Latest update: February 17th, 2014
In response to an alarming finding from a study conducted last year by the University of Bielefeld, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has sent a letter to the deputy prime minister of the Netherlands, calling on him to take immediate steps to counter the spike in ugly anti-Semitism and anti-Israel attitudes amongst the Dutch.
That study revealed that nearly 39 percent of Dutch citizens hold extreme, inflammatory ideas about Israel. Among other appalling views, this large cohort of Dutch believe that “Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians,” Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper reminded Deputy Prime Minister Lodewijk Frans Asscher.
In other words, about five million Dutch believe that Israel is engaged in a genocide against the Palestinian Arabs.
Cooper discussed the disturbing results of the Bielefeld study with Asscher when Cooper visited the Netherlands last April, shortly after the results of the study were made public. He also discussed the issue with various parliamentarians when he visited the Hague last month.
But although Asscher publicly called the issue “worrisome” and “unacceptable,” according to the SWC, no action has yet been taken, and that in itself is unacceptable.
“An important first step should be a government-ordered study to trace how such an utterly false and insidious image of Israel was created,” Cooper wrote to Asscher in a letter he released on Thursday, Feb. 13.
“Those who conceive and promote an unjustified extreme criminal view of others should be exposed and held accountable in the Court of Public Opinion,” added Cooper.
“We know too well from the 1930s in Germany what can happen when the delegitimization and demonization of a people goes unchallenged.”
Austrian-born Israeli scholar Manfred Gerstenfeld has written a great deal on the subject of contemporary European anti-Semitism.
Gerstenfeld pointed out in an article last year that an earlier study of European hostility towards Israel, one carried out for the European Union and carried out by Eus Gallup Europe as a flash survey of the EU’s Opinion Polls had an equally astounding finding.
That Eurobarometer revealed that most European countries believe Israel is the biggest threat to world peace. The only European country at that time in which fewer than half of all citizens believed Israel constitutes a threat to global peace was Italy, for whom a mere 52 percent did not feel that way.
According to that Eurobarometer, which was published in 2003, a whopping 74 percent of the Dutch believe that Israel constitutes a threat to world peace. That’s more than believe North Korea constituted such a threat (70 percent), or that Iran was such a threat (64 percent), or that Russia was such a threat (a mere 25 percent). The United States was considered a threat to world peace by 64 percent of those living in the Netherlands.
Cooper told the Dutch politician he will be sending Gerstenfeld’s book “Demonizing Israel and the Jews,” which analyzes the results of various studies dealing with European anti-Semitism. The lack of an aggressive response to understand and correct the misconceptions will have dire consequences.
The rabbi also offered the SWC’s help in undertaking a study that “would focus on how this climate was created and what can be done to remedy this unacceptable situation. I believe it would spark a necessary national discussion among Dutch leaders and citizens.”
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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