Israel-born Dutch lawmaker fails security screening, loses ministerial nomination

The secret service’s flagging of Gidi Markuszower of Geert Wilders’ far-right party follows his earlier disqualification in 2010 for foreign intelligence ties

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

Gidi Markuszower (Robin van Lonkhuijsen/via JTA)
Gidi Markuszower (Robin van Lonkhuijsen/via JTA)

For about 24 hours, Dutch media ran a fine-tooth comb through the biography of Gidi Markuszower, an Israel-born lawmaker whom the country’s far-right ruling Party for Freedom this week had nominated to serve as immigration minister in its new cabinet.

The scrutiny was expected when it came to Markuszover, an anti-immigration lawmaker and pro-Israel controversial firebrand whose views are anathema to many opinion shapers and others in the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, however, the AIVD secret service was conducting its own evaluation of Markuszower, whom it had already flagged once in 2010 for having contacts with an unnamed foreign intelligence service. On Thursday night, AIVD shared its classified security screening of Markuszower with Party for Freedom founder Geert Wilders, who then dropped Markuszwer for another lawmaker.

Markuszower will likely continue in the Dutch parliament, where he has served since 2017 without objections from AIVD. But his disqualification amid suggestions that he represents “Benjamin Netanyahu’s long arm” — as one prominent Dutch journalist termed it (in Dutch) — may cripple Markuszower politically and even affect other pro-Israel politicians who are facing dual-loyalty allegations.

Robert van der Hoogt, a member of the Forum for Democracy far-right party, was among many critics who alleged a double standard in the AIVD’s treatment of Markuszower. Siegrid Kaag, a left-wing former top minister whose husband used to be a senior Palestinian official under Yasser Arafat, “was approved but Markuszover was flagged,” van der Hoogt wrote on X (in Dutch).

Historian Mark Thiessen, meanwhile, was among the many Dutchmen who breathed a sigh of relief that Markuszower was disqualified. Markuszower was ill-suited for the job but “AIVD needed to step in and draw the line” for reckless politicians, Thiessen argued in an op-ed (Dutch) in EW Magazine.

Markuszower declined requests to speak with The Times of Israel. In some ways, his failed ministerial candidacy was a replay of his running for the lower house of the Dutch parliament in 2010. Markuszower dropped out of the campaign following a warning issued about him by the AIVD, which said he had had contacts with an unnamed foreign intelligence agency. He returned to politics several years later, raising no further AIVD objections and getting selected to serve as a Party for Freedom lawmaker in 2017.

Born in Tel Aviv in 1977, Markuszower is used to controversy. During his time in the 1990s in the main high school of the Jewish Community of Amsterdam, he fought about politics “with the whole high school,” Markuszower’s father Zvi told the NRC daily in a 2017 profile. But Gidi didn’t mind, his dad added. “He likes it when people disagree with him.”

A hardliner who has called for upending an immigration policy that has resisted multiple overhaul attempts, Gidi Markuszower alienated many but represents the position of millions of Dutchmen. In last year’s election, Markuszower’s Party for Freedom rose to power under Wilders, an anti-Islam, pro-Israel politician.

The now-failed appointment of Markuszower follows unprecedented gains for his party in the Dutch elections and major gains for it and its sister movements across the European Union in last week’s European Parliament elections. This was part of a backlash against mass immigration and other left-wing policies, which is bolstering the clout of politicians with hawkish (and often pro-Israel) views. Enjoying the support of some European Jews, they alarm others with opposing worldviews and values.

Anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders of the PVV, or Party for Freedom, casts his ballot for the European election in The Hague, Netherlands, June 6, 2024. (AP/Peter Dejong)

Markuszower in a 2021 speech in parliament called the Dutch immigration policy a “crime against the Dutch people,” and has criticized the arrival to the Netherlands not only of hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers from the Middle East but also the spending of tax money on tens of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing war.

“You all, all of you right here, who are not stopping this self-hating policy, you should all be summoned before a tribunal,” Markuszover said at the time.

Within his Jewish community, too, Markuszower was never one to mince words. In 2010, Markuszower called in a statement to ban Jewish “traitors” from the community if they supported the UN Goldstone Report that in the previous year had accused Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza.

In 2018, the Organization of Jewish Communities in the Netherlands, or NIK, decided it could no longer accommodate Markuszower’s divisive remarks. It kicked him off its board for what it called “a long pattern of insults, threatening language and verbal intimidation.”

Melchior Vesters, a teacher and award-winning essayist who frequently writes about Jews and Israel, wrote on Facebook that Gidi Markuszower “is even more rabidly anti-asylum seekers than Wilders.”

In a post on X about Marukszower’s terminated candidacy for immigration minister, Wilders revealed only that he had read “the content” of the AIVD security screening and that this made him decide to replace Markuszower’s candidacy with that of lawmaker Marjolein Faber.

Wilders himself will not be serving as prime minister, ceding the role to Dick Schoof, a counter-terrorism former official. Wilders’ party and its coalition partners have agreed to appoint a non-partisan individual to prime minister to facilitate their power-sharing deal.

Dick Schoof. (Wikimedia Commons)

Markuszower has been involved in Jewish community events for years, including volunteering to provide security for communal events. On one occasion sometime before 2010, police questioned him about his possession of a firearm near a Jewish community facility that he helped guard.

Markuszower, who had practiced shooting at the Maccabi Jewish sports club, had a gun permit but police suspected that he had violated its terms. The case was dropped and Markuszower was neither prosecuted nor faced any other legal consequences. He has no criminal record.

A car belonging to the Dutch security forces guards the Maimonides and Rosj Pina Jewish schools in Amsterdam, November 25, 2019. (Canaan Lidor)

A leader of the Rights Forum, a pro-Palestinian organization founded by a former prime minister whom Dutch Jewry has accused of antisemitism, on Wednesday called Markuszower “the most unsettling” appointment so far by the four-party coalition led by Wilders. Penned by Berber van der Woude, the op-ed (in Dutch) on the Rights Forum’s website is titled: “Watch out, the Fascists are here.”

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