Dutch Freedom Party Urged to Drop Shechita (Ritual Slaughter) Ban from Platform

August 21, 2012

A ban “will further encourage and empower anti-Semitism across Europe.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is urging Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch conservative Freedom Party, to drop the party's call to ban of the Jewish practice of Shechita, or ritual slaughter of animals, from its platform before the Netherlands’ Sept 12th national elections. The Wiesenthal Center said that such a ban “will further encourage and empower anti-Semitism across Europe.”

In an exchange-of emails with Mr. Wilders, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, wrote, “The demonization of core Jewish rituals has historically been the domain of tyrants and dictators, often contributing to severe discrimination, violence and even genocide against the Jewish people…Should such a bill become the law of the land, it would threaten the future viability of the Dutch Jewish Community. Further, it would also encourage others across Europe to adopt the same draconian measure. Such a trend, along with growing moves in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Norway to ban brit milah, the ritual of male circumcision, represent an attack to core Jewish values not seen in Europe since the tyrannical regimes of Stalinist Russia and Hitler’s genocidal Third Reich, would threaten the viability of European Jewish communities."

Cooper singled out Dion Graus, a Freedom Party parliamentarian who has been called “a serious danger to the Dutch Jewish community and to that of European Jewry at large” by Dutch Jewish leaders, for having “…repeatedly accused the Jewish practice of Shechita to constitute "torture", [revealing] an animus against our religious practice that impacts all Jews, wherever they live.” This kind of rhetoric and action is, said Cooper, “usually associated with ancient tyrants, Stalinist Russia, or Nazi Germany,” and that these outrageous claims have been debunked by respected scientists. Rabbi Cooper emphasized that “when a public personality in any democracy says multiple times that Shechita constitutes torture’, such language is a targeted canard against our ancient faith, denigrates all Jews for whom eating Kosher is a religious obligation, and emboldens anti-Semites everywhere.” He urged Wilders to “drop its support for such a draconian measure that if passed, will serve as clear message to Dutch Jewry that they are no longer welcome in your country as citizens with equal rights.”

Wilders’ prompt reply to Rabbi Cooper asserted that the controversy was part of a smear campaign to depict his Freedom Party as a party condoning anti-Semitism. “I can assure you that Mr. Graus is absolutely not an anti-Semite,” he wrote, adding, “Anti-Semites will never be tolerated in the PVV [Freedom Party].” Wilders said that although his party’s representatives in the lower chamber supported the Shechita ban, it was not a Freedom Party initiative. He declined to say whether or not the ban was part of the party platform.

“We reiterate our call to Mr. Wilders again to fully disassociate the party from the ban and to instead work with all parties to find a compromise approach that maintains the religious freedom of and respect for Dutch Jewish citizens,” said Rabbi Cooper.

For more information, please contact the Center's Public Relations Department, 310-553-9036, join the Center on Facebook, www.facebook.com/simonwiesenthalcenter
, or follow @simonwiesenthal for news updates sent direct to your Twitter page or mobile device.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).