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Thursday, April 14, 2011

They will never know

They will never know

Being a Dutchman, no matter where I am, I read the Dutch news. I can't help it. It has been a habit for years which intensified with the introduction of the internet and its gadgets.

One can say that I am pretty well informed about what's going on in Holland, certainly current events. I could not help but notice an article about a benefit concert given for the Japanese victims of last month's tragic events. The Dutch, ever the ignorant people pretending they are very cultured, decided to have all artists stand on the middle of the red dot of the Japanese flag. This red dot resembles the rising sun. Japan, situated east of China, calls itself proudly the Land of the Rising Sun. This sun has also religious Shintu meanings and has a holy status. Just like any other flag of a country, it is not customary to step or stand on it. But I guess they did not know.

This reminded me of the current hot issue for the Jewish and Muslim communities: ritual slaughter. In Holland they have a party for the Animals. No, not Eric Burdon's band, really people who represent the animals and their rights. This party came up with a great way to get their fifteen minutes of fame and proposed a bill that would outlaw the religious slaughter.

I cannot speak for the Dutch Muslim community. The vast majority are illegal aliens, so claim the Dutch media, reporting that the Muslims "in general" are criminals and trouble makers. This is no surprise: leave it to the Dutch to pick out a minority and start picking on them. As a Jew I am well aware that the open-minded Dutch "in general" did not lift a finger when the Germans, during their occupation of Holland in the 40's, hunted the Dutch Jews and exterminated over 90% of the Dutch Jewry (the highest percentage in any country), with help of many good Dutchmen or without many Dutchmen lifting a finger to stop them. I need to add here that my parents were hidden by a Dutch family belonging to the small minority that did object actively to the German killing machine. Still, the Dutch, "in general", being asked what happened in those years, claim that they did not know.

But back to the Dutch and their angst for the suffering of the animals. The Dutch parliament is contemplating this bill and will have some hearings on the issue. No Dutch lawmaker went to see the ritual slaughter, or any kind of slaughter: they saw movies. No Dutch lawmaker read the Qur'an or the Torah. They only heard it's bad for animals. They heard the animals suffer. It said so in the papers.

About 50.000 Jews live today in Holland. Ten percent keeps Kosher. Let's be generous and say that 10.000 keep Kosher. Still, there is only one Kosher butcher and a few Kosher restaurants in Amsterdam, which are also frequented by non-Jews.

Suddenly everyone is a Jew and suddenly every Jew in Holland feels that his religious rights are being taken away. The Dutch, always ready to step on a flag or propose a bill out of pure ignorance, still have no idea what the fuss is about. Talk shows on TV raise the subject with ill-prepared hosts (why study the subject? TV is just entertainment….), while suddenly everyone who is or feels Jewish can express their feelings on TV, some of them slyly reminding the audience that the first order of the occupying Germans in 1940 was….to outlaw ritual slaughter.

"We want our religious rights!", say some of them with a very serious face to the camera, right on cue. They want their religious rights in a country that refuses to supply police or guards at the synagogues, which are subject to threats and anti-Semitic violence. They want their rights in a country where a Jew, in order to celebrate Jewish holidays, must ask for permission to take a vacation day off. They want their rights in a country where men with yarmulkes are attacked in public transportation and yelled and spit at in the streets. They want their rights in a country that delivered their parents and grandparents to the German murderers, while inquiring what's for lunch. A country that simply took over all Jewish possesions left after the Holocaust and still refuses to return it to the remaining families.

They want their rights in a country where the common slang to describe a liar or cheater uses the word "Jew". A country where so-called celebrities make clear anti-Semitic remarks in the media and are not prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Still, the Dutch Jews go to their synagogues and when they end their service, say a prayer for the wellbeing of the Dutch government and the Dutch Royal family, just as they have done for the last 400 years.

I, too wish the Dutch government, as well as the Royal family, all the best.

But my 10 cents worth of advice to the Dutch Jewry – as always – is that there is a place where your full rights as a Jew are being recognized and celebrated. Where you are protected by the government. Where you do not need to ask permission to take a day off to celebrate a Jewish holiday. Where no-one will ever question your right to eat Kosher or refuse to eat Kosher. I happen to live there.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands was very clear about their thoughts about Jews during the German occupation. And they still are very clear about it. Not because they hate Jews, God forbid.

Because they have other priorities.

That's why the Dutch can stand on a red dot and insult a nation without even understanding it and that's why they can prioritize animal rights over religious rights: they just don't know better.

©Simon Soesan