An increasingly popular argument, when certain Dutch officials and Muslim commentators discuss Islamic State [IS] jihadists from Europe, is that these jihadists are really no different from European Jews who choose to serve in the Israel Defense Forces [IDF].
In The Netherlands this trend seems to have started when an op-ed, entitled, "Jihad for Israel," written for Al-Jazeera by Columbia University PhD. candidate Hanine Hassan, was translated into Dutch for the website "Wij Blijven Hier," which means "We Are Here To Stay." The website is hugely popular among Dutch youths from a Muslim background.
The main thesis of the op-ed was that serving in the IDF should be as punishable as joining IS, as the IDF, too, is a genocidal regime, just like IS.
The truth is that there has never been an Israeli genocide against Palestinians, neither systematic nor acute, and that Israel has done everything in its power apart from not going to war at all -- that is, apart from surrendering -- to spare innocent lives, including the lives of the people trying to destroy it. This argument falls on deaf ears among many Muslims, as well as on those of the youths who support them.
Sadly, it was not long before more prominent and mainstream Dutch figures began expressing similar thoughts. Pieter Broertjes, Labour Party mayor of the Dutch city and "media capital" Hilversum, said during a radio interview, when asked what to do about Dutch Muslims travelling to foreign battlegrounds: "They are adults. Dutch citizens went to Israel to fight the British, we didn't stop them either."
When asked in a radio interview what to do about Dutch Muslims travelling to foreign battlegrounds, Pieter Broertjes, Mayor of Hilversum, said: "They are adults. Dutch citizens went to Israel to fight the British, we didn't stop them either." (Image source: Museum Hilversum)
After his remarks produced a backlash, Broertjes's spokesperson formally apologized, but not Broertjes himself, although he did comment on his self-described "clumsy" comparison during later interviews.
A few months earlier, his Labour Party colleague, Yasmina Haifi, championed the fraudulent Protocols of the Elders of Zion, by stating (with a straight face): "ISIS has nothing to do with Islam. It is part of a plan by Zionists who are deliberately trying to blacken Islam's name" -- in other words, part of the supposed "Zionist conspiracy."
Jan Wijenberg, a former Dutch Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Yemen among other places, and known for his fierce anti-Israeli stance, wrote an op-ed that took the comparison even further: "The IS goal is to establish a utopian religious state, just as the Zionists have done."
Although religion does have a prominent place in Israeli society and politics, most of its citizens are not Orthodox. Zionism started out as a secular project and has never aspired to be a religious utopia, let alone an expansionist one. Jews normally do not even try to convert people; to many, the notion would be like someone trying to "convert," say, to being Japanese. The entire process of conversion to Judaism is long and laborious, perhaps so that only the most dedicated will succeed.
During the European wholesale round-ups and slaughter of the 1930s and 1940s, Israel simply became a safe haven for a persecuted religious minority who sought statehood after having concluded that no state could guarantee their safety, except for a Jewish state. The most appropriate location for this Jewish state turned out to be the strip of land to which Jews had fled after escaping Egyptian slavery; in which Jerusalem, for nearly three thousand years, became the only center of their longings and their prayers -- "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill…" Psalms 137:5 -- and which has sheltered a sizeable population of Jews continuously, despite countless attempts to disperse them, from the time of Augustinian and Herod, through ancient Rome, and, evidently, up to the very present.
Wijenberg continued his op-ed by stating that the only way to de-radicalize Western Muslim youths is by severing all ties with the Israeli state: "Political parties that don't fully denounce Israel," he said, "exclude Muslims as full-fledged members of society. When they [Dutch political parties] combat and condemn the religiously motivated, highly criminal Zionist project, fighting against IS would be more acceptable and IS would be less attractive."
That Israel is not even any kind of player in this Muslim Sunni-Shia "ISIS War" apparently did not occur to Wijenberg. His earlier publications exclusively focus on vilifying Israel. Unsurprisingly, he was a board member of the civil initiative "Sloop de Muur," which means "Destroy the Wall." The wall to which he refers is Israel's defensive security barrier, built only after constant terrorist attacks, in order to protect Israelis -- including Muslim and Christian Israelis -- from terrorists. The barrier (it is mostly a fence; only a small fraction of it is actually a wall) has reduced the number of terrorist attacks by 90%, and saved countless lives -- apparently to Wijenberg's disappointment.
Wijenberg did not, of course, object to any other security barriers, such as the 1800-mile fence between India and Pakistan; the security barrier between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan; the 1118-mile barrier between Saudi Arabia and Yemen; the moveable concrete barrier through Baghdad or the proposed 1500-mile barrier between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It appears that to individuals who hate Israel, the answer to many sociological problems can always be: Less Israel -- no matter how far-fetched the "logic."
Although both Broertjes and Wijenberg referred to Israelis -- or Haifi to Zionists -- it seems clear they were not referring to Muslim or Christian Israelis, but only to the Jewish ones. After all, no non-Jewish Dutch citizens went to Israel to fight the British and by a "religious utopia" Wijenberg referred to a Jewish religious utopia. As is so often true when vilifying Israel, "Israel" is, at bottom, most likely just a transparent fig-leaf for again vilifying "Jews."