(JTA) – Prominent Dutch Jews spoke out against what they called a new trend involving hosting activists against Israel at commemorations for the Kristallnacht pogroms of 1938.
The Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, which is the Netherlands’ main watchdog on anti-Semitism, spoke out against the trend earlier this week ahead of the Nov. 9 anniversary of the pogroms in Germany and Austria, which many historians view as the opening shot of the Nazi campaign of violence against the Jews during the Holocaust.
CIDI, whose director in 2000 represented Dutch Jews in negotiations for Holocaust restitution, said it was “concerned over the trend in which anti-Israel individuals receive a podium at Holocaust-related commemorations,” according to the CIP website.
The statement followed the invitation to one commemoration of Dries van Agt, a pro-Palestinian former prime minister of the Netherlands who recently said that the Jews “should have been given a piece of land” in Germany instead of in the historic Land of Israel, and the hosting at another of Anne Dekker, an activist who promotes the boycott of Israel and said that neither Israel nor CIDI legitimately represent Jews.
Van Agt, who has been fighting accusations of anti-Semitism since he declared in 1972 that he “is only an Aryan” in connection to his efforts to free Nazi war criminals, will speak at the main event organized by the Committee for the Commemoration of Kristallnacht, an NGO, at a theater in Amsterdam.
Van Agt, who has compared Israel to Nazi Germany and in 2008 spoke at a rally in Rotterdam that featured a televised address by a leader of Hamas, was asked in 1972, upon his appointment as justice minister, whether he would free four Nazi war criminals who appealed for release for health reasons. He said he would try but that his Jewish predecessor tried and failed, adding “I am only an Aryan.”
Ronny Naftaniel, a Dutch board member of CEJI, a Brussels-based Jewish organization promoting tolerance, called van Agt’s speaking at a Holocaust commemoration event “insane.”
Referring to Dekker, Paul van der Bas, chair of CIDI’s youth organization, CIJO, told the PowNed news website this week: “The fact that she doesn’t understand what a Jewish organization has to do with the Remembrance of the Dead suggests she needs to learn more about why we commemorate before making suggestions. Let her do it on Twitter, but not by abusing a memorial ceremony.”
Remembrance of the Dead is the name of the Netherlands’ official memorial day on May 4 for the victims of World War II, including more than 102,000 Jews murdered by the Nazis, many of them with help from local collaborators. In May, Dekker wrote on Twitter, “What does CIDI have to do with Remembrance of the Dead?” She then wrote: “What I mean is: Israel ≠ Jews.”
She also wrote: “I do as much BDS as possible.” BDS is the acronym for the boycott, sanctions and divestment movement against Israel.
Dekker is scheduled to speak Thursday on a Kristallnacht panel at the state-funded National Liberation museum in Groesbeek, whose exhibits are about World War II. Museum director Wiel Lenders said his institution will host Dekker despite the protest because “freedom of expression must not be affected,” the Gelderlander newspaper reported.
Dekker said she is being “accused of being an anti-Semite because I once shared on Twitter a request not to buy avocados” grown in disputed lands held by Israel.
Last year, CIDI and other groups protested the hosting at Amsterdam’s Uilenburger Synagogue of a memorial organized by Platform Stop Racism and Exclusion, a far-left group that is shunned by local Jews for its members’ perceived animosity toward Israel and sympathy for Hamas.
The event featured an address in which Hanin Zoabi, an Arab-Israeli lawmaker who recently said that “Jews are not a nationality, so we cannot talk about self-determination for the Jewish people,” likened Israel’s actions to those of Nazi Germany.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte and survivors of the Holocaust, as well as hundreds of Jews and non-Jews, attended the main Kristallnacht commemoration event last year organized by the Dutch Jewish community at the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam. This year, the Dutch state will be represented at the same place by keynote speaker Khadija Arib, chair of the Dutch lower house, the Tweede Kamer.