Anti-semitic stereotypes in Dutch paper spark anger

"The chosen people have to be perfect," wrote journalist Ilse van Heusden of childbirth in Israel’s health care system.

Pregnant women [illustrative]_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Pregnant women [illustrative]_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
BERLIN – An early January article in the Dutch Christian daily Trouw sparked criticism in Israel and the Netherlands because the journalist invoked allegedly stereotypical anti-Jewish views and compared the process of giving birth in Israel’s health care system to military combat.
Writing in Trouw, or “allegiance,” about the birth of her child in Israel, Dutch journalist Ilse van Heusden titled her article “The chosen people have to be perfect.”
RELATED:Netherlands party challenges Turkey’s NATO membershipBelgium Islamists call author, Dutch legislator ‘apostates’“To be pregnant in Israel is comparable to a military operation. Countless echoes and blood tests should produce the perfect baby, nothing can be left to the luck of the draw. The state demands healthy babies, and a lot of them, too,” she wrote. Van Heusden did not identify in the article the name of the medical center where she gave birth.
According to critics, she used skewed language to bash the Jewish state by militarizing every aspect of Israeli life, and employed forms of Christian anti-Semitic language to attack Israel’s right to exist.
Israeli NGO Missing Peace, a watchdog organization that monitors anti-Israeli sentiments in the Netherlands, first criticized van Heusden’s article in a report last week on its website. Speaking on the phone with The Jerusalem Post on Monday, Yochanan Visser, the head of Missing Peace and the author of the report, said, “Trouw’s anti-Semitic article about prenatal care in Israel is in fact just another example of how most Dutch media demonize and delegitimize Israel.”
Visser, an expert on Dutch- Israeli relations, who made aliya from the Netherlands in 2000, wrote in his website report, “Apart from distortions and lies the article contained many accusations and insinuations that are reminiscent of classic anti-Semitic rants.”
Visser told the Post: “Since the average Dutchman bases his opinions on the biased mainstream media reporting about Israel, the conclusion is justifiable that the Dutch media are accomplices in the rise of contemporary anti- Semitism. The ‘chosen people’ article in Trouw should therefore finally trigger a public discussion about the way freedom of speech is misused to bash and demonize the Jewish state and to promote renewed Jew hatred in the Netherlands.”
Willem Schoonen, the editor- in-chief of Trouw, denied the article is anti-Semitic, in a telephone interview on Monday.
He said the paper got “loads of e-mails on the story, negative e-mails.”
When asked why the readership response was negative, he said for the same reasons of anti-Semitism that are being leveled against the paper. He flatly denied the article is bashing the Jewish state, and said van Heusden wrote about “experiences from a pregnant woman coming from a different background” and dealing with a “new chapter in Israeli society.”
“Anti-Semitic reporting is not the way to win a new readership. Certainly for us,” said Schoonen, speaking from Amsterdam.
Political and media commentator Tom Gross told the Post on Monday that “by standing by the article the editor of Trouw is on very dangerous ground here.”
“He seems to be ignorant of the classic centuries-old anti- Semitic stereotypes about ‘the chosen people’ and linking Jews to money, and to the blood of Christian children.
“This is particularly disturbing coming as it does in the Netherlands. Contrary to popular myth, Holland had one of the highest levels of collaboration with the Nazis in Western Europe. 75 percent of the country’s Jews were murdered, a much higher percentage than countries like Belgium and France.”
Visser disputed van Heusden’s use of statistics as flawed in order to support her criticisms about child allowance rates, pre-natal care tests, infant mortality rates, and the overall quality of medical care in Israel. When asked about van Heusden’s journalistic method of verification and her sources, Schoonen, said “this has not been finalized. I will have to verify the statistics with her.”
According to the Missing Peace report, a Trouw reader critical of van Heusden wrote on the paper’s website: “Subtle article by the way, it even manages to bring good infant care in Israel in the vicinity of ‘eugenics’ and thus comparing it to Nazism.”
The global media watchdog organization, Honest Reporting, publicized Visser's report on its website and encouraged its readers to file formal complaints to Trouw and comments on the paper's website. The Jerusalem-based group Honest Reporting debunks slanted reporting against the Jewish state.