Most people thinking about the Netherlands today are wondering whether the Oranje can survive Spain to win their first World Cup. While I'll certainly be watching, I thought I'd take this pre-game to get a Dutch story out of my guilt file. Police in Amsterdam have an unusual new plan to combat the rising tide of anti-Semitism testing that famous Dutch tolerance. It's a novel idea, which seems to be the main reason it's gotten international media attention, but the idea of "decoy Jews" really isn't that strange. Instead of having cops pose as johns in a prostitution sting or as druggies when trying to nab a dealer -- by the way, I'm not sure either of those vices are illicit in Amsterdam -- cops will disguise themselves as observant Jews to catch anti-Semites in the act.
Let's just hope they look more believable than Jesse Eisenberg in "Holy Rollers."
The "decoy Jews" stories stateside have tended to be short and pretty lacking context. Of course, they mention that what really pushed this plan into motion was a recent video that showed three Jews donning kippot being harassed in a Moroccan neighborhood of Amsterdam. Mostly standard fare: spitting, ridiculing, Nazi saluting.
What the stories haven't explained is whether "Moroccan" is being used as a synonym for "Muslim." That's likely because the vast majority of Holland's Moroccan immigrants are Muslim. Which brings us to an interesting tension in this story, but it's one not discussed at all here.
The New York Daily News, for instance, had a great headline -- "An unorthodox approach: Dutch use decoy Jews to stop crime and anti-Semitic attacks in Amsterdam" -- but offered little more than the basics of the program and its impetus.
The Brussels Journal does a much better job. It's not straight reporting, but it's worth noting because the columnist picked up on the wealth of reporting in recent years that indicates that Amsterdam's need for "decoy Jews" is not unique:
Unfortunately, the situation in Amsterdam is not unique. Jews in other Dutch cities also regularly complain about harassment. So do Jews in neighboring countries.
On Monday, the Belgian newspaper De Standaard reported that large numbers of Jews are leaving Antwerp for America, Britain or Israel. Antwerp -- nicknamed the "Jerusalem of the North" -- is one of the major centers of Jewish culture in the Low Countries. "In London, you are not harassed if you wear a skullcap, but here you are," a young Antwerp Jew told the paper. ...
It is often said that the Jews are the canary in the coalmine. When the Jews feel compelled to leave, the light of freedom is being extinguished. Something is badly wrong when the police need to deploy "decoy Jews." Once again, the specter of anti-Semitism is haunting Europe.
I've been writing about this for a while now. A quick search through The God Blog archives yielded a post from 2007 titled "Anti-Semitism on rise in Europe." Here's the first paragraph:
Harper's keeps sending me subscription renewal notices. The most recent one pointed to a few topics the magazine had explored recently, including European nationalism and the rise of anti-Semitism (something I've written about here and here and here and here). I couldn't recall seeing this article, so I did a search, and it turns out that "recent" refers to August 1990. In other breaking news, the Berlin Wall has fallen.
In other words, this is a problem that's been around for a while -- it runs deep enough that some politicians think it's provocation, a crime, to make a cop look like a Jew because, you know, some people really can't stand the sight of Jews -- and one that probably can't be solved by "decoy Jews" alone. The politicians and police officials acknowledge this in the stories. What isn't acknowledged is that anti-Semitism in Amsterdam has competition from plenty of its neighbors.
Besides, who needs "decoy Jews" when you could have the Hebrew Hammer? He's not as subtle, but he gets the job done.