The Dutch Paradox: antisemitism in a globalising context
History Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (NIOD) & University of Amsterdam Amsterdam, The Netherlands
In this paper I will explore The Netherlands as a case-study of contemporary antisemitism in a (Western)European, globalising context. The contrast between the image of Dutch tolerance and the high number of Jewish deportees (75 % of 140.000) during World War II has created the notion of the Dutch paradox. In 1945, antisemitism burst into the open. Apart from the German propaganda, main causes were the mechanism of blaming the victim and the economic and social competition regarding reclaimed houses, jobs and properties. Then antisemitism became taboo, finding a counter pole in feelings of guilt and shame. From the sixties, the Shoah became the key element of the Dutch commemoration of World War II.
In the eighties, however, voices started to rise against the dominant narrative of World War II, and the central position of the Shoah. Jews were accused of monopolising suffering, a form of "secondary antisemitism". In 1984, the filmmaker and columnist Theo van Gogh started his crusade against the "commemoration day-industry". In (popular) academics, the historian Chris van der Heijden initiated, in Grijs verleden (Grey past; 2001), an equalising historiography of World War II of which the quintessence is that "the story of the war made the war worse than the war has been". With regard to the Holocaust commemoration and to Israel (and its repressive policies towards the Palestinians), goyish envy and Jewish narcissism clashed. A declining identification with Israel was countered by a growing identification with the Palestinians on the part of the (radical) Left and the immigrant - mainly Muslim - communities. The fatal triangle of antisemitism, antizionism and criticism of Israel shook. At schools for lower secondary professional education Shoah-education became problematic because mainly migrant pupils had learned at home that "Jews" were "perpetrators", not "victims". In 2003 a local commemoration committee refused to pay special attention to the Holocaust, out of fear for protests from the immigrant community. In his letter to Hirsi Ali, Mohammed Bouyeri, the Moroccan-Dutch Muslim extremist who murdered Theo van Gogh, applied anti-Jewish Islamite texts to (Jewish) Dutch politicians and administrators, an aspect which got little attention.