(JTA) – The national commemoration committee of the Netherlands named as its keynote speaker a Muslim author who has called Gaza a “ghetto” and is accused of making antisemitic statements about Dutch Jews. The National 4 and 5 May Committee made the announcement Jan. 18 of Abdelkader Benali to deliver the annual address at the main memorial ceremony this year in Amsterdam on May 4, the date when the Dutch nation remembers its fallen soldiers and victims of Nazism, including 102,000 Dutch Jews. The king and other dignitaries attend the event.
One of the Netherlands’ best-known war correspondents, Benali went on an antisemitic rant in July 2006 in Beirut, Lebanon, during a conversation they had at a party. “Benali let loose,” wrote Doornbos, a former reporter for the NOS national broadcaster and a correspondent who specialized in the Muslim world. Doornbos quoted Benali as having said that southern Amsterdam “is full of Jews. And that’s annoying that there are so many of them. Amsterdam Jews. Makes you feel uneasy as a Moroccan. It looks like Israel. So many Jews, it just feels crazy.”
Benali, who was born in Morocco, called Gaza a “ghetto” in a 2009 oped in the Volkskrant daily. Comparing Israel’s actions to those of the Nazis is a form of antisemitic hate speech, according to the EU working definition of antisemitism. The committee nor Benali and his agent immediately replied to requests for comment.
Benali joins a list of the committee’s controversial choices as keynote speaker. In addition, In 2017, the committee named as its “ambassador for peace” a rapper, Emerson Akachar, who during a soccer match the previous year was filmed shouting “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas.” Following an outcry, the committee revoked the title from Akachar.
Main Photo: Abdelkader Benali gives an interview in Amsterdam, May 14, 2011. (Wikimedia Commons)