In the country with a long Jewish tradition and the world-wide learning generated by Anne Frank’s diary, anti-Semitism is sadly a persistent problem in some Dutch schools and especially among Muslim pupils.
This is according to a new government-commissioned report on discrimination in education, titled “Two Worlds, Two Realities – How Do You Deal with It as a Teacher.” It was published last week by Margalith Kleijwegt, a Dutch-Jewish journalist, at the request of the Dutch ministry of education.
The report, which is based on visits to schools and conversations with dozens of teachers since January 2015, says that teachers sometimes feel powerless to change the deep-seated biases and violent attitudes of some pupils, including on Jews.
One female teacher from Amsterdam of high school pupils following a vocational education program told Kleijwegt of a lesson about democratic values and against discrimination, in which a female pupil of Moroccan descent stood up and said: “If I had a Kalashnikov [assault rifle], I’d gun down all the Jews.” She then made shooting gestures and sounds.
Shocked, the teacher tried to make the pupil empathize with a Jew but felt she was not getting through to her.
“Anti-Semitic behavior is a recurrent problem in some schools,” Kleijwegt wrote. “Some see it as a provocation [by pupils], others fear it goes deeper: That pupils receive anti-Jewish attitudes at home. The same applies to the growing group of Dutch pupils who say foreigners should rot and die. Is this provocation? Do they receive it at home?”
In the report, Dutch Education Minister Jet Bussemaker wrote that the document “shows a reality that is inconvenient and sometimes painful” but must be confronted and dealt with “in accordance to democratic values.”