Few politicians are as pro-Jewish and pro-Israel as Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Freedom Party PVV. The 49-year old Wilders, who lives under round-the-clock police protection because of Islamist death threats, has visited Israel over 40 times. In his recent book Marked for Death: Islam's War against the West and Me, Wilders, who was raised a Catholic, relates how he lived and worked in Israel for one year as a young man and how he admires the Jews and their state.
Geert Wilders also leads the fight against anti-Semitism in the Netherlands -- and in Europe. Two years ago, the senior Dutch politician Frits Bolkestein advised "recognizable Jews" to leave the Netherlands and emigrate to Israel and the U.S. because of the Dutch government's inability to prevent the anti-Semitic violence committed by Jew-hating Muslim immigrants. An indignant Wilders reacted that "Jews shouldn't emigrate; anti-Semitic immigrants should."
Public opinion, misinformed by the Western media, is as anti-Israel in the Netherlands as in any other European country. Consequently, it is not electorally rewarding to take pro-Israel positions -- Wilders has nevertheless been unwavering in his support for the Jewish state.
Despite Wilders's record as a friend of the Jews, it is strange to see that there is a smear campaign going on which accuses the PVV leader of harboring anti-Semites within his own party. This campaign has everything to do with the upcoming general elections to be held in the Netherlands on September 12th.
Last year, the Dutch Chamber of Representatives approved a bill of the Animal Party to ban unstunned ritual slaughter. The bill received a large majority. Apart from three Christian parties, the bill was supported by all the parties in the Dutch Parliament, including Wilders's PVV, the Social-Democrats, and also the Conservatives of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Yet only the PVV has been singled out for criticism -- although the party, which has Jewish parliamentarians, allowed its representatives to vote as they pleased regardless of the party line.
The Netherlands is one of the most secular countries in the world. Secular people frequently lack understanding of religious sensitivities, while they are often driven by emotions in other respects. The Dutch secularism probably explains why the Dutch have a party such as the Animal Party, which aims to extend "animal rights," resembling human rights, to beasts. All the Dutch parties have a spokesman for animal rights, including the PVV, whose animal welfare spokesman is one Dion Graus. Graus is a highly emotive, though popular, character, who hosted the television show Beasts with Dion before he became a PVV parliamentarian.
While Graus was not the instigator of the bill to ban no-stun slaughter, he defended this bill in parliament, comparing unstunned slaughtering of animals to "torture." Graus never said, however, as some maliciously claim, that "the Jewish practice of Schechita [Jewish ritual slaughter] constitutes torture." Nor did he advocate a bill to "ban the import of kosher meat into the Netherlands." Nor is Graus, as some also claim, seeking to ban brit milah, the Jewish practice of circumcising male infants. While the PVV opposes female genital mutilation, it has never taken a position against male circumcision, nor does it intend to do so. Male circumcision has become a political issue in Germany, but is simply not an issue in the Netherlands.
The ban on unstunned ritual slaughter is an initiative if the Animal Party and is supported by all the major parties, including that of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, Uri Rosenthal -- who is Jewish, Pro-Israel, and whose wife is Israeli. And yet these people are singling out only Wilders for criticism.
As far as unstunned ritual slaughter is concerned, the practice is banned in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Norway, Iceland, Austria, Switzerland and New Zealand. But not yet in the Netherlands. Last June, the Dutch Senate rejected the bill which the Chamber of Representatives had previously approved. The Animal Party has announced that it will table a new bill after next month's elections. Charges that the PVV is targeting the Jewish community in the Netherlands is also utter nonsense.
The current campaign against the PVV has everything to do with the upcoming elections. Last June, shortly before the PVV disclosed its candidates, a number of parliamentarians (none of them Jewish) left the party because they feared that Mr. Wilders would not give them a safe seat on the party list. One of these soon to be ex-parliamentarians, Wim Kortenoeven, is now waging a personal vendetta against the PVV, accusing Wilders of "refusing to give Graus the boot and dissociating himself from anti-Semites within his party." Two weeks ago, Kortenoeven travelled to the U.S. to see American Jews whom he suspected to be sympathetic towards Mr. Wilders, urging them to pressure him into dissociating himself from Graus "so that the Freedom Party would then be free to vote against the proposed ban on shechita and brit milah."
The proposed ban on no-stun slaughter in the Netherlands is an initiative of the Animal Party. Opposing such a ban would be harmful within the secular Dutch political context in which Wilders has to operate. And no one in the Netherlands is proposing – or even considering to propose -- a ban on the male circumcision of infants. To say so is simply uninformed and ridiculous.
Equally ridiculous is the accusation that Geert Wilders is condoning anti-Semitism within his own party. What is more, it is extremely unfair towards a politician who is not only the greatest friend of Israel and the Jewish people on the European continent, but who leads a life under constant police protection because he courageously opposes radical Islam, the most dangerous foe that the Jews -- and also the Christians and secularists -- currently have.
Last Tuesday, the Telegraaf, the largest Dutch newspaper, ran a front page article headlining that Wilders' "Jewish sponsors" in the U.S. are "furious" with him. Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles was quoted as saying "Demonizing religious rituals is the terrain of dictators," while Kortenoeven accused the PVV of being "led like a mafia gang." The article stated that in the past Wilders had returned from his Jewish friends in the U.S. with "coffers full of donated dollars." The article implied that Jews use their money to buy political influence in foreign countries – which in itself is an old anti-Semitic slur. Wilders denies the allegations. In a reaction to the article, he called Kortenoeven's story "totally stupid" and asked "Where is his proof?"
Kortenoeven is manipulating the Jews, using their religious concerns for his own personal domestic political agenda.