Dutch populist Wilders faces huge backlash on Moroccan critique

Right-wing, pro-Israel politician widely condemned, including by Jewish leaders, for anti-immigrant remarks

Dutch populist politician Geert Wilders during a press conference in The Hague, Netherlands. (AP/Patrick Post)
Dutch populist politician Geert Wilders during a press conference in The Hague, Netherlands. (AP/Patrick Post)

AMSTERDAM — Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders is facing the most serious backlash of his career, as prosecutors said Friday they have lost track of the number of complaints filed against him and two of the 14 members of his parliamentary faction quit in protest.

At a meeting of Wilders’ Freedom Party Wednesday, the populist, pro-Israel, anti-Islam politician asked supporters whether they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands, drawing them into the chant “Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!”

“We’ll take care of it,” he promised.

Though the anti-immigration Wilders often courts controversy, reactions this time may have been more negative than he was expecting.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative VVD Party had been the only mainstream Dutch party to consider cooperation with Wilders, but Rutte says that’s no longer possible.

Wilders said he stands by his words.

The umbrella group of Dutch Jewish communities condemned Wilders for asking supporters whether they wanted to see fewer Dutch Moroccans.

He also asked them whether they wanted more or less European Union involvement in Dutch politics. They replied no to both questions.

“As representatives of the Jewish community of the Netherlands, we forcefully distance ourselves from his statements,” Jaap Fransman, the chairman of the Centraal Joods Overleg umbrella group said in a statement Thursday.

Earlier this week, a politician for the Dutch Labor party apologized for saying that similar statements by Wilders about Moroccans were reminiscent of Nazi ideologies and policies regarding Jews.

“Hitler is among us,” the Labor politician, Fouad Sldali, wrote. “In the figure of Geert Wilders. Hitler also thought that there should be fewer Jews. We will never forget that.”

He was reacting to Wilders’ wish for The Hague to be “a problem with fewer problems, and if possible, fewer Moroccans.”

Wilders said the apology came after his lawyer threatened to sue Sidali for defamation in civil court.

Wilders lived in Israel for two years during his youth and is said to have visited 40 times in the last 25 years. In 2010, after elections in which his party came third, he declared that “Jordan is Palestine” and that “changing its name to Palestine will end the conflict in the Middle East and provide the Palestinians with an alternate homeland.”

He also warned that “If Jerusalem falls into the hands of the Muslims, Athens and Rome will be next. Thus, Jerusalem is the main front protecting the West. It is not a conflict over territory but rather an ideological battle, between the mentality of the liberated West and the ideology of Islamic barbarism.”

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