Slain Filmmaker Left Complex Legacy

By Marc Perelman

Published November 19, 2004, issue of November 19, 2004.

Several Muslim activists with possible connections to international terrorist networks have been arrested in the wake of the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh. Earlier this month in Amsterdam, the anti-Islamic filmmaker was killed by a Muslim militant, igniting a wave of violent incidents against churches and mosques in the Netherlands.

Ruben Vis, the secretary general of the Nederlands-Israëlitisch Kerkgenootschap, the main Dutch Jewish organization, said the violent incidents that followed the murder had raised concerns in the Jewish community, especially since a letter stuck on Van Gogh’s body by his murderer contained threats against Jews.

Only one Jewish group put out a statement condemning the killing; the rest remained silent.

While most of the media’s attention has focused on Van Gogh’s rants against Muslims, he also had his share of disputes with the local Jewish community.

He accused novelist Leon de Winter of using his Jewishness to sell books; during a long legal battle, Van Gogh portrayed de Winter as having barbed wire wrapped around his penis and yelling “Auschwitz” whiel having sex with his wife.

In 1991, television anchor Sonja Barend and a Jewish organization sued Van Gogh after he joked in an article about Jewish filmmakers and writers: “Hey, it smells like caramel today — well then, they must be burning the diabetic Jews.” The court slapped him with a fine for antisemitism.

In recent years, he shifted his criticism toward Muslims, most recently in a short film called “Submission” that featured scantily clad women with Koran verses scrawled on their bodies.

Vis said there was “no question” that Van Gogh harbored antisemitic and anti-Muslim feelings.

“The Jews did the right thing by bringing him to court,” he told the Forward. “The Muslims did not do so — and in retrospect it might have been a good thing” if they had used legal means to counter Van Gogh’s polemics.



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