A number of council members left a Rotterdam municipal council meeting when a vote was tabled on the condemnation of hatred against Jews.
They said they did not want to pick sides in the ongoing and complex Israel-Palestine conflict.
The vote was an initiative of centre-right politician Simon Becker (VVD) after he reportedly received numerous indications that many in the Jewish community do not feel “free or safe” in the Netherlands port city.
When Becker filed the motion to “condemn support for Jew hatred” he said he was sad and hurt, given the painful history between the city and the Jewish community, adding “after everything that went wrong, that even today things are this way”.
Becker choked up and had to wipe away tears as he spoke.
“The motion that we file [means] we stand alongside the Jewish community, appeal to the Council to speak with that community and restore the sense of security for them,” he said.
VVD-raadslid Simon Becker in tranen bij het indienen van een motie over onveiligheidsgevoelens bij Joodse Rotterdammers. pic.twitter.com/L9UuYcj5HH
— Peter Groenendijk (@groenendijkp) October 12, 2023
Not everyone was impressed by his emotional appeal. Councillors from the Green Party (GL), the Socialist Party (PvdA) and the Left-wing Liberal D66 walked out during the vote, saying they did not want to be part of the international conflict.
Their leaving meant there were not enough people to enable the vote to proceed and the motion was rendered void.
Richard Moti of the Socialist Party said the conflict was used to “score a political goal” by the other parties, while those on both sides of the violence in the region were suffering.
“In our opinion, the motion does not do justice to the complexity of the situation unfolding in Israel and Gaza,” D66 announced via social media.
Ingrid Coenradie, chairwoman of the city’s largest party (Leefbaar Rotterdam) decried the members’ walk-out as “cowardice”.
According to VVD, the councillors who left had abdicated their responsibilities.
A few days earlier, the mayor of the city Ahmed Aboutaleb had appeared noticeably reticent in expressing his support for the victims of the Hamas terror attack on Israel.
He also refused to hoist the flag for Israel at the city hall. On October 9, after hours of deliberation, the Rotterdam flag was flown at half-mast for all civilian victims on the Palestinian and Israeli sides. Allegedly, Aboutaleb wanted to “avoid polarisation”.
On October 9 he left on a mission to Morocco. Many feel the mayor should have remained in the city. Dutch MP Geert Wilders has even called for Aboutaleb’s resignation, describing his behaviour as “unforgivable”.
The Jewish Community of Rotterdam was subsequently deeply shocked by what it saw as the lack of council support. It added that it was unacceptable that a demonstration by Hamas supporters had been allowed in Rotterdam.
Chris den Hoedt, president of the Jewish Community of Rotterdam, said that by refusing to vote, the councillors had made the Jewish people in the city a part of the conflict. “The motion was not about the conflict but about the security of the Jews in the city,” he said.
Den Hoedt said that in “running away”, the councillors showed they think hatred of Jews is acceptable. “We all have our own opinion of the conflict, but not as a community, we don’t want that.”
On October 8, just a day after the deadly Hamas terror attack on Israel that has killed more than 1,300 people with in excess of 200 abducted, numerous demonstrators took to the streets in Rotterdam to show their support for Palestine and/or Hamas.
— FlinkeTante (@BadaBingoz) October 8, 2023