It goes without saying that the Netherlands will forever be associated with the Holocaust and the years that Anne Frank and her family lived there, hiding in an attic to avoid Nazi deportation. Millions of people flock to Amsterdam each year to get a sense of what her life was like in captivity and to be reminded of the Dutch complicity in the murder of Dutch Jews.
While this important history should never be forgotten, today’s antisemitism is far more complex and nuanced and will require new methodologies to oppose it. Broad European research shows that there is still much the Dutch government can and should do to combat modern-day antisemitism. Because research and talk without action will not suffice.
The Networks Overcoming Antisemitism (NOA) project, conducted by the Center of Information and Documentation Israel (CIDI), researched ten policy areas in the Netherlands to see what policies were being pursued in the field of antisemitism, as well as their subsequent efficacy. It turned out the Dutch scores were not as good as we had hoped.
The NOA project is a collaboration of key European Jewish organizations established in 2014 to tackle rising antisemitism in Europe. As part of the project, the status of antisemitism in each country is analyzed, national reports are developed, and the various EU member states use this information to shape their antisemitism policies. This methodology allows for concrete and effective antisemitism policies to be made quickly and concisely.
The Dutch survey was conducted by researcher Aron Vrieler. He came across a number of important findings. For example, the Dutch government regards antisemitism as a specific form of racism that deserves targeted measures. Yet, as Vrieler discovered, their expertise sometimes falls short. Another notable but not surprising trend is the government’s tendency to link antisemitism to the Holocaust.
After the research was conducted, conclusions and recommendations were written, and each domain was assigned a score, indicating the state of the fight against antisemitism.
Here’s what the findings showed. In the areas of religion and security, the policies in place to fight antisemitism appeared to be the most effective. In the Netherlands, people can properly practice their Judaism, and our country is also a positive example in the field of restitution.
Legislation in the areas of hate crimes and hate speech was found to be substantial, but implementation can certainly be improved. The domain that received the lowest score was education. As any Dutch student will tell you, school textbooks pay limited attention to antisemitism and the Holocaust, which makes it difficult to understand antisemitism as a historical process.
So, what can we do with these findings? First, Dutch policymakers should further disseminate the globally accepted IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) Working Definition of Antisemitism. This definition, which CIDI already uses to assess antisemitism, can also assist law enforcement, anti-discrimination agencies, prosecutors and others in understanding, identifying, investigating and prosecuting antisemitic incidents.
Secondly, the current registration and tracking system for hate crimes needs to be improved. We have to add more avenues for analyzing data based on bias motivation and type of incident or crime. Civil society organizations, such as CIDI, should also be given additional resources for staff required to register complaints, write reports, and provide victim support during the criminal justice process.
Public communication and engagement on antisemitism also remains an important point. More investment is needed in this area. It is time to create more positive awareness of the presence of Dutch Jews in the social fabric of the Netherlands, throughout the centuries and today.
And, last but not least: education, education, education. Invest in education as a key mechanism for transmitting knowledge regarding the fight against antisemitism, racism and all forms of hatred. We must expand the compulsory history curriculum so that all students are reached and informed on these critical issues.
Because, as we keep repeating, antisemitism is not only a problem for Jews, but for our entire society. And as we saw in the Holocaust, it will take our entire society to stand against these evils.
Aline Pennewaard is the information officer at the Center of Information and Documentation Israel (CIDI) in The Hague. Ms. Pennewaard is a Holocaust historian and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Haifa.