SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A letter calling for more diversity in the foreign affairs ministry which was sent by civil servants to foreign minister Stef Blok was actually signed by 200 people, according to broadcaster NOS.
The existence of the letter first emerged at the weekend. In it, civil servants say the ministry is not taking on enough people with a bi-cultural background and asks for support at a senior level to improve the situation.
‘Diplomacy – our profession – is based on the fact that different nations and cultures can live in peace… if we listen to each other and continue to talk,’ the letter states. ‘We would like our department to reflect that thought and be an organisation in which people of different cultural backgrounds… work and feel at home.’
Sources told NOS that the letter is not directly linked to Blok’s much criticised comments about multicultural societies and refugees but that it is an indirect answer. Its publication followed Blok’s apology for his statements, made to a group of Dutch workers at international organisations.
A spokesman for the ministry said Blok is planning to meet civil servants to discuss the issues. Meanwhile, a group of actors, academics, journalists and writers have written an open letter in the Volkskrant outlining their fears about the increasingly polarising statements made by politicians.
Historian Geert Mak and comedian Claudia de Breij are among the signatories to the letter which states Blok’s comments are feeding racism. ‘What the foreign minister is really saying is that every immigrant is a potential risk to social peace in this country because there is no such a thing as a society in which different cultures live together peacefully,’ the letter states.
‘Xenophobia, a euphemism for the hatred of foreigners, is something he takes “a pragmatic” view of.’ Acceptable in debate They go on to urge political leaders to stop moving the boundary of what is acceptable in debate.
‘Stop promoting the division into a fictitious ‘us’ and ‘them’, the letter ends. ‘The effects on our society are destabilising, polarising and are having a real effect on real people, people who are just as ordinary as any other Dutch person. And who, like any other Dutch person, deserve to be represented with respect by their government leaders.’ (DutchNews)
This is an unofficial translation of the open letter signed by some 60 academics, writers, artists and actors criticising the way politicians are deepening divides in society.
‘Behave yourself or go’ – Mark Rutte (prime minister) ‘Anti-racist demonstrators are attacking our way of life’ – Raymond Knops (junior home affairs minister) ‘Social security and Dutch citizenship have to be earned’ – Klaas Dijkhoff (VVD MP) ‘Immigration and globalisation brought the clash of civilizations to ‘our home’.
The ‘ordinary Dutch’ were left bereft, as if the elite had taken away their freedom and equality and given them to the newcomers.’ – Sybrand Buma (CDA leader) These are only a few of the comments that politicians and MPs have made about our society over the last couple of years.
Last week foreign minister Stef Blok added a new low: ‘Give me one example of a multi-ethnic or multicultural society, where the original population still lives (..) where there is peaceful cohabitation.
I don’t know of any.’- Stef Blok We are extremely worried. Politicians belonging to the parties that make up our government are actively calling for a split in society and seem to think this is normal behaviour.
Comments that would have been unthinkable twenty years ago are now aired with impunity. What the foreign minister is really saying is that every immigrant is a potential risk to social peace in this country because there is no such a thing as a society in which different cultures live together peacefully.
Xenophobia, a euphemism for the hatred of foreigners, is something he takes ‘a pragmatic’ view of.
Politicians are increasingly positioning themselves at the far end of the scale in the debate about migration, integration or identity and fail to see that by doing so they are adding weight to the forces that favour racism, inhuman and discriminatory behaviour towards immigrants.
Every time a politician – someone responsible for the well-being of all Dutch citizens – airs these views the racist elements in our society feel vindicated. Even if he backtracks. Even if he makes half-hearted excuses, or fudges or retracts.
The words are out there and can’t be taken back. They have taken root in our society. It is comments like this that are putting pressure on our peaceful society. It is comments like this that undermine society and create and strengthen division.
It is comments like this that legitimise racists and extreme right-wing radicals and their hate campaign against everyone who is different. Dear politicians, we are calling on you to take responsibility.
Stop pandering to the ever-growing xenophobic and racist fears in our society. Stop pushing the borders of what is decent in the social debate. Stop promoting the split of a fictitious ‘us’ and ‘them’.
The effects on our society are destabilising, polarising and are having a real effect on real people, people who are just as ordinary as any other Dutch person. And who, like any other Dutch person, deserve to be represented with respect by their government leaders.
Meredith Greer – Writer Tirza de Fockert – Councillor GroenLinks Amsterdam Lieke Marsman – Poet Claudia de Breij – Comedian Akwasi – Rapper Eric Corton – Actor / Presenter Jurjen van de Bergh – Political commentator / Founder of De Goede Zaak Tinkebell – Artist Persis Bekkering – Writer Maurice Seleky – Writer Joyce Brekelmans -Journalist Nadia Bouras – Universitity Lecturer, Universiteit Leiden Raja Felgata – Founder Kleurrijke Top 100 Sylvana Simons – Founder BIJ1, councillor Amsterdam Christine Otten – Writer / Journalist Janneke Stegeman –Theologian Mona van den Berg – Photographer Hans Krikke – Director Samenwonen/ Samen Leven Amsterdam Nieuw West Amma Assante – Politician Ahmet Polat – Photographer Sunny Bergman – Filmmaker Murat Isik – Writer Glenn Helberg – Psychiatrist Babs Gons – Poet Dolly Bellefleur – Dolly Bellefleur Massih Hutak – Writer / Rapper Ingeborg Beugel -Journalist / Filmmaker Anke Laterveer – Writer / Presenter Claartje Kruijff – Theoloog des Vaderlands Olave Nduwanje -Lawyer, Activist and politician Marjolein van Heemstra – Writer dr. Ellen-Rose Kambel – Director Rutu Foundation for intercultural education Dylan Meert – Programme maker at Pakhuis de Zwijger Dave Ensberg-Kleijkers – Education administrator / Author Zoë Papaikonomou – Investigative journalist and author Annebregt Dijkman – Investigative journalist and author Barbara Vos – Programme maker at Pakhuis de Zwijger Egbert Fransen – Director Pakhuis de Zwijger Joost Baars – Poet Geert van Itallië -Director Melkweg Etchica Voorn – Author Anja Meulenbelt – Writer / Politician Izaline Calister – Singer Matthea de Jong –Programme maker Nikki Dekker – Writer / Radio maker Milou Deelen – Journalist Malou Holshuijsen – Presenter BNNVARA Joshua Livestro – Chief editor Jalta, Publicist Stan Veuger – Economist at American Enterprise Institute, visiting lecturer at Harvard University Robert Vuijsje – Writer Karin Spaink – Columnist Ronald Giphart -Writer Bénédicte Ficq – Lawyer Mano Bouzamour – Writer Robert Alberdingk Thijm – Screenwriter Norbert Ter Hall – Film director Jean-Marc van Toll – Author Devika Partiman – Social activist Marleen Stikker – Founder of the de Waag Society Natascha van Weezel -Journalist Samora Bergtop – Actrice Hans Laroes – Journalist / Chief editor Bart Chabot – Poet / Writer Simon(e) van Saarloos – Philosopher / Writer Elias Mazian – DJ Geert Mak – Writer Elsbeth Etty – Columnist