Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders convicted of inciting against Moroccans

Cnaan Liphshiz

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — The incitement conviction of Geert Wilders, a Dutch far-right politician who promised to ensure his country has fewer Moroccans, will strengthen him electorally, the former leader of Dutch Jewry’s watchdog on racism said.

Wilders, who made the promise during a speech in 2014, will gain five extra seats in the upcoming general election in March following his conviction Friday for incitement to discrimination over that pledge, Esther Voet, the editor-in-chief of Holland’s main Jewish weekly, the Nieuw Israelietisch Weekblad, said.

“Fine. Suspect the consequences will be five extra seats,” Voet wrote on Twitter about Wilders. Voet, who until last year headed the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel watchdog, has criticized Wilders frequently and publicly in the past over that remark and others.

Wilders, who had lived for two years in an Israeli moshav in the Jordan Valley in his youth, has called Israel “a place where I feel home” and said it was “close to his heart.” He has also called Israel a “canary in the coalmine” and “the West’s first line of defense against Islam,” including to his many visits to the Jewish state. He has repeatedly said he was arguing for “Judeo-Christian values” which he said are threatened by Islam in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

Supported by some Jews, the Party for Freedom has angered many Dutch Jews with its support for a ban on ritual slaughter and teaming up with other far-right groups, including France’s National Front.

While the court in Schiphol convicted Wilders for inciting discrimination, it acquitted him of the prosecution’s charge that Wilders also incited to hate. The court imposed no punishment, ruling that the conviction was “punishment enough,” the AD daily reported.

Calling his party “the largest opposition movement” in the Netherlands, Wilders in a defiant video message about his conviction vowed to “keep naming the Moroccan problem” and averred that while the sentence attempts to silence him and his followers, it “only makes me stronger.” He has vowed to appeal the sentence. Referring to this point, Voet said an appeal may further boost his party’s performance in the election.

In an IPSOS poll from Dec. 6 conducted among 1,093 respondents, Wilders’ anti-Islam Party for Freedom emerged as the most popular with 29 seats out of 150 in the Dutch parliament’s lower house, the Tweede Kamer. Wilders’ part currently has 15 seats there.

The ruling People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, or VVD, garnered the equivalent of 27 seats in the same poll. An earlier IPSOS poll from Nov. 24 showed VVD in the lead with 28 seats and Wilders’ party trailing it by two seats. VVD currently has 38 seats in the Tweede Kamer.

Wilders was acquitted in 2011 against hate-incitement charges in connection with a short video in which he inveighed against Islam, a religion he has called “evil and fascist.”