During Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to The Hague on Tuesday, The Jerusalem Post quoted diplomatic sources as saying that the Dutch government is “friendly, but unable to ignore public criticism of Israel over the Palestinian issue that has grown in the Netherlands in recent years.”
The excuse of “public criticism” has been employed for many decades in the Netherlands. The ministers and heads of government will smile and apologize. There are always others in the coalition government who oppose Israel. Or public opinion is unfortunately against Israel.
However, public opinion in the Netherlands is to a great extent formed by the very same government.
I have worked as a journalist and/or followed the Dutch press closely for some 35 years. Most Dutch journalists do what they are told. The underlying problem is anti-Semitism and “anti-Zionism,” not some large stream of “public opinion.”
Anti-Israeli feelings are closely intertwined with the Holocaust, since the Netherlands has never admitted guilt and has been hushing up its past for more than 70 years.
Having arrived in Israel this July after spending most of the past 40 years in the Netherlands, I have had first-hand experience of the ingrained anti-Semitism and so-called anti-Zionism pervading Dutch society, as described by Manfred Gerstenfeld.
In his recent Jerusalem Post
article “A short review of Dutch anti-Israel incitement,” Gerstenfeld writes that the distorted positive image people still have of the Netherlands is largely due to the influence of The Diary of Anne Frank. For decades Dutch publishers would not touch biographies of Jews who survived the war, with the exception of Anne Frank’s diary. Why? As a small girl with no experience of the rapid changes in the treatment of Jews by the Dutch in the Netherlands, Anne had only a view of a much publicized chestnut tree. Her diary would never have been printed had she had a view of the street.
As the only one in my family with a light complexion, I have often sat stunned while listening to Dutch people talk about Jews. That it is the fault of the Jews that they were sent to Auschwitz is the most widespread conviction.
Once when I asked a survivor and son of a survivor if they thought the Dutch silence about the Holocaust had something to do with feelings of guilt, the two of them began laughing hysterically.
Currently I am translating the autobiography of the aforementioned survivor, Bloeme Evers-Emden (Als een pluisje in de wind, 2012 – “A feather in the wind”), who passed away six weeks ago. Her revelations of how the few camp survivors were treated after the Holocaust are shocking.
Along with other survivors, Bloeme had to walk to the Netherlands since no one sent for them. At the border they were given 2.50 Dutch guilders and a theater ticket to an anti-Semitic play.
She also makes references to a book by Isaac Lipschits, De kleine sjoa (2001), which has not yet been translated.
It details how the Dutch authorities proceeded to further rob and humiliate Jews after the war by fining them for not paying taxes while in Auschwitz.
Also, Jewish institutions were forced to sell their properties after the war because they could not afford municipal taxes. These properties are now probably worth hundreds of millions of euros.
That many of the same bureaucrats worked for the Dutch government before, during and after the war is apparently viewed in the Netherlands as a secret which is necessary to hush up to this day.
Three years ago a (non-Jewish) Dutch student “discovered” that survivors who were taxed and fined for not paying property taxes while in the camps had not yet been fully repaid. Recently the Amsterdam city council agreed to repay the taxes – just not to those (or their families) who were forced to pay them. It was a evidently a last snub to the survivors for spoiling the tolerant and progressive image many have of the Netherlands.
Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust and the fact that so many in the Netherlands have such negative feelings toward “Zionism” and Israel are two sides of the same coin. One of the most fervent Dutch “anti-Zionists,” Gretta Duisenberg – who justifies the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah and is being sued for rabid anti-Semitic comments – is the daughter of a police officer who worked for the Germans.
In the 1930s Dutch civil servants, along with their colleagues in France and Belgium, began to register all addresses and former abodes of Jews.
In the 1940s, when the Germans confiscated Jewish property and deported Jews, Dutch politicians and bureaucrats played a prominent role. Dutch businessmen and politicians owned the publishing companies which spread virulent anti-Semitic propaganda before and during the Holocaust. Gerstenfeld rightly points out that the Dutch government is now financing the same kind of propaganda, but now against “Zionism.”
More than 20,000 Dutch men joined the SS. While Dutch non-Jews who helped Jews were threatened, few who did so were punished by the Nazis. They feared the collaborators more than the Germans. After the war, Germans who were in charge of carrying out the Final Solution would say that no other country had made it so easy for them. Eichmann exclaimed that the transports worked so smoothly in the Netherlands that it was “a pleasure to see.”
The much-heralded underground press, with its massive circulation, rarely, if ever, mentioned the fate of the Jews. With the exception of the February strike, which was put down in a day, the German bluff was rarely called.
Bulgaria managed to save all of its Jews for oil fields. The Dutch, who were considered Aryan brothers by the Nazis, were instrumental due to the Dutch economy and strategic position. The truth of the matter is that many Dutch politicians and civil servants had bet on the wrong side.
Financial considerations also played a decisive role. Only in the summer of 1944 did many begin to hedge their bets.
Few of the guilty, with the exception of convenient scapegoats, received more than short sentences. To this day, little mention is made of who did what during the war.
Also, during the war the Nazis ruled that the word “Jew” should be written with a lower-case J. The only country which has retained the practice is the Netherlands. The excuse given is that the word “Jood” with a capital J must be reserved for residents of Judea.
As far as the Israeli-Arab conflict is concerned, the Dutch government is playing both sides. Dutch politicians are slow to change, since they do not like to be blamed for past mistakes. Blame and responsibility are rarely dealt with. It is time for them to make a choice, and to come clear about their past.
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