Dutch Israeli runs to be Netherlands’ youngest lawmaker

Itay Garmy is running to be the youngest MP in the Netherlands and running the Dutch campaign for Volt Europe in the March 2021 parliamentary election.

FILE PHOTO: General view of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands January 23, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/EVA PLEVIER/FILE PHOTO)
FILE PHOTO: General view of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands January 23, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/EVA PLEVIER/FILE PHOTO)
When Itay Garmy visited Israel as a teenager on a summer program with the Habonim Dror youth group, he returned to the Netherlands, where he had grown up with Israeli parents with a lofty ambition: to become prime minister of Israel.
Ten years later, Garmy, 26, has dropped that goal, but he still has the political bug. He is now running to be the youngest member of parliament in the Netherlands and running the Dutch campaign for Volt Europe in the March 2021 parliamentary election.
Garmy grew up in Amsterdam and attended Jewish schools and was a member of Habonim Dror, a socialist Zionist youth movement. His mother is Brazilian-Israeli and his father is Israeli from a Yemenite family, and they met in Amsterdam.
“I was raised with a love for Israel,” he recounted.
When Garmy traveled to Israel with his youth group, he was deeply moved by the visit. He decided to move to Israel and hoped to one day be prime minister.
At 18, he followed his dream and hoped to enlist in the IDF, first attending the pre-military academy Mechinat Nachshon in Kibbutz Shoval, near the Gaza border.
Garmy recounted the experience as allowing him to get to know a cross-section of Israeli society: “I lived with 50 Israelis. It was a big mix, there were people there who were from Ethiopia, who were Orthodox, who were from the big cities and the periphery.”
While at the mechina, the IDF launched Operation Pillar of Defense in response to Hamas shooting a barrage of rockets at Israeli civilians. Garmy volunteered to help with logistics and support for the people of Sderot.
Still, he felt a bit of a culture shock.
“I wanted to understand the country and how people feel. I wanted to help bring peace,” Garmy said. “I got there with my European standards and when I met people experiencing things hands-on, I saw they think differently. I was shocked by how people live and think in Israel, and I started questioning my motivation to stay.”
At the end of the year, Garmy returned to the Netherlands and decided to help Israel from there, and was active in Jewish organization and pro-Israel advocacy on his college campus, even organizing an event at which then-Labor MK Michal Biran spoke.
Over time, Garmy said, he became “annoyed” by the Labor Party and frustrated with the way the party dealt with issues of antisemitism. He was attracted to Volt and started submitting policy suggestions to the party.
Volt, a new pro-European and pan-European party, was established in 2017 as a response to growing populism in Europe and to Brexit. The party has an overarching platform focused on European cooperation on major issues impacting the continent. Volt has made headway in some local elections in Germany, Italy and Bulgaria, as well as in the European Parliament, where the party has one representative from Germany.
“Volt is against any form of antisemitism and has a lot of Jewish members from many EU countries,” Garmy said.
Israel is not part of the Netherlands branch of Volt’s platform, but on the European level, the party is “for a two-state solution. It believes Israel has a right to exist and Jews have a right to their own, secure state, but also encourages Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate for a sustainable peace agreement,” Garmy said.
However, he said his greatest motivation to move parties was that Volt seeks “to do things differently and has a place for new ideas.” He described the party as having a “bada** vibe,” and admiringly mentioned that every leadership position is split between male and female co-leaders.
Garmy admitted that his 11th place on Volt’s list means that he does not have a good chance of getting into parliament, but he is excited about the “cool challenge” of running its national campaign.
Analysts have described Volt as centrist or Center-Left, and Garmy said that, in the sense that Eurosceptic parties are on the Right, his party can be viewed as left-wing. However, he added that its positions transcend those definitions and are not Right or Left – a campaign slogan that may be familiar to Israelis from Blue and White’s election campaigns.
“Our shared vision is more about how we can fix the problems we have on a European level and change democracy so we have more of a say. It’s not really Left or Right,” he said.