A section of the controversial Israeli barrier is seen close to a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Presumably there is no law in any Western democracy that prohibits any national from living in a given locale on the grounds of citizenship, ethnicity or religion. Presumably, for example, Dutch citizens are allowed by Dutch law to reside in Fairbanks, Famagusta or the Falklands (even though the latter two are occupied territories).
Dutch expats are not forbidden to move nor do they expect to be penalized (especially not by their own government) because of where they choose to put down stakes. The very notion that Dutch citizens would be told that they cannot dwell somewhere because of who they are – i.e., to which parents they happened to have been born – would be seen as inherently and intolerably discriminatory.
But there appear to be exceptions to the liberal rule.
These apply exclusively to Israel and to Jews – even to Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands.
Thus, with incomprehensible callousness, 90-year-old D. had her pension slashed by the Dutch authorities solely because she opted to move in with her son’s family just outside Modi’in. The Israeli city is inside the Green Line but the neighborhood where D.’s family lives is just outside the 1949 armistice line, which arbitrarily consigns D.’s home to the “occupied West Bank.”
Because of that the Dutch officially informed D. of a 35-percent reduction of her €1,100 monthly pension which includes a special allowance due her as a Holocaust survivor. “We have no agreement with this periphery [the West Bank],” she was informed in writing.
We wonder, however, whether the same hardheartedness would apply had D. not been of Jewish extraction and religion and went to live in Ramallah. To make an example of so elderly a pensioner cannot but raise the specter of another European escalation in the ongoing campaign to punish Israel for not surrendering to Brussels’ diktats.
What has this to do with D.’s rights? Is her Holocaust ordeal diminished by having budged beyond an artificial line? Is she thereby less entitled to what is her due? Former Labor MK Colette Avital, who heads the Center of Organizations for Holocaust Survivors, hit the nail on the head when she argued that whatever disagreements European governments have with Israel’s government, they cannot pursue their agendas on the backs of ordinary individuals.
“It is surprising and outrageous that the Dutch government, of all countries, chooses to impose sanctions against civilians who endured the Holocaust on its territory and who subsequently chose to move in with their children at an old age,” Avital said. “It is hard to accept such harassment of survivors, whose welfare needs to be sacrosanct in the eyes of the Dutch authorities.”
This calls to mind the fines leveled postwar by the Amsterdam Municipality on Jewish survivors for nonpayment of their wartime utilities bills for homes expropriated by Dutch collaborators (while the Jewish owners either hid or languished in concentration camps).
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, emeritus chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and an expert on Dutch Jewish history, has taken the Netherlands severely to task (despite the undeserved saccharine image it enjoys in popular Israeli perceptions) for “the disinterest of the Dutch wartime government and Queen Wilhelmina in exile in London regarding the fate of Dutch Jews.
The same goes for the massive collaboration of Dutch bureaucracy with the Germans in the occupied Netherlands.”
Most frustrating is the fact that precisely the governments which adopt the softest of attitudes to Islamic terrorism and to the Iranian nuclear menace, pinpoint ultra-democratic and existentially threatened Israel as the one Mideastern state against which they can act tough.
Despite moralizing Dutch rhetoric, this betrays much of Europe’s ancient double standards that once proliferated against Jews and are now hypocritically focused on the Jewish state – not least by labeling “settlements’ products.”
D. suffered on Dutch soil in WWII and she decided to leave the Netherlands because of rising anti-Semitism there. What should foremost perturb disingenuous Dutch critics of Israel is the creation of an environment where Holocaust survivors no longer feel safe to live.