- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 2, 2011

AMSTERDAM | Jewish groups in the Netherlands called Wednesday for swifter punishment for Holocaust deniers as parliament debated how to combat rising anti-Semitism.

Among other measures, a Jewish umbrella organization said it wants Holocaust deniers punished under rules usually reserved for drunken drivers, shoplifters and soccer hooligans.

Under the snelrecht, or fast justice, policy, police and prosecutors offer offenders a choice immediately after their arrest between a fine or a court appearance within two months.

“I don’t understand why it should be difficult for a policeman to give a fine directly to perpetrators of these remarks,” said Ronny Naftaniel of the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel.

He added in a telephone interview that he would support the same measure for anti-Moroccan discrimination, which is also on the rise in the Netherlands.

Anti-Semitism has become a hot-button issue as many native Dutch blame anti-Semitism on the country’s Muslim minority, while Muslims say there is a double standard and discrimination against those of Moroccan and Turkish ancestry goes unpunished.

A national police report in September found a 48 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents to 209 in 2009. The same report found that anti-Moroccan incidents rose 17 percent to 103.

After a wave of immigration in the 1990s, Muslims make up about 1 million of the country’s 16 million population. After being decimated during World War II, the Dutch Jewish population is estimated at 40,000 to 50,000.

Rising anti-Semitism “can be attributed to the rise of influence of Islam in the Netherlands,” Freedom Party member of parliament Joram van Klaveren said during the debate. “The more Islam, the more anti-Semitism.”

Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, whose People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy leads the country’s ruling conservative coalition, was among several members of parliament who rejected those remarks.

“It’s not your belief that counts, but your behavior,” she said.

The exchange reflects the state of politics in the Netherlands.

A popular backlash against Muslim immigrants intensified in 2004 when filmmaker Theo van Gogh was slain by an Islamic radical of Moroccan descent over perceived religious insults.

The 2008 European Commission against Racism and Intolerance found a “dramatic increase in ‘Islamophobia’ in the Netherlands” since 2001.

In national elections last year, the explicitly anti-Islam Freedom Party finished in third place. It is not part of the country’s minority government, but props up the administration by supporting it on key votes in parliament.

Mr. Naftaniel said his research showed that Moroccan youths are disproportionately involved in anti-Semitic incidents targeting “visible” Orthodox Jews. However, he said, anti-Jewish remarks on the Internet or in the workplace were usually made by Dutch Christians.