Tribal Report no.14

Compiled: 16 February 2009, 22 Shevet 5769
1. Sweden:
Pro-Israel Swedish government worker fired
for second time
2. Australia:
Face the burning question
3. Netherlands:
The Dutch Need Jews
in order to Love and to Hate them


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1. Sweden:
Pro-Israel Swedish government worker fired for second time

By Cnaan Liphshiz
A Swedish government employee who last year won a wrongful-dismissal suit after being fired for supporting Israel, was recently fired again - for "insufficient performance."

In November last year, the Molndal District Court ruled that the Swedish Migration Board had no acceptable reason for firing Lennart Eriksson, 51, in September 2007 from his position as head of an assessment unit processing applications by asylum seekers.

Eriksson's boss, Eugene Palmer, told Eriksson that the reason for his 2007 dismissal was Eriksson's "unusual" support for Israel and the U.S., which he expressed on his private blog. Immediately after his dismissal, Eriksson was hired to fill a less senior position in the Migration Board. The court ruled that this did not constitute a demotion, but a dismissal and reengagement.

The court recommended Eriksson be reinstated to the more senior position, but the Board opted instead to pay Eriksson severance pay amounting to 32 salaries, as permitted by Swedish law.

But last month, Eriksson was fired from that position as well, for "insufficient abilities and performance." Eriksson - who has held various positions within the Board since 1988 - told Haaretz that he believes his dismissal was "a case of blatant political persecution."

Eriksson has sued the Board again, alleging that by firing him, the organization was in breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Swedish Constitution, the Law on Security of Employment and the court's previous ruling.

A spokesman for the Board, Johan Rahm, said that although Eriksson's boss gave the blog as the reason for his dismissal, his "performance charts were not good." When asked about his performance, Eriksson said: "I can only say I am not perfect. But if errors were the reason for my dismissal, why did they not say so in court?"

In court, the Board maintained that, "A government employee dealing with refugees mustn't comment on conflicts that generate asylum seekers." At the final hearing, the Board's attorney, Staffan Opitz, said Hamas should be considered a "liberation movement."

Queried by Haaretz, Swedish MP Gunnar Axen, who chairs the standing committee on social insurance, said: "Eriksson's dismissal is very strange. I have never seen such behavior from any Swedish authority."

2. Australia:
Face the burning question

This is an article from 2007 but it is very relevant to today.

Here, as elsewhere, scientists are investigating whether changes to climate or changes to land management are altering contemporary patterns of major fires. Recent published research for the fire-prone ecosystems of western USA suggests that climate is the main driver of large fire activity in many forests and shrublands.

Are ecosystems destroyed by large fires? No, they are burnt and they regenerate. And they do not burn with uniform high intensity; some patches are roasted, others are lightly scorched.

The regeneration capacity of local ecosystems is enormous. The Australian flora and fauna, from the Alps to the desert, have mechanisms that allow them to cope with, and even prosper, after large fires, provided they are not too frequent. Plants re-sprout and re-seed. Animals migrate, switch diet, and continue reproducing.

We now have a major new challenge - climate change. Research, here and overseas, suggests that major fires will happen more often because of this. With this prospect in mind, we must do everything we can to protect people, property and the environment.

Some fuel treatments, such as grazing the high country, are simply ineffective. Grazing did not "reduce blazing" during the 2003 fires, or in 1939. After fire, stock eat the "green pick", and this hinders the natural regeneration of flora and fauna after the fires.

3. Netherlands:
The Dutch Need Jews in order to Love and to Hate them

Forwarded by: Joan Griffith
Interesting article: The Dutch can't do without their Jews! Luckily, in the world to come, Jews will be in every country, but teaching them how to live.

Symbolic and Other Roles of Jews in Dutch Society
Manfred Gerstenfeld

Out of the total Dutch population of 16 million, Jews represent about two in every thousand. Jews often play a symbolic role in Dutch society which exceeds their actual importance. One facet of this is their image as absolute victims. Second, the Jewish community has on various occasions been used by Dutch authorities as instruments in achieving political goals. The Jews have also been the typical outsiders in Dutch society and anti-Semitic stereotypes are still very much alive. In addition, Dutch Jews are seen by many Dutchmen as responsible for Israel's actions. Finally, the Jews fulfill a 'sensor' function for events to come. If all the Jews were to leave the country, Dutch society would still operate without significant difficulties. However, the symbolic role of the Jews in The Netherlands is so great that it is doubtful whether the country could do without its Jews.

The number of Halachic Jews in The Netherlands is about 30,000.[1] Many are highly assimilated. Out of a national population of 16 million, Jews only represent about two in every thousand. As perceived, however by society at large they often play a symbolic role in Dutch society which exceeds their real importance. Jews are far more frequently referred to in public discourse than their numbers warrant.

One aspect of this symbolic role is their image as absolute victims due to the extreme toll of the Holocaust. Of the 140,000 Jews living in The Netherlands at the start of the Second World War, more than 100,000 were murdered. Dutch authorities greatly assisted the German occupier in their arrests and deportation of Jews to the concentration and extermination camps in Eastern Europe.

The second main symbolic role involves use of the Jews by Dutch authorities and others on various occasions as instruments to achieve political goals. The third role is the Jew as the typical 'other,' as outsiders in Dutch society although today this role is increasingly being filled by 1.6 million non-western immigrants and their progeny, almost all of whom have come to The Netherlands in the last four decades. Anti-Semitic stereotypes also continue to play a significant role in Dutch society, as can be seen in verbal expressions used only in relation to Jews. Many Dutchmen view the Jews as responsible for Israel's actions as well. Furthermore, as certain phenomena affect Jews first and only later reach society at large, the Jews fulfill a 'sensor' function for events to come.

Before discussing these roles, it should be noted that only a minority of Jews - fewer than 9,000 including children - are affiliated with Jewish organizations.[2] There are three main religious bodies: the Ashkenazi Nederlands Israelitisch Kerkgenootschap (NIK), the Progressive Liberaal Joodse Gemeente (LJG) and the Sephardi Portugees Israelitisch Kerkgenootschap (PIK). Others identify themselves as Jews, or even as 'sometimes feeling Jewish' in various ways.[3] One example is the internationally known novelist Leon de Winter who says: "My Jewishness is that I identify with Israel, I am not religious, but strongly show my sympathies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."[4]

Many Dutch Jews, however, are so assimilated that even other Jews do not recognize them as such unless they mention it. Certain Jews are identifiable by name even if Judaism means little or nothing to them. The best known Dutch Jew is the mayor of Amsterdam Job Cohen. Nothing about him suggests being Jewish is a personal identity factor. Cohen does not deny he is a Jew and knows that many define him as such because of his name. This is also manifested in the anti-Semitic hate mail he receives.

A Pre-War View
One of the first Dutchmen to point out that Jews fulfill a symbolic function in society was the leading pre-war intellectual and writer Menno ter Braak, who committed suicide when the Germans invaded The Netherlands in May 1940. Jozeph Melkman[6] discussed this issue in his book Beloved Enemy, which deals with the image of the Jew in Dutch literature. Its title accurately captures the Dutch ambivalence toward Jews.

The Absolute Victim
The Dutch still primarily view the Jew as the absolute victim, an image which is linked to the Holocaust.

Dead Jews
In 2002 a poll was conducted on which iconic people the Dutch admired the most. Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Gandhi were the top three nominated. They were followed by Anne Frank, who was the first person associated with The Netherlands.[13] In autumn 2007 Anne Frank was again in the news. The Amsterdam neighborhood authorities had plans to cut down a diseased tree she had been able to see from her hiding place. The public outcry was such to stop any action of this sort. The tree thus became a secondary symbol of Anne. Newspaper columnist Elma Drayer wrote "We in The Netherlands greatly love dead Jews. We want nothing to do with living Jews - in particular if they live in Israel, but here as well."[14]

Being Grateful
In the aftermath of WWII, the Jews did not yet embody absolute victimhood. On the contrary, they were expected to be grateful for what the 'good' Dutchmen had done for them and remain moot about the acts of many 'bad' Dutchmen who had helped in the preparatory stages of the murder of other Jews. At that time the actual impact of Dutch resistance on the German occupier was greatly exaggerated. In this scenario Jews were, at best, secondary victims. They were presented as having been led to slaughter without resisting. No one asked how a group which had been isolated through Dutch collaboration could have resisted without weapons. It later became known that Jews had played significant roles in the Dutch resistance. Only in 1988 was a monument to the Jewish resistance erected next to the Amsterdam city hall.[16]

In recent years the Holocaust has been met with a certain degree of lassitude. A poll for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in 2007 found that 31% of the Dutch were of the opinion that Jews talk too much about what happened to them during the Holocaust.[19] The Dutch government continues to obscure essential parts of its Second World War responsibility. Contrary to many other European governments and parliaments, the Dutch government has not apologized to the Jewish community for the failure of its war-time predecessors in exile in London. Only in 2005 did the current Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende say publicly that Dutch authorities had collaborated with the Germans in the occupied Netherlands.[20] No previous Dutch government had ever gone so far in admitting part of the truth.

Jewish Stereotypes
..Before the Second World War, social anti-Semitism in The Netherlands was widespread, but usually not violent. Ter Braak, who was mentioned earlier, was a protagonist in the battle against National Socialism. However, he also made anti-Semitic remarks in his correspondence with another Dutch intellectual, E. du Perron.[27]

There are also many examples of social anti-Semitism in contemporary Dutch society. Ewoud Sanders, a historian of the Dutch language who writes regularly in the Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad, published a column describing how he and his wife were visiting with friends when a distinguished uncle of the hostess joined them. This person said that the paper had greatly declined in quality after it fell into Jewish hands. Sanders said that it had been bought by British investors. The visitor reacted by saying that it is well known that all media are in Jewish hands. Sanders wrote that he was too embarrassed to ask: "How does an intelligent person like you think that such a matter is carried out in practice - a paper in Jewish hands? Does that mean that somewhere among the editors there is a Jew who has to approve all articles?"[28]

In a strange twist, one of the leading Dutch soccer clubs, Ajax Amsterdam, has a group of non-Jewish fans who call themselves "Jews." Supporters of other clubs have for years chanted insults at them during games as well as outside the stadiums such as "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the Gas." For a long time the authorities did not react. This racist slogan has now permeated Dutch society.

One common anti-Jewish insult is "dirty rotten Jew." A newer one, used mainly by Dutch Muslims is "cancer Jew." The annual reports on anti-Semitism in The Netherlands by the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI) cite many examples of verbal attacks on Jews, both by autochtonous Dutch and Muslims.[29]

For anti-Semites it makes no difference whether someone is a Jew or only perceived as such. A leading non-Jewish Dutch TV presenter Mies Bouwman said: "Strangely enough, as soon as I did something which people didn't like, I was perceived as a Jewess. I immediately got anti-Semitic letters saying I had no right to live."[30]

Christian Attitudes
In a number of Christian circles, anti-Semitism disappeared after the war. The founding of the State of Israel also led to a reassessment of Christianity's relationship to Judaism among some Christians. Rabbi Tzvi Marx, director of the B. Folkertsma Institute for Talmudica, says that "Christian-Jewish relations now have several components. One is that a number of Christians study Judaism. A second is interfaith dialogue, and a third concerns Christian attitudes toward Israel. To some extent, they are intertwined."[31]

On the other hand extreme Christian anti-Semitism has far from vanished. The ADL poll found that 18% in The Netherlands agreed with the statement that Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus: this, in a country where more than 40% of the population is secular.[32]

The Jew as an Outsider
In Dutch society the Jew is often viewed as the typical Other. Over the centuries Jews have been seen as exotic. Currently this largely applies to rabbis and the few ultra-Orthodox who wear recognizable black garments. Today the term exotic tends to be applied to the many non-Western immigrants in colorful dress. When de Winter assessed the positive attitude to restoring synagogues, he also noted another reason for Dutch interest in this: "It has something mystically Jewish. It makes people think of Madonna and Kabbalah. It is very fashionable. One can find many booklets in bookshops on Kabbalah. It is exciting and has something exotic."[37]

A poll conducted by the daily De Pers in February 2008 provides further proof that the Dutch Jews are perceived as outsiders. Only 53% of those polled would find a Jewish prime minister acceptable; 31% felt it would be unacceptable; and 14% had no opinion. Ninety-three percent thought a woman prime minister was acceptable; 78%, a homosexual; and 75%, a black. A Muslim prime minister was only considered acceptable by 27%.[38]

The number of respondents who found a Jew acceptable is low compared to other countries. In 2004, 20% of the respondents in a British survey said a Jewish prime minister would be "less acceptable than a non-Jewish one."[39] In a Swedish survey in 2005 25% did not consider a Jewish prime minister acceptable.[40]

A Sensor and Indicator of The Netherlands
Partly due to their symbolic and other roles, the Dutch Jews have also become a prism for a better understanding of The Netherlands. Events affecting a small group can be more easily analyzed than the complex Dutch society at large. Jews are also a sensor for a number of future developments in The Netherlands. This, though, is rarely grasped by Dutch society.

In January 2004 an article was published with examples of how the situation for Jews in Amsterdam had worsened in the last few years. The cantor of a synagogue said that he heard anti-Semitic insults at least once a week, whereas five years earlier this occurred perhaps once a year. Another young Jew said that he expected that sooner or later a Dutch Jew would be killed by a Muslim.[45] These were half-prophetic words. He was right as far as the identity of the murderer was concerned. The victim however, was a non-Jew, the aforementioned van Gogh.

After September 11, 2001, there was unrest in the Western quarter of Amsterdam. In November Moroccan youngsters threw stones at Jews leaving the small synagogue there. When a journalist checked with the police, its spokesman asked her not to devote much attention to the incident because the perpetrators already had such a difficult time. His sympathy was clearly not with the Jewish victims, but with the Moroccan criminals.[46]

Six years later a mentally disturbed Moroccan entered a police station in Amsterdam West and stabbed two policemen who had to be taken to hospital. One of them managed to kill the assailant.[47] Talkbacks in papers commented that as the police do not do their job in the streets, criminals now attack them in their offices.

Some think that there is no future for the Jews in The Netherlands, although this is rarely said in public. In 2003 the psychologist and Auschwitz survivor Bloeme Evers-Emden wrote: "The [problems] probably will not come while I'm alive, but I strongly advise my children to leave The Netherlands."[53] If one were to assume that gradually all Jews would leave the country, Dutch society would in fact continue to function without any significant problems. Positions held by Jews could be filled by others. This should not come as a surprise. In the Second World War the exclusion and disappearance of 140,000 from Dutch society within a relatively short period did not leave many gaps.

After the War returning Jews often had difficulty recovering their place in society. In previous centuries the Jews played important roles in Dutch society. The Portuguese Jews did so in Dutch trade in the 17th century. In the 19th century the textile and diamond industries would not have flourished without the Jews. A number of the largest Dutch companies today were founded entirely or partially by Jews. Jews also played an important role in the inception of the trade unions. Nothing similar exists today.

However, the symbolic role of the Jews in The Netherlands is enormous. It is doubtful whether The Netherlands can do without them. It cannot be without Jews in the imaginary spheres, whether to reflect about the past and the Holocaust in society, as stereotypes which have become part of the Dutch language, as instruments for various purposes, or as sensors for the future. These roles have by now become embedded in Dutch culture. The Jews' symbolic role in The Netherlands is of great importance for the country.


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