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Anti-Semitism in the European Union: The Netherlands

(Updated December 2003)

There are three main religious directions within Dutch Jewry (total: 30,000, the majority living in Amsterdam): the traditional Jewish community (Nederlands Israelitisch Kerkgenootschap), the liberal religious Jews (Liberaal Religieuze Joden) and the Sephardic community (Portugees Israelitisch Kerkgenootschap). The majority are well integrated in the social and cultural life of Dutch society (total population: 16 million). In recent years the establishment of Islamic institutions serving the 700,000-800,000 Muslims resident in the Netherlands (Moroccans, Turks and people from former Dutch colonies) has increased and the founding of over 30 Islamic schools demonstrates the increased influence of Islam. At the same time, racist attacks against the Muslim population have risen, in particular after 11 September 2001. Public statements by Imams against homosexuality, women, the Western world etc. have meet with displeasure in large sections of the population. Many of the radical Muslim religious leaders publicly express their disdain of the USA or even praise the Palestinian suicide bombers. A recent intelligence service report suggesting that young Muslims were being recruited at mosques for anti-Western missions in Afghanistan and elsewhere also stirred up public feeling.

The Dutch Jewish community remains one of the targets of both extreme right-wing and Islamic fundamentalist movements. Although no comprehensive system for recording anti-Semitic incidents is in place, anti-Semitic activity appears to have been increasing slowly but steadily in recent years. Incidents such as acts of vandalism, abusive graffiti, desecration of Jewish cemeteries and memorial sites, but also insults and threats continue to happen. Football vandalism and Internet propaganda are among the main focal points of anti-Semitic activities in the Netherlands. There was also a clear link between the incidents and the restitution of Jewish assets as well as with the events in the Israel-Palestine conflict. In the aftermath of the 11 September attacks on the United States 90 incidents directed against Muslims were also registered.

In the run up to parliamentary elections in May 2002 it was mainly the party of Pim Fortuyn (LPF) which attempted to recruit votes with xenophobic slogans, whereby in particular new immigration was addressed. Shortly before the election Pim Fortuyn was murdered; nonetheless his party list became the second strongest group in parliament and joined the government coalition led by Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende.

The Dutch government has banned kosher slaughter, becoming the sixth European country to do so. The local Agriculture Ministry informed Jewish community leaders that they would no longer be permitted to slaughter cows in a kosher manner [shechitah] because of “cruelty” to animals. At the same time though, the Netherlands has implemented the most restrained regulations of all the European countries, which have passed the prohibition. The ban is only applicable for older, heavier bulls – not cows or other animals. In July 2002 an arrangement was reached in meetings with members of the Dutch Jewish Committee that took into consideration the “needs of the Jewish community in Holland”.

The University of Leiden together with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Anne Frank Foundation annually investigates the extent of extreme-right and racist violence against minorities. The report for the year 2000 shows an increase of registered incidents from 313 (1998) to 406 (2000), directed increasingly against asylum seekers and Jewish persons. Many incidents were not reported however. For the first four months of 2002 a renewed increase in the number of attacks is evident. Another study shows that the perpetrators of anti-Semitic attacks to a large extent – but not exclusively – come from sections of the younger second generation Moroccan population, whose level of social integration is poor and who are influenced by Arab radio and television stations which broadcast programmes in the Netherlands and agitate against Jews, homosexuals and Western influences.

Although in contrast to other countries no synagogue has been set on fire in the Netherlands, since autumn 2000 and above all in the course of 2001 the number of anti-Semitic incidents increased; cemeteries, monuments, synagogues and buildings housing Jewish organisations were the target of vandals on 50 occasions. In 2001 there were 31 incidents; in the first four months of 2002 the number of attacks, ranging from physical assault to attacks per e-mail, rose to over 100. The unregistered number of cases is possibly far greater though, for the numbers published only include those incidents cited by the victims themselves and passed on by NGOs.

1. Physical acts of violence

In March numerous reports of death threats towards Jews sent by letter, fax and mobile phone were reported. For the months January to April 2002 six cases of physical violence and nine cases of threats of violence were registered. In particular more and more Jews who wear the kipah were disparaged on the streets. An American Jew was followed by a group of persons and badly beaten up.

4 April 2002: one of the back windows of the synagogue in the Lekstraat in Amsterdam was badly damaged during the night.

24 April 2002: a Jewish market vendor in the centre of Amsterdam was threatened with a pistol and the words “I’ll shoot you dead”.

2. Verbal aggressions/hate speech

In 2000 the number of incidents of verbal intimidation of Jews sharply increased; CIDI registered 32 incidents of verbal abuse. In comparison with this figure in the first four months of 2002, 40 cases of anti-Semitic abuse were registered by CIDI. Most of the anti-Semitic discrimination and incidents involved the use of swastikas, the distribution of neo-Nazi propaganda and delivering the Hitler salute.

Direct threats

The number of anti-Semitic incidents in schools and at the workplace is growing. The slogan “Hamas, Hamas, Joden aan het gas” (Hamas, Hamas, all Jews to the gas) and the accusation “Kankerjoden” (cancerous growth Jews) are frequently used against the Jewish population by native Dutch, often by children and by members of the Muslim population.

Indirect threats

During the pro-Palestinian demonstration in Amsterdam on 13 April 2002, 75 swastikas were carried amongst the 15,000-20,000 participants, almost 90% of whom were not native Dutch; Israeli and American flags were also burned. 200 mostly non-native Dutch Moroccan young people were responsible for the excesses during the demonstration. At other pro-Palestinian demonstrations mainly Moroccan participants called out anti-Semitic slogans, including the aforementioned “Hamas, Hamas, all Jews to the gas”, a slogan that is heard repeatedly in football stadiums, in particular by supporters of Feyenoord Rotterdam; anti-Semitic symbols were also visible. It was also noticed that such chants have long become the norm in football stadiums.

On 31 July 2002 Feyenoord Rotterdam Football Club held an open day during which football fans bawled anti-Semitic slogans; as there was no police presence no action was taken.


In March and April the Memorials for the Murdered Jews in Wageningen and Meppel were smeared with paint and graffiti reading “Israel fascist state”.


On 26 April 2002 an article by Hayo Meyer appeared in the daily Volkskrant under the title “Israel misbruikt antisemitisme taboe” (Israel abuses the anti-Semitism taboo). In the article the author used the classical anti-Semitic stereotype that the Jews themselves are to blame for anti-Semitism. Ronny Naftaniel, director of the CIDI, was given the opportunity on 2 May to reply to the accusation and criticise Meyer.

Gretta Duisenberg, wife of European Central Bank President Wim Duisenberg, has hung a Palestinian flag from her balcony and was accused by some people to have made anti-Semitic statements. This initiated a broad public debate.


According to the CIDI, the Internet plays an important role in spreading anti-Semitism. Of the 550 complaints about the Internet registered by the Discrimination Internet Registration Centre in 2001, 203 concerned anti-Semitic incidents. In 2001 197 anti-Semitic homepages were located on the Internet; in the first four months of 2002 the number had already reached 87.

3. Research studies

The Eurobarometer survey commissioned by the EUMC for the year 2000 showed that the proportion of Dutch who are to be characterised as “tolerant” towards minorities lies far above the European average.

The survey commissioned by the ADL conducted between 9 and 29 September 2002 concerning “European Attitudes towards Jews, Israel and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict” (see Table: Report on Belgium) established that compared to the other nine countries included in the surveys one finds the lowest percentage of anti-Semitic attitudes among the Dutch. 48% agreed with the statement that “Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country” whereby 20 % agreed to the statement “Jews have too much power in the business world”.

4. Good practices for reducing prejudices, violence and aggression

A network comprising of many organisations is active against racism, organises demonstrations and annual activities within the programme of the national Anti-Racism Day held in March. Two successful educational programmes were conducted in Dutch schools: “School without racism” and “A world of differences”. The CIDI youth group and the youth organisation of the Moroccan association Tans (Towards A New State) organised a joint meeting at the beginning of July 2002 to get to know one another better and to plan more joint projects and events in the future. CIDI demanded of the responsible offices and in particular from the government the establishment of an initiative (Overlegorgaan Religie en Levenbeschouwing) which shall be devoted to religious and general life issues in daily co-existence between the various religions, above all with a focus on transgressing boundaries in relation to persons of different faith.

5. Reactions by politicians and other opinion leaders

On 31 May 2002 the member of parliament Boris Dittrich from the D 66 party submitted an inquiry to the Justice and Interior Ministers as to what measures the state intends to undertake concerning the anti-Semitic attacks in 2001 and 2002, presented on 30 May 2002, which showed a drastic increase in anti-Semitic incidents.

Sources: C.R.I.F. - Released by the European Jewish Congress