How the Dutch Brought Anti-Semitism to Indonesia and Turned It against the Chinese

A populous, Muslim-majority nation, Indonesia, like much of Southeast Asia, has long been home to a large ethnic Chinese population that has been subjected to periodic outbursts of violence. The island nation is also home to roughly 200 Jews and a great deal of anti-Semitic sentiment. To Blake Smith, these two threads are connected:

[I]n 1740, . . . economic tensions between Chinese workers and [Dutch] colonial soldiers spilled over into violence. The colonial government responded with the systematic killing of the Chinese population of Batavia (now Jakarta), their headquarters on the island of Java. Some 10,000 people died.

The violence of the Dutch colonial state was rooted in a widespread belief that Chinese communities of Indonesia were “like the Jews.” Applying anti-Semitic stereotypes forged in early modern Europe to the Chinese of Southeast Asia, European travelers and colonial officials of the period often remarked that the Chinese “like Jews” were “tricksters” bent on robbing both the Dutch and native people. This strategic conflation of anti-Semitism and anti-Chinese prejudice was politically useful as the Dutch consolidated control of the archipelago. Crushing local powers and traditional elites that had long ruled the area, they insisted that it was not they but the Chinese who were the real foreign oppressors. The colonists, then, could pose as protectors of “true Indonesians.”

One of the most bitter critics of the Chinese, the Dutch colonial official Dirk van Hogendorp, proposed in the early 19th century that these “bloodsuckers” and “parasites,” whom he compared to “the Jews here in Europe,” should be subject to onerous taxes in order to encourage their emigration. Many echoed his sentiments. The historian Nicolaas Godfried van Kampen wrote in 1833, for example, that the Chinese were “Jews of the East,” who “thwarted and obstructed” Indonesian progress. Later in the 19th century, an association of colonial plantation owners used anti-Semitic clichés against their Chinese competitors, saying that the local Chinese were “as bad” as German Jews who exploited peasants and workers. Such views were shared by British and French officials in their own nearby colonies.

By the beginning of the 20th century, the conflation of Chinese and Jews had spread widely throughout Southeast Asia and [among] its leaders. . . . After a two-decade lull since the 1998 riots, anti-Chinese sentiment is returning to Indonesia along with a revival of its old companion, anti-Semitism. . . .

As Niruban Balachandran notes in a rejoinder to Smith, the ADL’s most recent survey gave Indonesia a 48-percent anti-Semitism score—which, at least, is less than neighboring Malaysia’s 61 percent.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Anti-Semitism, Indonesia, Indonesian Jewry, Muslim-Jewish relations, Netherlands

How to Turn Palestinian Public Opinion Away from Terror

The Palestinian human-rights activist Bassem Eid, responding to the latest survey results of the Palestinian public, writes:

Not coincidentally, support for Hamas is much higher in the West Bank—misgoverned by Hamas’s archrivals, the secular nationalist Fatah, which rules the Palestinian Authority (PA)—than in Gaza, whose population is being actively brutalized by Hamas. Popular support for violence persists despite the devastating impact that following radical leaders and ideologies has historically had on the Palestinian people, as poignantly summed up by Israel’s Abba Eban when he quipped that Arabs, including the Palestinians, “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

Just as worrying is the role of propaganda and misinformation, which are not unique to the Palestinian context but are pernicious there due to the high stakes involved. Misinformation campaigns, often fueled by Hamas and its allies, have painted violent terrorism as the only path to dignity and rights for Palestinians. Palestinian schoolbooks and public media are rife with anti-Semitic and jihadist content. Hamas’s allies in the West have matched Hamas’s genocidal rhetoric with an equally exterminationist call for the de-normalization and destruction of Israel.

It’s crucial to consider successful examples of de-radicalization from other regional contexts. After September 11, 2001, Saudi Arabia implemented a comprehensive de-radicalization program aimed at rehabilitating extremists through education, psychological intervention, and social reintegration. This program has had successes and offers valuable lessons that could be adapted to the Palestinian context.

Rather than pressure Israel to make concessions, Eid argues, the international community should be pressuring Palestinian leaders—including Fatah—to remove incitement from curricula and stop providing financial rewards to terrorists.

Read more at Newsweek

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion