AMSTERDAM (JTA) — On one of the Dutch capital’s busiest squares, a middle-aged Jewish man draped in an Israeli flag bellows insults at another man holding a Palestinian flag and posters promoting a boycott of Israel.
The shouting startles a woman buying a herring sandwich from a food truck parked between the men on Leidse Square on a recent Friday.
“Don’t worry about him, love, he’s harmless,” the vendor tells her of Michael Jacobs, the man wearing the Israeli flag.
Jacobs is retired motivational speaker and photographer who has devoted the past two years of his life to picketing and heckling activists from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
He may appear harmless to Jacobs to passersby, but he is giving fits to the Dutch BDS movement. He got the city to curtail some BDS activities in Amsterdam’s main square and ended their monopoly on the street-level Israel debate.
These achievements have turned Jacobs into something of a hero among some Dutch supporters of Israel.
But these recent successes required considerable sacrifices.
Since 2016, police have detained Jacobs a dozen times. In September that year, he was fined for disturbing public order and spent six days in jail because he refused to promise the judge that he would stop picketing BDS activists.
“Why should I agree to such a demand?” Jacobs said. “No law forbids me from standing next to (them).”