This was first published on Israel National News, and republished here with the author’s permission.
DISTORTED DUTCH VIEWS OF THE JEWS
Manfred Gerstenfeld interviews Elma Drayer
“September 11th 2001 was a turning point in the Netherlands. In the following weeks, there was unrest in Amsterdam West where many Muslims live. Around that time I was writing an article about a small synagogue in that part of town. A few weeks later, Moroccan youngsters threw stones at Jews who came out of the synagogue. I called the police to check what was happening. The police spokesman said, ‘I would prefer if you don’t give too much attention to this. These people are already in an unfavorable position.’ He wasn’t speaking about the Jews at whom the stones were thrown, but about the Muslims who threw the stones. Perpetrators thus became victims and victims became perpetrators.”
Elma Drayer worked at the Dutch daily Trouw from 2001 until 2010. She started as an editor, thereafter became a columnist. Now she is a freelance journalist.
Drayer says that this anecdote must be seen in a larger context. “In recent years, one hears public statements which were deemed socially unacceptable in the Netherlands after the Second World War. After the war, however anti-Semitism was heavily suppressed. Now people speak about the Jews in an increasingly condescending way. This is also related to the changed position of Israel. One cannot separate the anti-Israel mood from anti-Semitism.
“To this has to be added that many people do not take Muslims seriously but view them with pity. This is a new form of the ancient paternalism. Yet if one states that this construct plays a major role in judgment about Israel, one receives reactions like, ‘You are never allowed to say something about Israel because then you are immediately termed an anti-Semite.’
“In a column about the conference of Holocaust deniers in Teheran in 2006, I wrote: ‘Maybe I missed it, but I haven’t seen any angry Jews shouting in our streets, marching toward the Iranian Embassy. I didn’t hear them chant ‘All Muslims are liars.’ Nowhere have I seen an effigy of Ahmadinejad in flames. Yet, this conference was an incredible provocation. On the other hand, the Muslim world requires far less provocation in order to explode. One only has to remember the reactions to the Muhammed cartoons.
“In 2007, a report from the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI) was published. It gave a nuanced view of anti-Semitic incidents in the Netherlands which had increased in 2006 by 64%. The three main national ‘quality’ papers, of which my own is one, didn’t publish this information. I wrote a column about that. One of my colleagues was very angry that I had written that the report hadn’t been mentioned in our paper. He said that CIDI was a Jewish lobbying organization – which I had explicitly mentioned – and that the data weren’t so bad. This kind of totally unfounded statement would never have been made about any other monitor of racism. As soon as it concerns Jews, the report is suddenly ‘subjective and unreliable.’ After such a trying day, I had to seek support from one of the few journalists at the paper who shared my views. Sometimes I felt very lonely working there.
“When the tree which Anne Frank saw from her hiding place almost collapsed in 2007 – in 2010 it actually fell over – a national debate took place. I wrote that we in the Netherlands grant honor to dead Jews. We however, don’t want much contact with living Jews, especially those in Israel.
“What I write about Israel is apparently not considered a normal opinion. People often say: ‘Mrs. Drayer, you must be Jewish.’ They think that only Jews can voice positions like I do. I would consider it an honor to be Jewish, but I’m not. I just express my points of view. I have even heard colleagues say that Jewish journalists should not write about non-Western immigrants because they are prejudiced. I consider that statement very anti-Semitic. On the other hand, I receive many positive reactions from readers, which offers a welcome balance.
“I’ve read the Hamas Charter which promotes the murder of all Jews. Yet people do not care to find out what is written in it. One of the oft-heard comparisons in the Netherlands is that of Jews and Muslims. A false impression is given that Muslims are similarly the victims of the Dutch people as the Jews once were. It is expressed as: ‘Islamophobia is the new anti-Semitism.’
“For many years now, I have lived near a synagogue in Amsterdam. When there are services on Saturdays, police are on guard. This doesn’t shock anyone in the neighborhood. Yet it is a scandal that this is necessary.”
This is a shortened version of an interview which appeared in Dutch in Manfred Gerstenfeld’s bestselling book The Decay: Jews in a Rudderless Netherlands (2010).