Dutch police failing to crackdown on racism

Searchlight, March 2004

The Dutch police are not doing their job properly by failing to prosecute racism and discrimination. This is the conclusion reached by researchers from the University of Leiden and the world-renowned Anne Frank Foundation in their annual report on racism and extreme right in the Netherlands in 2002.

According to the researchers, everyday practice shows that filing a complaint against discrimination is often very problematic for the complainant. And, even when complaints are taken up, the chances of a prosecution of any perpetrators are slim.

In March last year, the Dutch College of Attorney Generals introduced an anti-discrimination procedure, which is still not being complied with by the police. Instead, the police tend to dismiss complaints according to their own view of a case and are reluctant to do background research except, perhaps, maybe when it concerns charges of discrimination against their own officers. Thus, in 2002, two antisemitic incidents, in which police officers had been verbally abused as “rotten Jews” were prosecuted.

The figures in the above-mentioned report about racism and the extreme right in 2002 are partly based on statistics provided by the police and suggest that the level of general racist violence has fallen, that antisemitic incidents doubled, that the involvement of the organised extreme right in racist violence is low and that the percentage of cases solved is also very low, a mere 8% of the perpetrators were arrested.

Reporting racism and discrimination at Dutch police stations is not very easy. Often, racist criminal acts are not logged as hate crimes but merely as everyday incidents. Another problem is that the ethnicity of the victim or the perpetrator is not always registered. Because of these difficulties, the report's figures probably do not reflect Dutch social reality.

The problems of integrating immigrants in the Netherlands are becoming more serious. It can be no surprise that when immigrants do not feel they are being taken seriously - or are being protected by the authorities when they have been racially abused or discriminated against - they start to become increasingly frustrated with society.

The increase in antisemitism is likewise unclear because much of what is called antisemitism in the Netherlands is sport-related and is of purely local Dutch origin. Whether the way this is sport- related prejudice manifests itself is real antisemitism or simply idiotic provocation is not entirely obvious.

An example is the almost tribal hatred between the fans of the Ajax football team in Amsterdam and their Feyenoord counterparts in Rotterdam. Ajax's overwhelmingly non-Jewish supporters today call themselves “Jews” or “Super Jews” because of the alleged Jewish roots of the club's founders and wave Israeli flags, a mode of behaviour which provokes taunting from rival, especially Feyenoord, fans.

The number of antisemitic incidents increased from 18 in 2001 to 46 in 2002 but it is so-called “New Antisemitism”, common among some immigrant youngsters or related to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict that accounts for half of them. Thus, most of these incidents involved the use of insulting behaviour or language, for example at pro-Palestinian demonstrations. In nine cases, though, physical attacks on Jewish people in Amsterdam were reported.

In 2002, as a whole, there were 264 racist and extreme rightwing motivated incidents - with which anti-Islamic incidents decreasing from 190 to 68 - compared with 317 in the previous year. These incidents included criminal damage, bomb threats, and racist abuse.

Most of the racist threats made in 2002 were, in fact, made after the murder of right-wing populist chief, Pim Fortuyn, on 6 May that year but the report's researchers have omitted to include this wave of threats because there was, seemingly, little research done on the racist and extreme right-wing aspect of the threats. They were merely seen as anti-establishment and mainly uttered on the Internet. Severe incidents, like the posting of a loaded gun to Social Democrat leader Ad Melkert were thus the exception rather than the rule.

The Dutch internal intelligence service, the AIVD, concluded that there was no right-wing organisation or orchestration behind the numerous threats. The AIVD did, however, note how notorious right-wing extremists took part in the demonstrations to commemorate Fortuyn.

Indeed, it was at the AIVD's instigation that the Rotterdam police arrested three Nazis, among them the notorious bonehead and Blood&Honour sympathiser, Ed Polman, on suspicion of conspiring to carry out revenge attacks against leftist politicians.

The Internet is now playing a bigger role in spreading information on racist and ultra-rightist actions. Last year, for example, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into an Islamic school in Eindhoven. Five skinheads were subsequently arrested and it did not take long for support messages to pour into the various fascist web sites: “Hail and honour to these fighters against Islamic vermin”, wrote one demented racist on the Polinco (Politically Incorrect) web-forum.

By Jeroen Bosch of Alert! and Antifa-Net in Utrecht