AMSTERDAM — Denouncing Israel for “racist policies” against the Palestinians, firebrand MK Hanin Zoabi of the Joint (Arab) List party accused the Jewish state of crimes akin to those committed by the Nazis. She was speaking at an event marking the anniversary of Kristallnacht in the heart of Amsterdam’s decimated Jewish quarter on Sunday.
Organized by the city’s far-left Platform Stop Racism and Exclusion, the commemoration drew more than 200 attendees, with dozens of them wearing kippot or draped in Israeli flags.
Leading up to Zoabi’s speech, several organizers delivered remarks comparing the Holocaust to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. At least half a dozen pro-Israel protesters were escorted from the gathering by security personnel and uniformed Amsterdam city police, when at various points they yelled in protest of the speakers’ condemnations of Israel.
At an event devoid of signs and banners, there was not a Palestinian flag in sight as mournful Yiddish songs were performed by a klezmer trio leading up to Zoabi’s keynote speech.
“I am not an immigrant in my homeland,” chanted Zoabi to applause from the crowd, which waited almost an hour for her remarks.
Calling herself “one of 120,000 of her people who were not expelled by Israel in 1948,” Zoabi — who was born in Nazareth in 1969 — lashed the Jewish state for creating “more than 80 laws” that discriminate against Palestinians.
The Israeli rules, said Zoabi, are similar to the conditions under which Jews lived at the time of the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom in Germany.
Standing just meters from the former site of a centuries-old Jewish orphanage decimated during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, she drew parallels between Hitler’s genocide against the Jews and current Israeli policy against Palestinians and Israeli-Arabs.
“I share their struggle,” said Zoabi of Jewish victims of the Kristallnacht, or “Night of Broken Glass” pogrom, now seen as a turning point leading up to the Shoah.
“The central lesson of the Crystal Night has not been learned,” said Zoabi during her 15-minute speech, delivered in English. Accusing Israel of “ethnic cleansing” modeled on Nazism, she denounced half a dozen Israeli officials by name for what she referred to as recent efforts to “justify the use of violence toward Palestinians.
“It is okay to kill Arabs, I have actually done so several times,” Zoabi quoted Minister of Education Naftali Bennett as one example of the Jewish state perpetrating Nazi-like policies against Palestinians.
Event organizers who invited Zoabi have been commemorating Kristallnacht in Amsterdam since the early 1990s, but the fringe group, largely Jewish, only began equating the Nazi genocide with Israeli policy in 2010.
For its 2009 Kristallnacht commemoration, “Platform” hosted an imam who had accused Jews of using blood to make matzah in Damascus.
The anti-Israel group has little engagement with Amsterdam’s tiny, mainstream Jewish community, almost all of whom live several miles south of the former Jewish quarter, emptied out during the war.
Scarcely before he finished shouting in Dutch, “This is a Jewish monument,” one elderly male protester was surrounded by four yellow-clad security personnel, and huddled off the scene.
During Zoabi’s speech itself, additional pro-Israel protesters were removed for shouting over her allegations against Israel, while other attendees made clucking noises during Zoabi’s conclusion.
Zoabi, who is currently under investigation in Israel for incitement to violence, quoted several statistics from a recent Israel Democracy Institute report about Jewish Israelis’ perception of Arabs.
She also warned of “great forces” that seek to silence pro-Palestinian voices in Amsterdam and elsewhere in Europe.