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Geert Wilders, far-right victor in Dutch elections, elicits sympathy and fear in Jewish voters

(JTA) — The Dutch elections in November sent shockwaves through Europe, as voters delivered victory to Geert Wilders, a hard-right populist known for crusading against Islam, immigrants and the European Union — along with professing support for Israel.

But for some Dutch Jews, who have watched an atmosphere of fear and antisemitism grow since the Israel-Hamas war began on Oct. 7, the results were less surprising.

Wilders’s Party for Freedom (PVV) beat all predictions on Nov. 22, winning 37 of the 150 seats in parliament (or 23.6% of the vote) and far outstripping the second place Labor-Green alliance. After decades on the political fringe, Wilders has begun negotiating to form a government with himself as the next prime minister of the Netherlands.

The firebrand politician, whose “Netherlands first” rhetoric and blond-dyed bouffant hair earned him comparisons to Donald Trump, has long made anti-Islam policies a centerpiece of his agenda. Along with demanding a halt to the country’s “asylum tsunami,” he has called for a ban on Islamic schools, Qurans and mosques. A court found him guilty on insult charges after he led supporters in a chant for “fewer” Moroccans in the Netherlands at a 2016 campaign rally. In 2009, he was refused entry to the United Kingdom on the way to screen his film “Fitna,” which associated the Quran with terrorism and sparked international protests.

Following 13 years of a center-right government under former Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Wilders’ victory was broadly called one of the country’s “biggest political upsets” since World War II. His party’s surge came very late in the campaign, and Wilders himself didn’t seem to expect the result, reportedly renting a room as party headquarters for election night only three days beforehand.

That timing corresponds with weeks of public outcry over Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, which has sometimes morphed into aggression against Dutch Jews, according to Esther Voet, editor-in-chief of the Nieuw Israelietisch Weekblad (known in English as the Dutch Jewish Weekly).

“A few weeks ago, he only had between 13 and 17 seats,” Voet told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “This started a few weeks ago — since we’ve seen all the aggression in the streets — that he rose so much in the polls.”

Voet believes that Wilders benefited from a swell of open prejudice against Jews in the Netherlands. One watchdog documented an 818% increase in antisemitic incidents in October, ranging from assaults in schools to the tearing down of mezuzahs to swastikas painted on Jewish homes. Voet said some Jewish voters believed they would be protected by Wilders, who has touted his support for Israel as the Netherlands’ “close friend” and condemned antisemitism since Oct. 7.

Dutch Jews have historically opposed right-wing populist parties, but some shifted their views on Wilders sharply in recent weeks, said Voet. A Dutch Jewish Weekly poll in 2017 found that Jews were less open to voting for Wilders than the broader Dutch public was, with 10% of respondents expressing support for PVV compared with 15% of the public in general opinion polls. The most popular party among Jews was Rutte’s then-ruling People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, followed by the center-left Labor Party.

“I have a lot of Jewish friends who are on the left side of the political spectrum, who voted for PVV because of what they saw in the last weeks,” said Voet.

Although he is not Jewish, Wilders volunteered on an Israeli kibbutz as a young man and is married to a Hungarian-Jewish former diplomat. He has also advocated for Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and suggested that all Palestinians should be relocated to Jordan.

Some Jewish organizations, including the Jewish news website, celebrated Wilders’ win as a victory for both Israel and Dutch Jews. On election day, the outlet posted a “Mazel tov” to Wilders alongside an Instagram post that read, “Hamas lost the elections.”

Lievnath Faber is the founder of Oy Vey, a progressive Jewish group that hosts events and discussions in Amsterdam. As antisemitic attacks surged in recent weeks, her colleague set up a WhatsApp “buddy system” for Jews across Amsterdam to check on each other and provide support.

“People are really needing to be together,” she told JTA. “For a lot of people, it’s very lonely to be Jewish now.”

However, Faber believes that Jews who voted for Wilders’ party were naively missguided by their “legitimate fears.”

“No matter what a politician might say — he might say he loves Jews and wants to protect Jews — we all know from our history, from our DNA that we are at risk when there is an extreme-right, anti-constitutional leader,” Faber said.

Jews constitute a small minority of about 30,000 people in the Dutch population of 17.7 million. Other voters who won Wilders the election say they were attracted by his promises to bring down taxes, healthcare and the cost of living. Some felt neglected by their government and resentful of migrants being granted homes amid the country’s housing crisis, according to Voet. Wilders also toned down his anti-Islam rhetoric during the campaign, although his manifesto still contains proposals to ban Qurans, mosques and Muslim headscarves.

Faber believes that Wilders’ victory has granted permission to a current of racism and xenophobia that abides in Dutch society — one that targets Muslims now, but might turn against Jews.

“If somebody in a public office voices things that are very racist, of course it also motivates other people to feel more comfortable doing that,” she said. “That’s one of the things that is scary about this win — what does it allow in the society?”

The post Geert Wilders, far-right victor in Dutch elections, elicits sympathy and fear in Jewish voters appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Gallant: Seizing Internal Hamas Documents Brings Hostage Deal Closer

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meeting with IDF commanders, including members of the elite Shayetet 13 marine commando unit, in Atlit, Israel, Jan. 17, 2023. Photo: Ariel Hermoni (Israel’s Ministry of Defense)

i24 NewsIsraeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant provided a review to fellow ministers of weapons and documents belonging to Hamas, which were collected by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Document and Technical Means Collection Unit (Amshat) operating in the Gaza Strip.

“This morning we are hosting the government meeting at the IDF, in the defense establishment, to show the ministers exactly how we are achieving and deepening our achievements and what is coming out of the Gaza Strip,” Gallant explained.

“You can see a small part of the things here – missiles, explosive charges, mines, a great many maps, means of communication, documents, computers, drives, all these things which the IDF uses now on as intelligence, and not only that,” the defense minister continued.

“These demonstrate that we penetrated into the heart of the most sensitive places of Hamas and use their intelligence against them,” Gallant described the process of attaining the documents and weapons, hinting at some of the locations from where it was found.

“We are using their weapons against them, detonating them in the field, all this leads to the consequence of deepening and penetrating the heart of Hamas’ capabilities,” the defense minister said.

“The more we deepen our operations, the closer we get to a realistic deal in order to return the hostages,” Gallant concluded.

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UNRWA Chief Urged to Resign After ‘Absurd’ Pledge of Ignorance

View of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90.

i24 NewsIsraeli diplomatic leaders called for the resignation of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Commissioner-General, Philippe Lazzarini, following denial of knowing about a Hamas data center under the agency’s headquarters in Gaza.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) revealed on Saturday night that Hamas built a vast network of tunnels under the UNRWA headquarters, with a base directly underneath that was even hooked up to its grid.

“The exposure of UNRWA’s Gaza headquarters’ deep involvement with Hamas, including its use for terror activities and as an access point to terror tunnels, requires immediate action,” the Israeli foreign minister, Israel Katz, posted on X.

“Philippe Lazzarini’s claim of unawareness is not only absurd but also an affront to common sense. His prompt resignation is imperative,” Katz concluded.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, also called for the UNRWA Commissioner-General to resign, responding “it’s not that you didn’t know, it’s that you didn’t WANT to know.”

“We exposed terror tunnels under UNRWA schools and supplied evidence that Hamas’ exploits UNRWA. We implored you to carry out a comprehensive search of all UNRWA facilities in Gaza. But not only did you refuse, you chose to stick your head in the sand,” Erdan added in a detailed post on X.

.@UNLazzarini it’s not that you didn’t know, it’s that you didn’t WANT to know. We exposed terror tunnels under UNRWA schools and supplied evidence that Hamas’ exploits UNRWA. We implored you to carry out a comprehensive search of all UNRWA facilities in Gaza. But not only did…

— Ambassador Gilad Erdan גלעד ארדן (@giladerdan1) February 10, 2024

“Take responsibility and resign today!” the Israeli ambassador said, “Every day we find more proof that in Gaza the UN=Hamas and vice versa. Anything the UN says or claims about Gaza cannot be trusted.”

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Preparing for the Next ICJ Debacle

The UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ). Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.orgIn the theater of the absurd commonly known as the International Court of Justice, judges are again preparing to ignore history and facts. Having weaponized the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide against the Jewish state, the judges are now preparing to hear oral arguments on the next oxymoron: The “legal consequences” of the “Israeli occupation” of “Palestinian territory.”

The glaring problem with this is that there is no such entity as the “Palestinian territories.” The term is an invented one used to define areas allocated by the international community to the Jewish state, which were then illegally invaded by Egypt and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Any discussion anchored on this false terminology should immediately be ignored and scorned.

In December 2022, the United Nations General Assembly, prompted by the Palestinian Authority, adopted a resolution to request from the ICJ an advisory opinion on the following question:

“Considering the rules and principles of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, international humanitarian law, international human rights law, relevant resolutions of the Security Council, the General Assembly, and the Human Rights Council, and the advisory opinion of the Court of July 9, 2004:

“a) What are the legal consequences arising from the ongoing violation by Israel of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, from its prolonged occupation, settlement, and annexation of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character, and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and from its adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures?

“b) How do the policies and practices of Israel referred to in paragraph 18 (a) above affect the legal status of the occupation, and what are the legal consequences that arise for all States and the United Nations from this status?”

Following the request, the ICJ set a July 25, 2023 deadline for initial written statements to be submitted, with responses to be submitted by Oct. 25, 2023 and oral arguments to be made starting Feb. 19, 2024.

The underlying assumption of this debacle is that Israel is in some way “occupying” “Palestinian territory.” But is that really the case?

In reality, never in history has an independent country called “Palestine” ever existed.

In reality, the area the UNGA claims and has asked the ICJ to consider as “Palestinian territory” was controlled for 400 years by the Ottoman Empire.

In reality, after World War I, the international community repeatedly allocated the entire area from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, from Lebanon to the Red Sea, for the sole purpose of reconstituting the Jewish homeland.

In reality, the 1923 division of the geographical area called “Palestine” into two separate areas, one to be called the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the other remaining Jewish Palestine, was the real “two-state solution.”

In reality, in 1947, the United Nations offered the Arabs an opportunity to create another Arab country to the west of the Jordan River alongside Israel, but the Arabs refused. Instead, five Arab armies attacked the nascent Jewish state with the stated and express goal of throwing the Jews into the sea.

From 1948 to 1967, Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip and Jordan controlled Judea and Samaria, which it renamed “The West Bank.” During that time, no U.N. resolution of the General Assembly or the Security Council demanded that Egypt and Jordan retreat and desist from occupying those areas. No such request was made of Jordan since Jordan saw Palestine as an integral part of Jordan.

In reality, even U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, from November 1967, does not mention, even once, the notion of occupied “Palestinian” territory.

In fact, the idea that a State of Palestine ever existed and that Israel is occupying “Palestinian territory” seems to prove the billboard advertisement that “Palestine” is the only country in the world that did not exist before it was “occupied.”

Sadly, as the judges demonstrated with their shameful decision on the false claim of South Africa against Israel when it comes to the Jewish state, history, facts and the truth are just not relevant.

Originally published by The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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