Speech by Mayor Pierik at Remembrance of the Dead – May 4, 2024

Ladies and gentlemen, Dutch mayors have written an open letterwritten about rising anti-Semitism and call for resistance toany form of discrimination and racism.

I would like to share the contents of this letter with you here and now.

The National Holocaust Museum displays a sign that hung in many places in our country during World War II. ‘Jews not wanted’ is written on it.These signs often had to be hung at stores and cafes by order of the occupying forces. There were also Dutch people who put up such a sign on their own accord.

A few weeks after October 7, 2023, a Jewish child received a drawing from one of his non-Jewish classmates to take home. On it was drawn Adolf Hitler, with a gun attached.

Dear people, anti-Semitism is not an incident but an age-old form ofracism that, if we do nothing, will be passed on from generation to generation.The Holocaust is the extreme consequence of excluding people onthe basis of their origin. The Holocaust teaches us that we must alwaysoppose any form of discrimination and racism.

Anti-Semitism never went away after World War II, but reared its head more frequently as early asthe years before Oct. 7, 2023. It happened in variousways and came from many different corners of society. Aroundthe corona crisis, for example, we have seen conspiracy thinkers all toooften use anti-Jewish stereotypes and have even been condemned fortrivializing the Holocaust. After Oct. 7, the number of anti-Semiticincidents increased even more.

The recently flared anti-Semitism is linked to the explosion of violence inthe Middle East. We watched with horror the terror attack by Hamas onOct. 7. And we are horrified by the gigantic numbers ofcivilian deaths in Gaza.

But dear people, criticizing the Israeli government is not anti-Semitism.But holding Jewish people responsible for the actions of thatgovernment, just because they are Jewish, is. Harassing Jewish people,scolding or even physically assaulting them is anti-Semitic and punishable. We stand firmlyfor freedom of speech and freedom to demonstrate, but wedo not accept anti-Semitism.

We mayors write this letter not only as authority figures andlaw enforcement officers. We are also writing this letter as the first citizens of ourmunicipalities. In that role, we call upon our fellow citizens to be considerateof one another. To not push the boundaries of what is permissible. We askour fellow citizens not to use slogans that hurt and intimidate others.Not to make inappropriate comparisons to the Holocaust or Nazismthat intensely hurt survivors. We speak out when we seeor hear of harassment of our fellow Jewish citizens or whenotherwise moral boundaries are crossed, even when not punishable.

In many communities, there are Jewish people, often with family in Israel, andPalestinians who live in great fear for their loved ones and others with stronginvolvement in the conflict, who nonetheless continue to engage with each other.Sometimes despite fierce disagreements.

We are incredibly proud of these residents. They sow peace in our society.Let us not trample on that fragile peace. Let us continue to resistany form of discrimination and racism.

Throughout the Netherlands, we remember our dead on May four and celebrate ourfreedom on May five. We call on all our residents to respectthat important and valuable tradition.

After this appeal, I would like to close with an impressive poem byHind Joudah. She was born in 1983 in the AI-Bureij refugee camp in Gazoand wrote the poem “Poet in Times of War.”

Poet in times of war

What does it mean to be a poet in times of war?It means to apologize …To apologize profuselyto the burned treesto the nestless birdsto the crushed shellsto the long cracks along the streetsto the pale cheeks of children before and after deathto the faces of every sad or murdered motherWhat does it mean to be safe In times of war?It means to be ashamedFor smilingFor being warmFor your clean claysfor your lazy hoursfor your yawningfor your cup of coffeefor your deep sleepfor having living loved onesfor having a full stomachfor having running waterfor having clean waterfor being allowed to showerAnd for casually being Alive!Oh GodDon’t make me a poet in times of war

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