Geert Wilders: Mass immigration, lack of integration cause antisemitism

By The Jerusalem Post (World News) | Created at 2024-07-10 13:45:30 | Updated at 2024-07-21 18:46:47 1 week ago
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Dutch Party for Freedom founder and leader Geert Wilders spoke to the The Jerusalem Post in his first interview with Israeli media since the formation of his coalition in Netherlands.

By MICHAEL STARR JULY 10, 2024 16:39
 INGIMAGE, VIA REUTERS) Geert Wilders seen in a graphic depicting relations between Israel and the Netherlands. (photo credit: INGIMAGE, VIA REUTERS)

To stop rising antisemitism in the Netherlands and Europe, political leaders must put an end to open border mass immigration and reverse the culture-relativist failure to foster integration, Dutch Party for Freedom founder and leader Geert Wilders told The Jerusalem Post in the first interview with Israeli media since the formation of his coalition on Wednesday, in which he also explained that his support for Israel was grounded in the broader defense of western values.

After six months of negotiations, Prime Minister Dick Schoof's coalition was sworn in on Tuesday with the support of the Party for Freedom (PVV), which won the most seats in the 2023 Dutch General Election with a campaign prioritizing immigration policy.

According to Wilders, the very same issues, "Mass immigration policy and open borders policy," were the source of increasing levels of antisemitism in Europe. These policies were detrimentally combined with "one of the biggest defaults of our societies, cultural relativism," which held that "for politically correct reasons," all cultures were considered equal and any criticism or behavior within a culture was unacceptable.

"If we always open our borders, we never ask people to integrate into society fully, they [immigrants] would not talk our language, and they will treat women or Jews or homosexuals or others in a way that we would not accept," said Wilders. "We closed our eyes and looked in a different direction."

Wilders said that rising antisemitic incidents would not stop without a change in policies, which was why it was so crucial that his coalition was in government. The spike in antisemitism, as with many countries in Europe, followed in the wake of the October 7 Massacre, which Wilders pointed to as evidence of growing radical and antisemitic sentiments, especially among immigrant populations.

Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders speaks to media in The Hague, Netherlands after polls closed in an EU election on June 6, 2024. (credit: Lewis Macdonald / Reuters)

"We saw so many people walking in the streets, from Vienna to Paris, from Amsterdam to Berlin and London, and millions of them were supporting extremist groups -- not the Palestinians -- but Hamas and [Palestinian] Islamic Jihad in our streets," said Wilders. "We didn't even know that so many people who supported their ideology were present in Europe, and it was the kind of wake-up sign, and it was one of the reasons that my party won the election because people saw that what we were talking about actually, is not a fairy tale but is happening and present in our societies."

Islamic radicalism across Europe is a cause for concern, Wilders pleads

Wilders was well acquainted with violent Islamic radicalism, having had to live with high-level security in the face of 20 years of fatwas and death threats.

While strongly emphasizing that not all Dutch Muslims were radicals, Wilders said that polling had indicated troubling beliefs among a significant number of Muslims in the Netherlands. Large percentages would not consider friendships with Jews, and many supported Sharia Law's importance over civil law.

"It's a huge amount and we need to accept it and then deal with it," said Wilders, making it necessary to establish a red line of behavior and pro-integration principles.

"If you abide by our rules, if you live in cooperation with our society, if you don't fight our values, and once again, don't upset the laws, then you are welcome equal as anybody else in our society, you can achieve everything that you want, you can become a parliamentarian, you can go far in business, and there are no boundaries to the possibilities if you integrate with us as anybody else," said Wilders. "If you start using violence or being antisemitic or do anything else, we will not accept it."

Wilder advocated for the passing of stricter legislation against those "growing amounts" of people who were against Dutch values to protect society and democracy. One policy that the prominent Dutch political figure sought was to make it easier for non-citizen criminals and violators to lose residency permits and be deported. Wilders also desired a stronger instillment of Western values and teaching of Dutch history in schools to combat radicalism.

"Many teachers in our schools are afraid to teach about the Second World War and the Shoah because they are afraid what might happen -- that they will not be able to control the children in their classes and that the parents will become angry," said Wilders. "We have to start, even in our schools, to be honest, and talk about the effects of Nazism, the Holocaust, and antisemitism and many other things that are not discussed today. This is a token of weakness in many schools, not only in Holland but also in the European Union."

Wilders said that there was non-partisan agreement on the need to fight antisemitism. This included support from the opposition, though some did not make the connection between antisemitism, cultural relativism, and immigration.

Wilders said Europe as a whole was slowly waking up to the challenges of immigration and integration. While recent European elections saw France's right-wing National Rally (RN) ultimately fail to secure more seats than the left-wing New Popular Front and the United Kingdom's Labour Party win a majority government to replace the Conservative Party, the Dutch politicians still saw overall success for the political right.

"I believe that the most you can go is slowly but gradually, and things are changing for the better," said Wilders, but bemoaned that it was going "too slow to fight antisemitism...we should move faster."

Wilders had to negotiate with three other parties for six months after PVV won the elections, and a compromise was required. There was no European nation besides Hungary with a majority-right government, but he still saw progress across Europe, from Austria to Belgium. Even in France and the UK, Wilders saw success.

"If we don't support Israel, there will be no Israel left. That doesn't mean that everything Israel does is good, but they are understandable because they need to react against people who want no state of Israel and Jewish people left."

Geert Wilders

Marine Le Pen's RN and UK Reform Party's Nigel Farage received massive popular support, but because of the construction of the electoral systems, this didn't necessarily translate into seats. While there might not have increased political power, the right was winning more hearts and minds.

In France, as with other elections with a competitive right flank, National Rally grappled with its antisemitic past. Wilders emphasized that his party was "from day one" a friend of Israel and the Jewish people, even when receiving backlash from further right elements. Not only did he argue that PVV never had a past like RN, but Wilders also said his party wouldn't have become allies with Le Pen in the European Parliament if he wasn't confident in her reforms to repudiate and distance herself from the antisemitism of her father and his incarnation of the party.

"She's a good politician," Wilders said of Le Pen. "She fights for the interests of France, and she's fighting antisemitism side-by-side with me."

Wilders saw the right's fight for Western values as intertwined with Israel's existential fight against Jihadist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.

"We should support the country that shares our values. And If you will be lost, we will be next. I truly believe that," said Wilders. Israel is "the only democracy, the only country, that we share our values with in the Middle East, a country where, as you have seen, you have an independent judiciary, your presidents or Prime Ministers can be taken to court, as it should be working in a normal democracy. You have a parliament that can send the Prime Minister home, you have a civil society that is functioning. So we share our values, and I believe that Judeo Christian values, besides humanistic values, are something that we should be proud of. You're, as I often said, a beacon of light and in an area of darkness."

October 7 showed that Israel was fighting for its existence, and that the ongoing conflicts in the Levant weren't just about land, which Wilders said was a misconception held by many politicians in the West. He recalled his conversations with former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who he called his friend. Sharon made the decision that Wilders respected to cede Gaza to Palestinian control, but it did not solve the problem of Islamic radicals.

"It's not like you can solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by giving up land," said Wilders, explaining that radicals in Islamic society wanted the destruction of Israel on any part of the land. "If we don't support Israel, there will be no Israel left. That doesn't mean that everything Israel does is good, but they are understandable because they need to react against people who want no state of Israel and Jewish people left."

Wilders had experienced the hatred that some people in the Middle East held for Israel when traveling in countries like Egypt when he was a young man. He said it was tragic how when Israel was mentioned, people he had cordial interactions with became incensed. Consequently, he was shocked, but not surprised by the atrocities of Hamas's October 7 attack. The impact of October 7 was comparable to the September 11 attacks, Wilders mused, but for Israeli society perhaps more impactful because a relatively larger portion of the Israeli population had been murdered or maimed.

GEERT WILDERS, leader of the PVV party, gestures as he meets with party members at the Dutch Parliament, in The Hague, after last month’s parliamentary elections (credit: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS)

"If you start a war, don't complain that you are losing," Wilders said of Hamas and its complaints about Israeli action.

The Dutch leader also was not surprised by how quickly international political reactions shifted in a short time when Israel reacted to Hamas's attack. Wilders felt that the most important support he could provide to Israel was diplomatic support, to spread understanding that Israel was fighting for its existence against Hamas and Hezbollah.

"Diplomatic support is the most important thing that we can give today, that is lacking unfortunately," said Wilders, who said that politicians should engage in courage, and stand for friends like Israel and those that share western values even if it came at political expense. Some in the Dutch opposition wished to engage in economic sanctions against Israel, which Wilders said he was against.

Wilders is also against potential International Criminal Court warrants against Israeli officials like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He couldn't speak on behalf of the government and the Dutch Prime minister, but he believed it would be a mistake to detain Israeli officials if warrants were in effect.

In his coalition, Wilders said that there was consensus on support for the State of Israel, and as part of the political agreement, eventually they would move the Dutch embassy to Jerusalem.

In a message to Israelis, Wilders said "Don't give up. You have friends."

"There is a lot of support amongst our people. For the fight that you are fighting, you are not alone. You will never be alone. You have friends. I hope to be one of your best friends. But I'm certainly not the only one," said Wilders. "Parents in the Netherlands sleep well at night because Israeli parents wake up and are not sleeping because they think about what is happening to their sons and daughters fighting the fights that sooner or later would be our fight as well -- the fight against radicalism and barbarism."

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