Dutch authorities now dress up enforcement personnel as ‘decoy Jews’ in the hopes of getting a grip on the rising anti-Semitic sentiment in Amsterdam. What is happening in the Netherlands’ capital, which is most famous for its cannabis friendly attitude and adult zones?
Origins of Anti-Semitism in Amsterdam
Although it is home to the world-famous Anne Frank House and subscribes to a motto that translates as “Courageous, Resolute, Compassionate,” Amsterdam has seen an alarming increase in anti-Semitic behavior. The NRC Handelsblad reported just in January that in 2009 the cases of anti-Semitic acting out more than doubled (from 14 to 30) when compared to 2008.
Liaisons between the Jewish community and the media suggest that that Israel’s military policy, especially with respect to Gaza, is a likely trigger for the increase in anti-Semitism, which is frequently perpetrated by Moroccans living in Amsterdam. Fighting the war away from home, they seek to defend Arabs by attacking Dutch Jews. As verbal and physical attacks escalate – never mind the increase in Nazi-related graffiti – the outcry for public actions also becomes louder.
Enter the ‘Decoy Jews’
Unable to ignore the public outcry any longer, Amsterdam’s mayor is now doing what American cops have done for decades when attempting to ferret out ‘Johns’ frequenting prostitutes: he ordered law enforcement personnel to impersonate Jews to catch perpetrators in the act. The Telegraph explains that this methodology may sound unorthodox, but is already a tried and true means of catching would-be muggers and would-be assailants of Amsterdam’s gay population.
Is Anti-Semitism Acceptable in the United States?
Surprisingly, America is quite tolerant of anti-Semitism. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) explains that hate speech is generally protected by the First Amendment’s Freedom of Speech guarantee. In fact, the organization decries university campus attempts to muzzle hate speech and suggests that curtailing the utterances is a short-term remedy, whereas a verbal engagement of the speakers can have long-lasting social effects.
That being said, there are some limitations on anti-Semitic utterances even in the U.S. For example, if slurs are made within the work environment, the employer can be held liable for creating or tolerating a hostile work environment. Moreover, if anti-Semitism escalates into physical violence or the incitement of physical violence, perpetrators may be held liable and prosecuted.
For example, Michigan’s ethnic intimidation law (Section 750.147b) suggests that – among other acts – threatening words that imply to turn into physical action, harm or property damage may lead to prosecution, so long as the threat is believable. It matters not whether there is an actual tangible follow-up to the words.
Perhaps Amsterdam’s anti-Semites could be discouraged with the threat of two years in prison, the loss of $5,000 as a fine and also the potential civil liability to their victims; no ‘decoy Jews’ required.