The rise of Geert Wilders and the new Dutch government
The Dutchman Geert Wilders is a break-away parliamentarian from the Liberal Party who founded his own Freedom Party in 2004. Since his youth he has developed an emotional bond with the Jewish state and has visited Israel at least more than 40 times. As a youngster he went there to work in the Kibbutz, a socialist experiment of collective farming, and had an abortive relationship with a Jewish girl. His second wife is the Jewish-Hungarian diplomat Krisztina Marfaimarried.
The reason for his breakaway from the Liberal Party was their point of view about immigration in general and Muslims in particular. Wilders’ concern for Muslim immigration is because he believes that Israel and the West are confronted by the same enemy. He recently declared in an interview for the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot that the Palestinians are not a puny guerrilla force fighting a last stand against dispossession by the settler movement backed by the Israeli military juggernaut. They are the first line of defense of the Western world:
The Palestinians believe – and this is the nature of Islam – that Israel is their country and that they are fighting the non-Muslims in the West through it. The struggle against Israel is a struggle against us. We are Israel. The reason Dutch parents can sleep calmly without having to worry about their kids is that Israeli parents stay awake at night because their children are in the army. This doesn’t mean Israel cannot be criticized, but I’m not ashamed to fight for Israel.
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Charges of dual loyalty–against Muslims
When a new Dutch government was installed in 2007, Wilders started a discussion about the dual loyalty of a Morrocan and a Turkish secretary of state, charging that they have divided loyalties. At the same time, Wilders has no problem with the new Jewish Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Uri Rosenthal, who was installed in a government supported by his party. After Great Britain’s Jack Straw (2001–2005) and David Miliband (2007–2010), Holland is the second country in Western Europe to have a Jew on this key position in recent years.
In accordance with the new government’s agreement to strengthen ties with Israel, Rosenthal promised that he would take a personal interest in the funding of an interfaith NGO that supports a website featuring news and commentary critical of Israel. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also announced a donation of 400,000 Euros to preserve Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Jewish support for right-wing politics?
Wilders fondness for Israel and Jews is an unrequited love. In an article that ran on June 4, 2010, the Dutch newspaper De Pers pointed out that only 2% of Dutch Jews voted for Wilders (compared this to the 25% of the native Dutch who voted in the general elections of 2010). The majority of Jewish votes go to the liberals and socialists (58%). Only 3% voted for the major Christian party, the center-right Christian Democratic Appeal, the fourth most popular party in the 2010 election, with 13.7% of the popular vote. Jews obviously like Wilders message even less than a party devoted to Christian morality.
The situation in Belgium is the same. The anti-immigration Belgian Vlaams Belang has tried to win Jewish support in Antwerp to ward off the accusations of anti-Semitism. However, there is no indication of Jewish financial support for the party or that the party received a boost in the elections as a result of this move.
There is no significant Jewish support for right-wing politics in the Netherlands. Indeed, Jews are overrepresented among the public enemies of Wilders: “Wilders is a politician with a stick of dynamite in his hand” (chief rabbi Awraham Soetendorp in interview in Algemeen Dagblad, 2/16/2008); “Wilders is spreading hate” (former secretary of state Ed van Thijn in an interview in Telegraaf, 11/09/2008); “Wilders’ deadly words”(op-ed Ruth Wertheim in ‘De Volkskrant, 01/23/2009); “No reason for support for Wilders” (op-ed Ulli d’Oliveira in Trouw, 02/18/2009).
Wilders can depend on support from radical Jewish colonists on the West bank or some renegade Israeli generals, but if Wilders campaign against the Muslims succeeds, it will be without the help of Dutch Jews.