Anti-Semitism in Holland is on rise and raising concern

AMSTERDAM — Moroccan anti-Semitism is on the rise in Holland.

Dutch Jews already have known it for several years: According to the Center for Information and Documentation about Israel (the Dutch equivalent of the Anti-Defamation League), the number of anti-Jewish incidents has been increasing since 1997.

Since the Palestinian intifada began in September 2000, however, the number of incidents has increased and their nature has changed, becoming more violent and physical.

Muslim immigrants — primarily Moroccan youths — are responsible for the sharp rise in incidents, according to CIDI.

In its 2000 annual report, Tel Aviv University's Institute for the Study of anti-Semitism and Racism reached a similar conclusion: It registered an increase of 50 percent in violent anti-Semitic incidents in Western Europe, most of them in countries with large Muslim communities.

In cities like Amsterdam, Jews say they have been subjected to name calling, physical attacks and aggressive behavior from Moroccan youths.

It began in neighborhoods such as West Amsterdam that are populated mainly by Moroccan immigrants. But even in the southern parts of Amsterdam, which since World War II have had a large Jewish population, many Jews prefer not to walk outside with visible signs of their faith.

Dutch society long has ignored or downplayed the situation. In recent weeks, however, the tide seems to be changing. On May 4, the day Holland commemorates its soldiers, Jews and other civilians who died in World War II, Moroccan youths disturbed various commemoration ceremonies in Dutch cities, mainly in Amsterdam.

It took a week until Michel Rog, a local politician for the center-left party D'66, filed an official complaint of anti-Semitism with Amsterdam police.

"Suddenly a group of 10, 20 young Moroccans came and began to shout 'Joden moeten we doden,'" he said. They repeated the slogan, which means "We should kill the Jews," again and again.

Similar incidents took place in other Amsterdam neighborhoods, where Moroccans disturbed speeches and the traditional two minutes of silence for the dead, shouting the same slogan or "Hamas Hamas, put the Jews into the gas."

Non-Jewish participants in the ceremony were perplexed but remain divided over what the Moroccan youths could have meant.

Some, like Rog, feel the youngsters intentionally used anti-Semitic slogans on a day commemorating Jewish victims of Nazi persecution. Others think the incidents have no political meaning.

"It's time to establish clear limits, and you can only do that when you file official complaints with the police and prosecute people accordingly," said Rog.