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Dutch publisher’s contract with Hezbollah fan causes author walkout

Famed Jewish novelist Leon de Winter, among the foursome to quit De Bezige Bij, calls Dyab Abou Jahjah an anti-Semite

Dutch Jewish author and columnist Leon de Winter (screen capture: YouTube)
Dutch Jewish author and columnist Leon de Winter (screen capture: YouTube)

AMSTERDAM — A Dutch publishing house that was founded by anti-Nazi fighters lost some of its best-known authors following its contract with a Hezbollah supporter who has accused Israel of genocide.

Leon de Winter, a Dutch-Jewish writer who is one of the Netherlands’ best-known novelists, said he joined the walkout by three other writers from De Bezige Bij last week, partly because the company was “lacking a leader” but also over its publication of the book “Plea for Radicalization” by Dyab Abou Jahjah — a Lebanon-born activist from Belgium who has called for violent attacks on Israeli Jews.

De Winter said he considered Abou Jahjah an anti-Semite, an accusation rejected by Abou Jahjah — who last year called Antwerp’s mayor “a Zionist cocksucker” on Twitter, and who founded a Muslim European group which published on its website a picture of Anne Frank in bed with Adolf Hitler as well as a caricature suggesting that Jews invented the Holocaust.

De Winters told JTA on Thursday that his leaving De Bezige Bij after 30 years “is very painful” because of the company’s wartime history and its record of supporting its authors. “But when you add the worldview of a person like Abou Jahjah, which is incompatible with mine, when my publisher tries to hide these differences or perhaps prefers Abou Jahjah, then I have to go look for a new publisher,” he said.

De Winter is the fourth big name to leave De Bezige Bij since it signed Abou Jahjah’s in February. In June, the publishing house lost Jessica Durlacher, a celebrated Jewish author who is also de Winter’s wife, and the award-winning novelist Tommy Wieringa. Both of them cited Abou Jahjah as a factor that led to their departure.

Lebanese-Belgian writer Dyab Abou Jahjah (Wikimedia Commons, Han Soete, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Lebanese-Belgian writer Dyab Abou Jahjah (Wikimedia Commons, Han Soete, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Durlacher said she did not want to share a platform with “someone who uses the word Zionists to describe Jews, and calls himself a radical anti-Zionist,” according to Volkskrant (link in Dutch).

John Irving, the American novelist and Academy Award-winning screenwriter, announced together with de Winter that he would be leaving De Bezige Bij, though Irving’s decision was unconnected to Abou Jahjah, according to NRC Handelsblad, a Dutch daily newspaper.

The Jewish Chronicle of London has described Abou Jahjah — who famously has posed for a picture while holding an AK-47 assault rifle in his native Lebanon — as a former Hezbollah combatant.

After the 9/11 attacks of 2001 in New York, Abou Jahjah spoke of his “feeling of victory,” and has called Antwerp, which has a large community of Orthodox Jews, the “international capital of the Zionist lobby,” according to NRC.

In an interview published last week in the Dutch daily Volkskrant, Abou Jahjah defended his claim that the Israeli flag is comparable to that of Nazi Germany “because both countries practiced ethnic cleansing.” He rejected claims that this and past statements by him were anti-Semitic, and said that de Winter and Durlacher are the ones who don’t belong at De Bezige Bij because “they support occupation, that of Israel.”

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