by Abigail R. Esman
Special to IPT News
August 6, 2014
Editor’s note: As a follow-up to her story and log illustrating the rash of anti-Semitism sweeping Europe, writer Abigail R. Esman interviewed Esther Voet, director of the Center for Information and Documentation Israel (CIDI). The CIDI is a Jewish human rights organization of the Netherlands.
“I believe that everyone has his own fight in life,” Esther Voet has said. “This is my fight.” She describes running CIDI as her “calling.”
From the start of the latest conflict in Israel-Gaza (known as “Operation Protective Edge”), the Netherlands’ Jewish community has confronted numerous anti-Israel and pro-ISIS protests throughout the country that have dissolved into blatant anti-Semitism. Dutch Jews are being threatened in increasing numbers, and more and more of them are considering emigrating to Israel. It is a sobering development in a country that still celebrates the bravery – and mourns the tragedy – of Anne Frank.
Abigail R. Esman: There have been a number of attacks on Jews since the start of the latest Israel-Gaza conflict. Can you tell me more about what is going on?
Esther Voet: Anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism [are] one for a lot of people – and they are expressing that in many ways right now. There is particularly a lot going on on social media; some people in the Jewish community are receiving threats, including me, on social media. On the other hand, NL is not France, where there’s really a huge problem.
ARE: And there was the pro-ISIS demonstration in the Hague, where people called for “death to Jews.”
EV: There have been several demonstrations. There was one on the 12th of July in the Hague, and there was a more broad one later. The ISIS demonstration was last Thursday the 24th. They talked about a stone where a Jew was hiding, and the stone said “Kill him” – it’s a passage from the Koran. And people were shouting, “Everyone says it’s Zionists, but we know that it’s the Jews, it’s the Jews.” I was there, tweeting in real time, and I called the spokesperson for the mayor about what was going on, and he said “if there’s anything that goes over the red line we will do something,” but they didn’t do anything, already one hour into the demonstration. Absolutely appalling. Appalling.
Now, though, there is a juridical investigation, and a lot of the press is appalled by what happened there.
ARE: Have you been threatened?
EV: There have been some threats – and the police have given me help with some precautions. But I am not afraid of the people who are shouting. I’m afraid of the silent ones.
ARE: Is it all from Muslims? Or also Dutch Christians?
EV: We also have from native Dutch, but if I were to estimate, it’s about 70 percent Muslim and 30 percent Dutch. It also used to be mostly Moroccans, but what I’ve noticed now is that there are also many Turks, which I call the “Erdogan effect”; for the first time, we’ve seen a lot of Turkish flags at demonstrations.
There was also one Moroccan rapper in Amsterdam who mentioned my name and that we were all allowing and approving the genocide, but I was in good company, along with the Minister of Foreign Affairs – his name was mentioned, too.
ARE: You testified at the Knesset about this recently.
EV: Yes – we went to the Knesset, along with several from European countries who are now in the frontline. And by the way, I was the only woman. I told them “I wanted to start with ‘ladies and gentlemen,’ but apparently I have to say only ‘Gentlemen,’ because there are no ladies around here.” More women should stand up for these issues. But in any case, there were people from the Jewish community from France, Germany, Austria, and Hungary, who did not dare to say anything, they claim everything is okay in Hungary though we know it isn’t. Also Great Britain. And there were some ambassadors there as well, including the Dutch Ambassador, to talk about the crisis right now.
ARE: Is it a crisis?
EV: Yes. Though I do need to say that the media in the Netherlands, although still not completely balanced, are doing much better than the crisis in 2009.
ARE: Was that as bad as this?
EV: In the press, it was worse. The thing is, now we have to deal with social media, which was in its nappy days in 2009. And the social media now is creating an environment that is so hostile that real aggression is around the corner.