Geert Wilders, the Dutch anti-Muslim politician. Photo: Cynthia Boll/AP
A Dutch newspaper report highlighted by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on discord between American Jewish organizations and the virulent anti-Muslim politician Geert Wilders has cast a renewed spotlight on organized Jewish support for Wilders.
The Dutch publication De Telegraaf reported recently that American Jewish organizations like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and the Orthodox Union (OU) were “furious” at Wilders’ support for a bill that would have banned “ritual slaughter” in the Netherlands. Though the bill passed, the Dutch Senate scrapped it in June.
Wim Kortenoeven, a disgruntled former member of Wilders’ Party for Freedom, told the JTA that the ADL, OU and ZOA “may have helped Wilders out by organizing fundraising events here and there, and perhaps with some publicity.” Kortenoeven met with Jewish organizations earlier this month to sound the alarm on the Party for Freedom’s support for the ritual slaughter bill.
All three organizations have denied raising funds for Wilders and his party. Wilders, too, has denied the Dutch report, telling the JTA that Kortenoeven’s statements were “nonsense and agitation by a spiteful former member” of his party.
The report that the ADL has ties to Wilders is dubious and likely wrong, given that the ADL routinely blasts Wilders’ Islamophobic rhetoric. But while the ZOA’s head Morton Klein may be “‘shocked and disappointed’ to learn of Wilders’ positions on ritual slaughter,” (as the original JTA report stated), the ZOA has supported Wilders’ positions in the past. Other high-profile Jewish figures have as well.
The ZOA’s executive director told JTA that “it is highly unlikely, if not impossible, that anyone officially connected to the ZOA raised money on Mr. Wilders’ behalf.”
The ADL, OU and ZOA have not returned requests for comment as of this writing.
There is likely no merit to the allegation that the ADL, ZOA and OU helped with funding Wilders. But the report is an opportunity to look at the proven, and disturbing, links between Wilders and right-wing Israel lobby groups. In contrast to 20th century far-right groups that were blatantly anti-Semitic, the new far-right focuses on the threat of Islam and strongly allies with Israel. Wilders has enjoyed the fruits of this relatively new alliance.
Wilders is on record as saying that he “hates Islam”; that Islam is the “ideology of a retarded culture”; that the Koran, the Muslim holy book, is a fascist book; that “immigrant Muslims and their children should be deported if they break the law” or if they are “lazy”; that Jordan should be the site of a Palestinian state; that “Jerusalem is the main front protecting the West”; and more. Because of his anti-Muslim rhetoric and support for militaristic Zionism, he has been embraced by some right-wing Jewish figures.
In a 2009 press release, the ZOA announced “its strong support for Geert Wilders” as he came under legal scrutiny after producing an anti-Muslim film. (Wilders was eventually cleared of charges of inciting hatred against Muslims.) ZOA vice-chairman Steven Goldberg said: “It’s an abomination that Geert Wilders would face prison for simply telling the truth about Islamic jihad. Wilders is a friend of Israel and the Jewish people, and it is incumbent on us to return his friendship in his hour of need. We must not remain silent.”
It’s not only the ZOA that has supported Wilders. As Max Blumenthal reported in The Nation, Wilders spoke to a “rapt” American audience at the Gatestone Institute in April. The neoconservative institute had guests pay $10,000 a head to hear Wilders say things like, “Islam is the largest threat to freedom which the world is currently facing.” The Gatestone Institute was founded by one Nina Rosenwald, who has spent millions of dollars stoking the flames of hatred towards Muslims in the US. Rosenwald has served on the board of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
And Adam Hasner, a Florida Republican running for office and a member of the “Jewish Americans For Mitt Romney” coalition, invited Wilders to a “free speech” conference in 2009. Wilders referred to Hasner as a “friend,” and in his speech said: “We need strong leaders like we have here today, Allen West and Adam Hasner. We need strong men like that.”