Be careful if you are planning to attack a Jew in Amsterdam. What you see is not always what you get. Throw a rock or spit at some bloke with long curly sidelocks and a yarmulke and before you know it you might end up handcuffed in the back of a police van. What you attacked, then, was not a Jew, but a Decoy Jew. Decoy Jews are policemen pretending be Jews, a cunning initiative dreamed up by the city authorities to prevent anti-Semitic behaviour. They’ve borrowed it from the Dutch town of Gouda, where the local coppers dressed up as grannies in order to cut down on muggings: I would have paid to see that. Elsewhere there have been policemen dressed as homosexuals and prostitutes, both groups that some people also enjoy attacking, and next it’s Joods.
Anti-Semitic attacks rose tenfold in Holland last year, so it is as well that there may soon be Decoy Jews to attack as there aren’t enough proper Jews to go around. The total population of Jews in Holland is less than 40,000, for reasons which you will probably understand unless you are one of the growing number of maniacs who believes the Holocaust was a figment of fetid and despicable Jewish imagination. This is a tense little country, this once excruciatingly tolerant and liberal patchwork of canals, tulip fields, bicycles and naughtiness. A country which willingly subsumed itself to the European ideal — to the extent that even its cute and lisping language is rapidly disappearing — has, this last decade or so, begun to kick back.
There is trouble between the Muslim population (some 25 per cent of Amsterdam’s population is Muslim) and the increasingly angry indigenous Dutch, who are rather less welcoming to Muslim immigrants than they once were. The conservative politician Geert Wilders, who has called for the Koran and the veil to be outlawed, is up in court next week accused of whipping up hatred against Muslims. He is a crucial political figure and has much popular support, so the tension will be ratcheted up again very soon. You ought to know that we’re doing our bit, we Brits. A delegation from the far-right English Defence League will be flying to Amsterdam to demonstrate in support of Wilders. The EDL are, essentially, semi-reconstituted football hooligans who have suddenly discovered within themselves a rather vigorous political consciousness; as an organisation it grew out of the working- and lower-middle-class ‘casual’ football terrace culture of the 1980s and now, surprisingly, has found a form of admittedly Neanderthal political expression. I’m sure they’ll help the situation no end.
But the tension in Holland is only part of it. The far right is growing in strength across Europe, its piggy little eyes focused upon a plethora of minority groups, definable only in that they are a minority. Jews in Malmo, Sweden. Roma in France and Slovakia. Romanians in Hungary. Hungarians in Romania. Albanians in Italy. Muslims in Holland and Germany and Britain. And even within this interesting tale of competing hatreds and racial tension there is a multiplicity of layers of loathing and a beguiling complexity with which to contend.
For example, take the beleaguered Jews in Amsterdam, the city in which the biggest tourist attraction, by far, is Anne Frank’s house. There are not many Jews living there, as I’ve said. A few communities strung out along Buitenveldert to the far south of the city — but this is not where the attacks occur. They occur elsewhere. Who are the perpetrators? According to the city and police authorities, you just can’t pin it down, it could be absolutely anyone, you know — me or you. Absolutely anyone. But of course they are taking refuge in the very political correctness which, you might argue, landed them in this position in the first place. The denial of reality.
Most of the attacks take place out to the west of the city, where the broad and grim arterial roads to Slotermeer are flanked by tatty markets and endless low-rise public housing projects and the canals become more dank with every kilometre and — I suppose this is the point — all the women you see, pushing their buggies, bartering at the market stalls, all of them, are wearing headscarves. According to Elise Friedmann, head of research at the Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI), most of the attacks occur in Muslim areas. ‘We see a spike in attacks whenever Israel is in the media.’ (That is, whenever Israel is defending itself against the provocation of Palestinian terrorists, or launching homicidal terror raids against the legitimate inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza, take yer pick.) So, as you might have guessed, it’s Muslims. But even here it is not quite so clear-cut, not so easy to make a judgment. Because the hatred does not seem to be a function of Islam, as Geert Wilders might be keen to believe.
You ask Elise Friedmann who is doing the nastiness and the answer comes quietly — ‘Maroc, although you are not meant to say that because it is politically incorrect,’ she says. So, Moroccan immigrants and, according to Friedmann, also Turks. But Indonesians, who are exclusively Muslim, easily outnumber Moroccans in Holland, for good colonial reasons which I expect you would understand. And there has never been a recorded instance of an Indonesian attacking a Jew. So there is a political correctness of the right, as well as of the liberal left. It will not do to blame the Koran. You might — as Wilders insists — tear it up or ban it, but this sort of hatred would continue. It is a hatred which, rather wonderfully, defies religious barriers.
And, to be sure, there has been an increase in anti-Semitism among, as Friedmann puts it, ‘ordinary white Dutch people’. Neo-Nazis turning up at Jewish funerals and shouting out their considered opinion that Hitler was right; hate mail, bellowed insults and so on. ‘It seems that more and more Dutch people think that anti-Semitism is legitimate; there has been a taboo for so many years and now it seems that the taboo has gone. They are not ashamed of being anti-Semitic, they are proud of it,’ she says.
The Dutch far right, embodied not just by Wilders but also the Freedom party, has never been even remotely anti-Semitic. It does not share the historic ideological distaste of the far right in France or neighbouring Belgium for Jewish people. Indeed, the almost bizarrely Aryan Geert Wilders is about as steadfast a supporter of Israel as it is possible for a goy to be, having even served time on a kibbutz. The Dutch right has thrived on attacking Islam and Muslim immigrants, much as has our own British National Party (which nonetheless has a profoundly anti-Semitic past with which to contend, somewhat at ideological odds with its current position).
Wilders and the Freedom party saw a surge in support when the Dutch television journalist Theo Van Gogh was bestially murdered by a deranged Muslim fanatic, back in 2004. Van Gogh was left dead on the street with a screed of pseudo-religious bile affixed, with a knife, to his heart. Van Gogh had made films about Islam which had bitterly offended many Muslims, and since his death the Dutch political classes performed a sort of volte face, in the wake of growing public discontent. They gradually grasped that the Dutch public had suffered enough restrictions upon their freedom of speech, that even these impeccably tolerant people had their limits and that being knifed to death in broad daylight for having been rude about the Koran was, indeed, one such limit.
It was, as one former liberal Dutch commentator put it to me at the time, ‘a case of education through death’ — and it saw a sudden upsurge both in su pport for populist policies, Dutch nationalism and a growing disdain for the political correctness and emollience of the European Union. A fanatical Muslim minority should no longer be allowed to compromise the hallowed liberty and self-expression of the host community; that’s how it was put. And so the Dutch right, perhaps more than the right-wing parties in any country in Europe, focused its vexation almost exclusively upon Islam, which it saw as a threat to the famously laissez-faire social mores of the country. Fears of that magnificent chimera, Islamicisation, were whipped up, given credence by voluble Muslim groups which proclaimed that one day there would be a caliphate stretching from Brussels to Den Haag, despite the fact that the average Muslim population in the towns and cities which comprised this thin Western crescent, Europe’s drab and overpopulated sphincter, numbered no more than 14 per cent (with the exception of Amsterdam). But clearly there is room, to the right of Geert Wilders, for white people who hate Islam and Jews.
An awful lot of the new nastiness, spreading across Europe, can be put down to the refusal of the traditional parties to engage with the problems which their voters are forced to put up with. It is not simply political correctness, but political blindness — of much the same kind which afflicted our own Labour party in the past 15 years and which saw the British National Party, a lumbering creature of the dark led by idiots, bite huge chunks out of the Labour vote in the north of England and in Essex.
You can stretch people’s tolerance for a surprisingly long period of time, but when it snaps, it snaps back with real violence. And there are plenty of people like Pim Fortuyn or Le Pen or Griffin or Jorg Haider poised to make whatever advantage of it they can. The more special rights are seen to be conferred upon one or another social or racial group, the more belligerent the rest become at what is perceived as special treatment. And you begin to build up an edifice comprised of competing loathings and, somewhere down the line, you end up with policemen dressed as Decoy Jews.