World Jewish Congress, the European Jewish Congress, the Conference of European Rabbis, and the Assembly of Italian Rabbis.
In addition, the chief rabbi of Great Britain, Lord Sacks, and the chief rabbi of Moscow, Pinchas Goldschmidt, have written to the Dutch Parliament. The latter mentioned that under the totalitarian regime in the Soviet Union Jews were hoping for the day they could perform their religious rituals freely. They saw in the Netherlands a country of tolerance.
In the Netherlands itself, official Jewish voices are heard which are stronger in tone than anything said publicly by community leaders in the last fifty years. The only resident chief rabbi, Binyomin Jacobs, stated earlier this month on National Liberation Day: “Many Jews think back to the prelude of the Second World War . the psychological danger is major . There is fear.”
Rabbi Jacobs predicts that the next attacks on Jewish rituals will be the prohibition of circumcision and that Jewish schools will be forced to close because of a shortage of students.
In a recent book of mine, The Decay: Jews in a Rudderless Netherlands, the former Dutch EU commissioner and Liberal leader Frits Bolkestein was quoted as saying that Jews would do well to advise their children to leave the Netherlands for the U.S. or Israel.
About the Author: Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is a board member and former chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (2000-2012). He is a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award (2012) of the Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism.
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