Fight Hatred

Wednesday, Jul 23rd

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You are here: Profiles in Hate Media Figures Ilse van Heusden demonstrates how positive features about Israel can be transformed into an attack on the country and the Jewish People

Ilse van Heusden demonstrates how positive features about Israel can be transformed into an attack on the country and the Jewish People

Ilse van Heusden writes articles about Israel for the Dutch daily Trouw. She describes activities that might be seen as admirable by most people, but manages to slant the story so it is an attack on Israel. In doing this, she makes use of accusations and insinuations reminiscent of classic anti-Semitic rants and with little concern for the accuracy of her facts.


Trouw is a Dutch daily newspaper with a circulation estimated at 105,000 copies. The Trouw was started during World War II by members of the Dutch Protestant resistance. However, since 2009, while still considered a conservative newspaper, Trouw is part of the De Persgroep Nederland, owned by the Van Thillo family through their Flemish publishing house.

Her article from January 4, 2012 was on her experience of giving birth to a healthy baby boy in Israel. This would normally be a positive story about Israel because of the country’s excellent medical system and its high commitment to the health of mother and child. Indeed, Israel has a lower infant mortality rate than the Netherlands, which has one of the worst rates in Western Europe.

In the article, Ilse van Heusden uses skewed language to bash the Jewish state with a claim that it militarizes every aspect of Israeli life including childbirth. She also employs forms of stereotypical anti-Semitic language to attack Israel’s right to exist.

So how can she transform good pre-natal care into a condemnation of Israel and the Jewish People? She does this by finding a racist motive for the care she received. She begins by ridiculing the tests given to pregnant women to make sure everything is progressing normally. It is, to her, irresponsible to care that much about a mere baby. Her implication is that it is borderline racist.

Of course, she implies that this is part of an Israeli scheme to produce perfect babies – with its overtones of the eugenics based racism of the Nazi regime in seeking the perfect Aryan child. Therefore, she finds that the Jewish State recommends all of these excessive tests to make sure that they have nice, perfect children. Israelis, she says, are obsessed with perfect children, and will abort any child who falls short of this standard.

Van Heusden tells us that despite being healthy and not in the category of the Ashkenazi Jews… “yet I had to experience twelve echo tests and four blood tests.” She sees every test as proof of the Chosen People's absurd obsession with the health of an unborn child. She considered her Israeli doctor, doing everything possible to ensure the health of her baby, a scaremonger.

“To be pregnant in Israel is comparable to a military operation. Countless echos and blood tests should produce the perfect baby, nothing can be left to the luck of the draw. The state demands healthy babies….”

She complains that "the Israeli health insurance reimburses unlimited fertility treatments for women to 45 years, until they have two children. In the Netherlands there is a limit to the number of treatments and there is debate about treating women older than forty."

Wow! Isn’t it amazing that the Israeli medical system was ready to provide her with so many tests? Obviously they considered her to be undergoing a high risk pregnancy. Israeli women report an average of 4 to 5 echo (ultrasound) tests as usual and not the 12 as in the case of Van Leusden.

The reason so many tests were given was probably because Van Leusden was diagnosed with the CMV herpesvirus. Indeed Van Leusden is aware of the danger of this virus since in her article she admits that CMV can cause severe damage to the fetus. And she apparently was quite willing to take these tests. Prenatal care in Israel is organized according to World Health Organization recommendations.

There may have also been an age factor. She does not tell us her age in the article but she may have been of an age where the medical community believes there is a need for additional tests. (See picture above that was given on the internet as that of van Heusden).

Van Heusden then compared the Israeli prenatal care to the Dutch system which she holds in high esteem: “Every time I had to undergo such a test (diabetes blood test) it caused distress. In the Netherlands my first pregnancy was without problems and it was dealt with by the obstetrician accordingly. I was boring but ‘boring was good’, explained the obstetrician.”

Van Leusden’s criticism about the diabetes blood test is completely unjustified. This test – standard procedure in all modern medical systems – is designed to detect gestational diabetes; a disorder which can have serious and even fatal consequences for mother and child.

In actual fact, the prenatal program in Israel consists of recommendations only; a woman can refuse to conduct any test at all stages of pregnancy. There is no state demand that must be followed.

The high quality of Israeli health care is in part due to prevention programs such as prenatal care. There are nationwide population examinations for breast and colon cancer. Blood tests are almost standard during visits to a doctor.

As a result people are living longer (81.6 years in Israel compared with an average of 79.5 in the OECD). Israel has one of the highest cancer survival rates in the world (84% breast cancer survival rate in 2009). The same applies to the survival rate after a stroke (CVA) and Myocardial Infarction.

All this was achieved with a health budget which is approximately 60% lower than in the Netherlands ($ 2,165 per person per year compared with $ 5144 in the Netherlands) and a number of hospital beds that is far below the OECD average (2 per 1000 compared with 3.5 in OECD countries).

Ilse van Heusden continues with analogies to the Nazi regime in the State’s effort to make women into baby machines – “and a lot of them too.” Van Heusden does not understand the voluntary nature of childbirth in Israel. As she puts it, “…children are loved and honored here and Israel is a paradise when it comes to having children… But the flipside of the story is that having children is a demand and a discussion about that demand is not possible.”

Of course, this is all nonsense since the state does not interfere in the decision to have children; that is something Israelis decide for themselves. After the Holocaust, and under the constant conflict with the Arab world, Jews in Israel, religious and secular, of all socio-economic statuses, believe it is important to have more children than is the norm in the Western world.

She then suggested that the way Israel promotes having children is comparable to Arafat’s policy of using the womb of Palestinian women as a weapon. Obvious births are part of the preparation for war.

Van Heusden wrote: "The state promotes having children, including a large family. The battle with the Palestinians fought with birth rates. It's about numbers of Jews, the future of the country. "

To support these outrageous claims about State actions to encourage births, van Heusden incorrectly cites a quote made by former Minister of the Interior Shlomo Benizri in 2002. At the time Benizri declared: ‘the fear of losing Israel’s unique character obligates us to take action so as not to become a minority in our own country.” Benizri, however, was not talking about more Jewish babies, but about the influx of illegal immigrants and foreign workers.

This was followed by an outrageous lie that the state promotes child birth with child allowances. “The state promotes the birth of children by supplying, among other things, a considerable child allowance.”

But the fact is that an average child in Israel now receives 35 Euros per month. That is of course far below the Netherlands where child allowance is an average of 120 Euro per month for children born before 1995, and roughly 75 Euro for children born since then. Indeed, there were recent demonstrations in Israel against the government because of the high cost of raising a child.

Implicit in the discussion by van Heusden is that the State considers Jewish babies more important than other people's. This is nonsense when you consider that the approximately 20% Muslims and Christians that live in Israel receive the same health care as Jews. The Israeli medical establishment treats all patients (Jew, Arab, European, etc) equally. Israeli doctors also provide fertility treatment and prenatal care to Arabs.

She probably noticed, though she doesn’t mention it, that some of the other women in the hospital ward with her were Arab, that some of the nurses were Arab, and possibly one of her doctors was an Arab. Israeli hospitals are fully integrated. There is no such thing as a public hospital for only Jews or for only Arabs.

Ilse van Heusden in a January 5, 2010 article wrote about Israeli girls in combat units. She makes use of a series of photographs taken by Igor Kruter that depict the 'Karakal-girls' which won the Tarbut art prize in Israel. Igor Kruter is an Israeli photographer who is an alumnus of the Arnhem art academy and lives in Arnhem, the Netherlands.


Van Heusden writes about Dikla for this article, one of the seven girls portrayed by Igor Kruter. She shows us a picture of an Israeli woman soldier who serves in the Karacal Battalion from the series of pictures - but there is a mistake as the picture is of Tania seen on the left and not Dikla who is seen on the right of the picture above.

The Karacal is the only battle group in the Israeli armed forces in which boys and girls follow the same training and do the same jobs from border patrols to ambushing enemy forces. It was formed to guard Israel’s southern border from the threat of terrorist organizations, smugglers, infiltrators.

One would presume that van Heusden writing for a Dutch daily would take a feminist position and praise Israel for its willingness to establish a degree of gender equality in its armed forces. While the girls must volunteer to become combat soldiers, the course is strenuous and identical to that of any other exclusively male battalion.

But this is not a positive story about Israel; van Heusden prefers a stereotypical role of women who should be reluctant to use force. The article is titled: “No make up: Israel's female warriors.” Horror of horrors, these girls can not dress as models and instead must dress like combat soldiers.

Van Heusden writes” “On duty, the girls would not be allowed to walk around the way Kruger has depicted them. Jewellery, for one, is not allowed. “The enemy might be able to see it shimmer on your face,” Dikla explained. Make up is also out. “It would be pointless anyway, because we put camouflage paint on our faces.” Hair must remain bundled up at all times, and even the rolled up sleeves some of Kruger’s models boast are forbidden. “

Van Heusden did notice that the photographed female Israeli soldiers are shown as if they are in a fashion shoot. And of course, this is what it was, a fashion shoot. The pictures are of girls who could be models and not the typical girl in this unit (see picture above of girls from the actual Karacal Battalion, with an actual Karacal - wild cat -next to them).

 Van Heusden describes the experiences of Dikla Mimouni (21) and how she is losing her feminity. True, she sleeps with a stuffed animal like a young girl, but “below her pillow lies her other bunkmate: her rifle.” Her stuffed rabbit has no name, but her rifle does: Pikachu. Then again, her rifle never leaves her side during the day either. "I sleep with it, eat with it, and go out with it. My weapon protects me. I have never had such a long relationship,” Dikla said. Whenever she feels like sleeping on the bus, she embraces her rifle tightly. She wakes up in the middle of the night sometimes because she is lying on top of it. [A very cute description but a rifle is not placed under the pillow]

And apparently unforgivably, Dikla enjoys serving in the military. She guards the Egyptian border, where smuggling is rife. She is at her best when out on patrol. “It is exciting to get out there with the dogs. It gives me a good feeling, and that is what I do it for,” she said. After two years, she doesn’t regret joining Karakal one bit: “After doing this, I know I can do anything.”

But van Heusden’s main objective is to describe the cruelty of Israeli forces in the Palestinian territories. So she adds to this article her version of what is to be seen in a documentary entitled “To See if I’m Smiling” by Tamar Yarom, an Israeli filmmaker who interviewed women looking back on their tours in the Palestinian territories. Yarom asked six women to talk about their experiences in the Israeli army. And what is to be learned from one of these women: She thinks the military has not become softer under female influence. It just makes the girls that join it tougher. “You start talking like a man. You hide your feminine traits to fit in better,” one girl stated in a

Van Heusden describes “The younger girls in Karakal” in contrast as “Still untouched by cruelty” because they do not have these issues to cope with - They are not serving in the Palestinian territories, and are still caught up in the euphoria the army can generate. They are still lapping up the camaraderie, the tough image and the respect of their fellow citizens. Dikla has not yet been privy to that cruelty. She has only used her weapon once, to fire a warning shot during a chase. She has four months left before her time is up and she has to turn in her weapon.

On the other hand, van Heusden lets us know that in the movie there are smiling girls dancing in uniform and posing with the dead body of a prisoner. In the documentary she tells us, they share the horrors: torture, fear of dying, bearing responsibility for the lives of others. Horrible events that still haunt them years later. “Sometimes I feel a little bit crazy. I have all these memories that have so little to do with reality,” one former soldier said.

For the women, the question is not if they deal with these problems differently from men, but how to deal with them in the first place. One former soldier who is now a mother is interviewed as saying: “Every time my baby starts crying hysterically, it hits that one nerve. It takes me back in time. I am not a bad mother, except in those moments. Then I can be like the devil.”

Yes, the women in Tamar Yarom’s film who served in the Palestinian territories returned with traumas. But not because of the reasons she gives in the article. The movie shows that there were other reasons for these girls to feel pain. They went through the experience of battles where Palestinian terrorists killed indiscriminately.

There is the girl soldier who was handed a Jewish baby killed in 2001 by a Palestinian sniper. "There was a baby girl who was wounded and we couldn't treat her very well and there was a feeling that she was in my care because I was the local commander. The next morning, people said: 'Congratulations, you've had your first dead person,'" she says in the film.

Then there is the girl who served as a Border Police officer at an Israel Defense Forces checkpoint. In the film she describes her friend who was shot in the jaw and skull in October 2001 - the first female Border Police officer to be wounded during the 2nd intifada.

Another girl tells about learning that the brigade commander and 12 others had been killed. All of a sudden, I'd become an adjutancy officer and it was my job to relay information to the families of the injured. One of them was the boyfriend of a friend, and I had to tell her that he died of his wounds."

Another girl tells about two Palestinians disguised as women - because they didn't search women – who managed to open fire and a soldier was killed and others were wounded. Then I was ordered to accompany such operations in order to search the women.

And another girl describes the day she was discharged and had to attend the funeral of a friend, whom, she says, "was killed by friendly fire in a stupid operation. That day I felt like everything was falling apart. I went through a tough period of depression."

There is also a difference in what Ilse van Heusden tells us about the photographer’s objectives for the series of pictures and what he himself has to say. She claims that the photographer shares her own ideological commitments regarding the contrast between the cruelty of war and the tenderness of a woman, and youth. Furthermore, she writes that Kruter’s work emphasizes the absurdist combination of the girls’ beauty and the brutality of the arms they bear.

But this view of the girls turns out to be the personal opinion of van Heusden and not of the photographer. The photographer on his web site gives a different emphasis as he states that the pictures were about “the power of women.” Indeed, the one direct quote from the photographer in the article is that: “In my work, I try to study the female existence. She gives life, but can also take it away.”

Ilse van Heusden in her July 15, 2011 article writes about an Israeli bus company winning the tender for bus service in North Holland Waterland region. The Egged Bus Company won an eight-year bid through its European subsidiary EBS in a competition against leading European service providers: Connection, the French company Keolis, and Arriva, the current operator.

In obvious horror about this decision, van Heusden explains that this bus company provides service in the occupied territories to Jewish settlers and therefore she claims Egged should be seen as violating some international law. A spokesman for EBS, however, says: "We are a bus company, not a political organization,” and stressed, it is a "Dutch company with Dutch employees. Nevertheless, van Heusden seems to believe the decision is just another case of the powerful Jewish lobby contaminating the Dutch countryside.

Van Heusden describes unrest among employees and action groups in Waterland. FNV trade union official Paul van Golde found it scary for some of the employees. "They fear that attacks can occur against the buses because of the tension between Israel and the Palestinians." And there are doubts about the political role of the Israeli company.

Dutch pro-Palestinian activist groups want action against the bus company. Sonja Zimmermann, of the network “Working together for Palestine," states that: "Egged makes money on the backs of the Palestinians.” "In fact, the Dutch government violates international law by supporting a company that violates the Geneva Convention." Zimmermann is considering legal action, but she does not know what action, and whether it is even possible.

According to the Amsterdam metropolitan department, responsible for bus services in Waterland, the Netherlands can not simply reject a supplier. "Whether or not Egged operates in occupied areas has not been investigated by the Metropolitan Region," said a spokesman. In any case, "This information can not be taken into account in decision making. In the Netherlands, there is no boycott against Israeli companies, and refusing to consider them would not stand up in court.

Ilse van Heusden writes: According to Adam Keller, from the Gush Shalom activist group, Israeli settlements would not function without the services of the Egged buses. Egged work is part of government support for settlements. "Settlements are often remote. Without a government subsidy, the buses there are not profitable."

And what type of organization is Gush Shalom from which van Heusden obtains her information? It is seen by most in Israel as representing the radical wing of Israel's “peace movement:” a group that believes that they alone represent the true apostles of peace and those opposing their views are fascists, racists, and warmongers.

The apparently negative fact that bus lines are subsidized, however, is not unique to the busses serving settlements in Israel. It is a general economic fact that most bus lines to peripheral areas are problematic and often call for government subsidizes. In the entire world, bus services to peripheral areas are usually subsidized or there are no bus lines.

What van Heusden fails to mention is that Egged, the largest transit bus company in Israel, is a cooperative owned by its members. Egged in Israel has 6,291 employees, of whom more than 4,000 are drivers, including both Jewish and Arab drivers, and of the drivers, 2,080 are cooperative members, while the remainder are salaried staff with the option to later become members. As an enterprise, Egged has been an economic success story since it not only operates public bus lines, but also provides special tourist and private transportation needs, is active in the public transport sector in Poland and Bulgaria, as well as in Holland, and manages 25 central bus stations.

Indeed if they were informed about the cooperative nature of Egged, many in the Netherlands might see it as an enterprise to be admired and copied. Maybe that is why it is not mentioned by van Heusden. Egged is a fine example to the Dutch on how worker ownership can create a successful company. They would learn that Egged Management is elected by the cooperative members (drivers) through a two stage process. First 85 members of a representative assembly are elected in internal elections every four years. Then a management of 19 members is elected by Representative Assembly members. It is this elected management that approves the budget, the cooperative’s policy in various fields, its investments, and loans.

Further Reading:

Turmoil in the Netherlands: Jews, Football Hooligans, Moroccan Immigrants, and the Liberal Establishment

Fighting laws against the Jewish religion – Holland against Schechita

Dutch Football Player Apologizes

Arab Group Fined for Cartoon Denying Holocaust

Human rights organization concerned by ‘rampant’ anti-Semitism in the Netherlands