Last week, Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Freedom Party, was cleared by an Amsterdam Court of all charges of insulting Muslims and inciting hatred and discrimination against them. The trial of the only internationally known Dutch politician drew major media attention in many countries. The verdict is generally being hailed as a triumph for almost unbridled free speech. Concerning Israel, the Jews and what may be said about them in The Netherlands, this judgment could invite very problematic consequences.
The developments in the court case were bizarre. The public prosecution had concluded years ago that Wilders should not be prosecuted. The Amsterdam Court, however, forced the prosecution to charge Wilders. This started a three-year procedure. The first round ended abruptly in October 2010. Then judges of the Amsterdam Court deposed their colleagues sitting on the Wilders case, because they had shown bias against him. Thus, a new court had to start the hearings from the beginning in February. The public prosecution requested Wilders’ acquittal as it had also done in the first round.
The charges included a long list of statements by Wilders, one of which was: “The Koran is the Mein Kampf of a religion which aims to eliminate others and which calls the others - the non-Muslims - unreligious dogs.” On another occasion he had said: “The core of the problem is fascist Islam, the sick ideology of Allah and Mohammed, as written down in the Islamic Mein Kampf, the Koran.”
Regarding Muslims, Wilders had said inter alia: “Close the borders. No more Muslims should be let into the country, many Muslims should leave the Netherlands and criminal Muslims should lose their Dutch nationality.”
The court found that while Wilders may have on occasion spoken in a hurtful and coarse way, he should be able to propagate his views as part of public political debate. After the verdict, Muslim and other organizations announced that they want to take the issue up with the United Nations Human Rights Council. In the meantime, Wilders continues to receive many death threats, mainly from Muslims, and must be heavily guarded.
One has to analyze Wilders’ policies separately from the way he expresses them. He has been a pioneer in pointing out that the greatest threat to humanity comes out of the Islamic world. This goes far beyond the more than hundred million adherents of Bin Laden’s worldview, suicide and other bombers, as well as the many crimes against humanity in countries such as Yemen, Syria, Libya and so on. However, to consider all Muslims as a global threat is an unfounded and populist generalization.
Wilders has been a consistent defender of Israel. The Freedom Party supports the Dutch minority government of Liberals and Christian Democrats from the outside. This government has, as part of its official program, the improvement of Dutch-Israeli relations. Wilders plays an important role in making sure that this is indeed the case.
The Freedom Party has, together with two small Christian parties, taken a lead role in the fight against anti-Semitism. With regard to physical and verbal attacks on recognizable Jews in The Netherlands, Muslims and in particular youngsters of Moroccan origin, have a disproportionately large share in these crimes, compared to their size in the population. The Freedom Party’s spokesman on anti-Semitism issues Joram van Klaveren, is making consistent efforts to convince the government to pay for the security of Jewish institutions. Financing their own security is a heavy burden for the small organized Jewish community, which numbers about 8,000 members.
The Freedom Party, however, plays a very negative role in the current debate on a private bill introduced by the Party for the Animals to prohibit religious slaughter without stunning an animal first. Initially, Wilders’ party’s support for the bill was seen as part of its anti-Islam policies. In the interim, it has been found that the percentage of Dutch Muslims who are not willing to eat Halal meat from stunned animals is very small.
The Freedom Party has supported this prohibition enthusiastically, knowing full well that orthodox Jews will be its main victims. In the parliamentary debate, its spokesman Dion Graus has called religious slaughter “ritual torture.” He also stated that his party is not against Muslims, as the proposed prohibition also hurts Jews. Thus once again, Jews have become an instrument in Dutch politics.
When analyzing what consequences the Amsterdam court decision may have for Jews and Israel, one needs to be informed about Dutch anti-Israeli propaganda, which has succeeded in convincing more than 38% of the Dutch population that Israel intends to commit genocide against the Palestinians. This information was found in a major poll undertaken by the University of Bielefeld in Germany. Anti-Israeli inciters regularly publish in most leading Dutch media.
The religious slaughter debate has unleashed a sewer of anti-Semitic talkbacks in several mainstream Dutch papers. After the verdict in the Wilders case, many of these as well as statements comparing the Torah and Talmud to Mein Kampf, and claims that Judaism is a sick religion, cannot be legally challenged.
Manfred Gerstenfeld is the author of 20 books. Last year, his book in Dutch, "The Decay: Jews in a Rudderless Netherlands, sparked a major debate in the Netherlands
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