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Analysis: Pro-Israel, Pro-Jewish but will Jews vote for Geert Wilders?

James J. Marlow examines the possible outcomes of the upcoming Dutch general election. Marlow believes that not many Jewish people will vote for Geert Wilders’ party and even if the controversial politician’s party wins the most seats in the parliament, he will have trouble forming a coalition due to his policies.
Geert Wilders Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

Dutch voters will head to the polls next Wednesday and the result is likely to produce the most fragmented political landscape in the history of the country. Much of the focus is on the anti-immigration, anti-Islam and anti-EU Party for Freedom (PVV), which according to research polls conducted last month, could receive as many as 35 seats in the 150-seat parliament.

But despite potentially winning more seats than any other party, their biggest problem will be putting together a coalition because other parties have previously ruled out working with the PVV led by Geert Wilders, a very controversial politician.

In a population of around 17 million of which some 40,000 identify as Jews although only around 9,000 are affiliated with a community, many Jewish people tend to stick with the center to right parties in Dutch politics.

But Gadi Markuszower of the Jewish community and a member of various Jewish boards has previous been quoted as saying: “Dutch Jews, or actually Diaspora Jews, suffer from the Galut/Diaspora virus. It infects their political antenna. Too many Jews and too many Jewish institutions have the distinct talent to always choose a political party that is diametrical opposed to their own interest. They too often vote for their own demise.”

Markuszower would say this because he is not only close with Geert Wilders but is also set to become one of its MPs as he is placed at number four on the party list.

Although the PVV advocates leaving the EU, which should resonate with many Brexit voters, Geert Wilders has promised to ban immigration and asylum seekers from Muslim countries and has previously called for a ban on the building of mosques. He further once compared the Quran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, which did not go down very well in the Islamic world and this is one of the reasons he is heavily protected by an entourage of security guards today.

City councilman on behalf of the centrist People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) Ronnie Eisenmann believes the PVV will likely win the most seats out of at least 28 political parties running next week but will not take more than 25 seats. “Some people may like his [Wilders’] extremist policies but not his social economic policies,” Eisenmann told me exclusively. It seems this nationalist party is not necessarily a party of capitalism, which is quite unusual and according to the councilman, people are turned off by some of his social policies. But Eisenmann, who is also the president of the advisory board of the the Israel Advocacy lobby group CIDI, added: “The more seats PVV receives, the harder it will be to form a government because other mainstream parties will refuse to join them in government.”

The Party for Freedom has always been extremely pro-Israel and supportive of the Jewish community. Nevertheless, Eisenmann still feels that few Jews will vote for the PVV because in an attempt to send a strong anti-Islam message to Muslims in Holland about five years ago, the PVV voted with the animal rights party to ban religious slaughter. “If you are really a friend, you don’t vote for such an issue and this was a tremendous blow to the Jewish community,” Eisenmann added. “This is the first measure the Nazis took when they occupied Holland so this was a very symbolic act of legislation that he supported.”

Besides the main Labour, Socialist and Christian Democrat Parties, there are new names on the ballot paper like Forum for Democracy, founded by former newspaper columnist Thierry Baudet; the Party for Animals, which could win up to 6 seats; and 50Plus that campaigns on a ticket of backing the rights of the country's elderly. In addition, a party called Denk, which is led by two Turkish individuals, is campaigning specifically for the interests of Holland's Muslim population with strong ties to anti-Israel groups and BDS.

Under the centrist mainstream coalition parties, the economy of the Netherlands has grown and unemployment has fallen. The number of people trying to claim asylum has also fallen by a half in 2016. But with 150 seats are up for grabs, Wilders’ PVV is expected to win the largest share as many voters are fed up with mainstream politics.

The Netherlands is the first of several EU countries going to the polls this year and the results should be announced on March 16, although a coalition led probably by the current Prime Minister Mark Rutte will likely take a long time to form.

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