Taking A Lesson From Israel
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali native who became a member of the Dutch parliament and whose life was threatened by Muslims for her outspoken criticism of Islam, has a special interest in Israel – namely in its success integrating immigrants.
During a recent interview, she explained that when she visited a few years ago she was impressed to find that the Jewish state was “a liberal democracy” and that “men and women are equal.”
“I understood that a crucial element of success is the unifying factor among immigrants to Israel,” Hirsi Ali says. “Whether one arrives from Ethiopia or Russia, or one’s grandparents emigrated from Europe, what binds them is being Jewish. Such a bond is lacking in the Netherlands.”
Hirsi Ali, 37, became an international figure when she was forced to go undercover and seek police protection in 2004 after the Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was brutally murdered by a radical Muslim. The killer was outraged over a film Hirsi Ali wrote and Van Gogh directed about Muslim discrimination against women.
Not surprisingly, the need for security is another reason she relates to Israel. She thinks Dutch people who say Israel’s problems in the Mideast would end if it just gave up territory are naive.
“A state’s prime responsibility is to guarantee the security of its citizens,” she says. “If Israel doesn’t do that, its society is in danger.”
In May, the Dutch minister of immigration and integration moved to annul Hirsi Ali’s citizenship because she lied while seeking asylum in the Netherlands after leaving Somalia in 1992. Hirsi Ali had long acknowledged the claims, and a day after the minister made the announcement, Hirsi Ali announced her plans to resign and move to the U.S. to take a position beginning in September as a resident fellow with the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.
Last month, the Dutch government announced that Hirsi Ali would keep her Dutch citizenship.
She remains outspoken in criticizing what she sees as a double standard many Dutch apply to Israel, and to minorities in their own society. “The crisis of Dutch socialism,” she says, “can be sized up in its attitude toward both Islam and Israel.” The Jewish state is held to “exceptionally high moral standards” while the standards for judging the Palestinians “are very low.”
She believes that many Dutch feel guilty about the Holocaust, but compensate by ignoring the situation when Muslims mistreat their wives, “beat up homosexuals or prepare to plant bombs.”
This form of “utopian socialism” among the Dutch will only “give way to realism” when “Muslims throw a bomb at their house,” she says, adding: “There is a huge difference between being tolerant and tolerating intolerance. Many Dutchmen think they are very tolerant if they let others do whatever they want so long as it doesn’t threaten their own personal freedom.”
Two years ago Hirsi Ali publicly criticized the socialist mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, who is Jewish, telling him that while he was “nice” and had the “best intentions,” he was radically wrong in his understanding and approach to Muslim issues in the Netherlands. Many Muslims, she asserted, were “diametrically opposed” to the values of a secular, democratic society promoting equality and individual rights.
Rather than explain away criminal misdeeds of Muslim youth as the byproduct of a difficult childhood, she says the mayor should emulate former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and come down on the side of the law, security and punishment for those who commit criminal acts.
“The more he does for the Muslims,” Hirsi Ali says of Cohen, “the more he is criticized by them.”
As a woman and outspoken critic of Islam, the culture in which she was raised, Hirsi Ali acknowledges that she is considered a heretic, “and thus radicals want to eliminate me.”
She claims that many Muslims think like her, believing in “the freedom of thought and opinion,” and she encourages them to “come out of the closet” and for the U.S., Europe and Israel to “see to it that these people get adequate protection.”
“That is my greatest dream,” she says.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is the Chairman of the Board of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. His next book will deal with the Dutch attitude toward Jews and Israel, and is part of a research project sponsored by the Israel Maror Foundation.