Dutch Railways, the national railway system of the Netherlands, has issued an apology for the “wholly inappropriate” display that took place last weekend, when an employee began singing the lyrics, “where do the Jews come from” over the train’s public announcement system during a trip from Tilburg to Rotterdam.
The song pokes fun at the highly Jewish fanbase for the soccer team Ajax and its support of Israel. According to reports, the employee sang, “Where do the Jews come from? From Israel, far away. Do super Jews live there, too? Yeah, super Jews live there, too. Do Jews like soccer? Only when they’re rooting for Ajax.” Ajax is known for having many Jewish fans, so much so that even many non-Jewish Ajax fans refer to themselves as ‘the Jews’.
Fans of rival teams routinely taunt Ajax supporters with antisemitic chants about Nazis, burning Jews, and gas chambers. The chants have increasingly spread to contexts that are not related to soccer, even appearing in school graduation parties.
A spokesman for the Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI), an organization that has monitored antisemitism in the Netherlands for nearly 30 years, said the incident was the latest “example that we are far from tolerance and forbearance towards Jews in the Netherlands. I find it embarrassing and stupid that this has occurred on an NS train. We cannot accept this.”
The incident comes less than a week after CIDI published a report finding that antisemitic incidents reached a record high in the Netherlands in 2019. The number of incidents involving assaults, verbal threats and insults more than doubled, an increase to 61 from the 27 reported cases in 2018. Overall, the rate of antisemitic incidents increased by 35% in 2019 compared to 2018. It is also likely though that the rate of antisemitic incidents were higher than the report found since victims of antisemitism in the Netherlands often do not report antisemitic incidents to the police.
Separately, Dutch Railways announced in June 2019 that it would offer financial compensation to the survivors and relatives of Holocaust victims who were transported on their rail line during World War II. The announcement was welcomed by World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder as an “important step in ensuring that Holocaust memory and its legacy always remain on the side of the victims.” So far, Dutch Railways has paid €32m to the victims and close family members of people transported to concentration camps by the train system, according to NOS.