Dutch consider 'decoy Jews'

Amsterdam weighs use of undercover police to combat anti-Semitic acts.

311_decoy Jew (photo credit: Associated Press)
311_decoy Jew
(photo credit: Associated Press)
AMSTERDAM — A hidden-camera video showing Jews being harassed on the street in a Moroccan neighborhood of Amsterdam has led Dutch authorities to consider combating hate crimes with "decoy Jews" — undercover police officers wearing yarmulkes, a city spokesperson commented Friday.
The idea has gathered momentum after the hidden-camera video aired on television last week. It was produced by the Joodse Omroep, a small Jewish broadcaster that gets an allotted amount of airtime each month on Dutch public TV stations.
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For the video, two youths and a Rabbi wearing yarmulkes went walking in a primarily Moroccan neighborhood in Amsterdam. The footage showed them quickly being subjected to a range of ill-treatment, from dirty looks to insults — and even, from one man, a Nazi salute.
The idea of using "decoy Jews" to detect and arrest bigots has been embraced by both a prominent Moroccan politician and by Amsterdam's acting mayor, who is Jewish.
The idea of using police disguised as Jews was first mooted by member of parliament Ahmed Marcouch in a speech earlier this month.
"We've done similar things with other kinds of crime," he said. "I'll act as a decoy Jew myself if necessary."
Decoy Jews are "not a solution to fighting anti-Semitism in general," said Ronny Naftaniel, the head of the Center for Information and Documentation Israel, a pro-Jewish group that has lobbied for the idea.
"But they could be used to fight a certain aspect: that Orthodox Jews are becoming unable to walk in public without being afraid of intimidation," he said.
The number of instances of reported anti-Semitism in Amsterdam rose in 2009 from the previous year, according to government data, from 17 to 41. Discrimination cases on the basis of skin color or country of origin rose from 232 to 336 in the same period, while anti-gay cases rose to 89 from 55.
Amsterdam Mayor Lodewijk Asscher told a local television station this week he was open to the idea of using decoy Jews and other "unorthodox methods" to combat racism and homophobia.
However, his spokeswoman, Tessel Schouten, said Friday the city doesn't yet have any specific plans to do so.