Thirteen arrests during protests over Israeli president visit

Protestors on Waterlooplein near the synagogue. Photo: Dutch News

In total 13 people were arrested during protests surrounding the attendance of Israel’s president Yitzhak Herzog at the opening of the new Holocaust museum in Amsterdam on Sunday, police say.

In general, the demonstrations passed off peacefully, police said on Sunday evening. Those who were picked up were arrested for public order offences, vandalism and throwing stones.

Some 2,000 demonstrators had gathered on the Waterlooplein in the city centre, close to the Portuguese synagogue where the main ceremony took place, calling for a ceasefire and for Herzog to be arrested. There were also smaller protests at several other locations.

Outside the museum itself, king Willem-Alexander was asked about the protestors, whose chants and boos were audible as dignitaries arrived for a private tour of the exhibition.

“We should not forget that with the liberation of the Netherlands, the right to demonstrate was brought back,” the king said. “It was not allowed. So as part of that war and the liberation, it is fantastic that we can now demonstrate here.”

The king also urged people to visit the Holocaust museum which “must never happen again”, he said.

Emile Schrijver, director of the Joods Cultureel Kwartier which includes the museum, said he could understand the criticism of Herzog’s presence. “But at the same time, I do not want to exclude the people that this museum is about. And it is about the murder of Dutch Jews.”

The president is the representative of the thousands of Dutch Jews who went to Israel after the war because they saw no future for themselves in the Netherlands, Schrijver said. “There are still 800 Holocaust survivors in Israel and we wanted them to know that they are represented here.”

However, Yuval Gal from the Jewish anti-Zionist movement Erev Rav which called for Sunday’s demonstration, said the International Criminal Court in The Hague should arrest Herzog.

“The people from the Holocaust museum say we should not make things political,” he said. “But we can’t sit still while there is the threat of genocide, apartheid or occupation.”

Once the ceremony was over, the protestors dispersed quickly after being told to clear the area by riot police who were on standby in large numbers.

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