Timmermans: keep Gaza protests out of May 4 war commemorations

Photo: ANP/Phil Nijhuis

The leader of the left-wing alliance GroenLinks-PvdA, Frans Timmermans, has called on people not to stage protests relating to the conflict in Gaza during the national war commemorations on May 4.

“On May 4 we remember the dead and we do it in silence,” Timmermans wrote in an essay for Vrij Nederland. “Save your protests for another time.”

Timmermans’s concerns follow the disruption of the opening of the national Holocaust museum in Amsterdam last month, when protesters demonstrated against the presence of Israel’s president Isaac Herzog.

He also referred to the growing incidence of anti-Semitism, particularly in schools, in the wake of the October 7 attacks by Hamas and Israel’s military response in Gaza which has left more than 33,000 people dead.

Timmermans called for anti-Semitism to be tackled as part of a “broader fight against dehumanisation, hatred and exclusion – against anyone who is different”.

“No minority is safe”

“In politics the conflict has become a stick to beat others with,” he wrote. “Conservative and radical-right parties promote themselves as defenders of Israel and accuse those who criticise Israel’s actions, implicitly or explicitly, of anti-Semitism.

“Radical leftists depict people as Zionists or even racists if they stand for Israel’s right to combat terrorism, or in some cases if they even defend Israel’s right to exist.”

Timmermans said anti-Semitism was the “canary in the coal mine” and an “indicator of the state of tolerance in society”. “When anti-Semitism increases, hatred towards others increases. And when hatred increases, no minority is safe.”

He attacked politicians who combined support with Israel with discriminatory language against other minority groups, referring to recent statements by Geert Wilders – though he did not mention the PVV leader by name.

“To say, as a party leader recently did in the Netherlands, that some asylum seekers ‘have hatred of the Jews in their souls’, is in fact to judge people for who they are and not what they do.

“Anti-Semitism has been on the rise for years and with it the tendency to judge all people for who they are, not for what they do.”

Timmermans argued all forms of xenophobia and hatred needed to be fought collectively. “Where there is xenophobia, there is hatred towards Jews. If you want to end hatred towards Jews, fight all forms of xenophobia.”

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