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Viewing cable 05THEHAGUE3064, NETHERLANDS/PARIS RIOTS: COULD IT HAPPEN HERE?

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05THEHAGUE3064 2005-11-10 14:02 2011-01-20 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy The Hague
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 THE HAGUE 003064

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/08/2015
TAGS: KISL NL PHUM PINR PREL PTER SCUL SOCI KPAO
SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS/PARIS RIOTS: COULD IT HAPPEN HERE?

REF: A. POLITICS IN THE NETHERLANDS.11/8-9/05
B. THE HAGUE 02705
C. THE HAGUE 03008

Classified By: CHARGE CHAT BLAKEMAN FOR REASONS 1.5 (b) and (d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: The Dutch are concerned that riots similar
to those in France are unlikely, but could erupt in the
Netherlands given a dramatic trigger event, especially
between police and Muslim youth. Embassy contacts emphasized
that differences between the French and Dutch immigrant
communities and social policies make such unrest relatively
unlikely absent provocation. National and local governments
are taking measures to reduce the likelihood of French-style
riots and to end them quickly should they occur. END
SUMMARY.

2. (C) The rioting in France has forced Dutch politicians,
community leaders, and average citizens to take a hard look
at their own society. The Dutch media has presented an
extensive debate as to whether such unrest could occur in the
Netherlands. Local government officials, police, academics
and Muslim community leaders generally downplay the
likelihood of violent protests and stress the difference
between the French and Dutch situations.

3. (C) The Dutch consider the following as major differences
between the two countries: there is more contact in the
Netherlands between white Dutch and immigrants; immigrant
housing conditions in Holland tend to be better and less
ghettoized; and the Dutch police are perceived to be more
community-minded and less heavy-handed with immigrants. One
Dutch-Moroccan youth leader, Ahmed Dadou, who lived in Paris
for one year told emboff, Life may be bad for Muslim youth
in Amsterdam, but the situation is nothing like the suburbs
of Paris. Even kids who live in segregated, so-called bad
neighborhoods here have encounters with the rest of society
through school or shopping or being on the street.

4. (C) Dutch police contacts informed RSO on November 7
that police intelligence units have no indications that
youths are planning disturbances in any major Dutch city,
including Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague, all
considered possible flash points because of their sizable
Muslim populations. The Mayor of Rotterdam told Charge on
November 7, for example, that he was confident that
Rotterdam will remain calm, despite the widely publicized
resignation of a right-wing council member this week for
making anti-Muslim remarks. As a precaution, the police have
increased their presence in minority neighborhoods in large
cities and have promised a quick response should violence
erupt. Police have also increased dialogue with community
groups and are aware that the Muslim community may be very
sensitive to police actions perceived to be against Islam.
The Neighborhood Fathers, a watch group in Amsterdam, for
example has increased its cooperation with local police and
guaranteed that no riots would happen in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is paradise compared to Paris, one member of the
group told police during a recent neighborhood meeting.
Professor Meindert Fennema at University of Amsterdam said on
November 8 that, although notorious troublemakers could be
provoked to follow the French example and set cars on fire,
major riots are unlikely.

5. (C) Nearly all of our contacts acknowledged that violent
unrest in the Netherlands, while unlikely, was a distinct
possibility. Violent clashes did break out between immigrant
youth and police in Amsterdam in 1998, and although there
were not actual riots after the murder of Pim Fortuyn and
Theo van Gogh, van Gogh's murder did bring some civil unrest
in the form of attacks against mosques and churches
throughout the country. During a meeting November 7, Jean
Tillie, a sociologist from the University of Amsterdam, told
emboffs that ten years ago he would have said absolutely no
riots would occur here; now he is not so sure. The climate
has changed in the Netherlands. Youths are more
disillusioned and radicalized that we thought.

6. (C) Mohammed Assa of the Street Corner Foundation in
Eastern Amsterdam told emboff November 7 that he would not
rule out French-style riots: Everyone talks about the riots
and many sympathize with what is happening in Paris.
Chatrooms catering to immigrant youth have been filled with
discussions of the French riots and comparisons -- many
negative -- with the situation of Muslim youths in Holland.
Dadou noted that the French government has so far been
careful not to emphasize the role of religion among the
rioters; if this were to change, he added, Dutch Muslim youth
might feel increased solidarity with their French
counterparts and could be more inclined to take to the
streets in sympathy.

7. (C) Moustapha Baba, a prominent Dutch-Moroccan businessman
and community leader in Amsterdam, told emboff November 9
that feelings are tense in the Netherlands and riots could
result if there were a trigger event. If the police threw a
grenade into a mosque, I think youngsters would explode,
said Abdel Bouali a youth worker in the Amsterdam
Neighborhood of Osdorp. Such trigger events are difficult to
predict. In 1998, for example, long-standing tensions
between Moroccan youth and police erupted into violence after
a relatively minor altercation between a policeman and a
Moroccan boy and his father. Noting that riots were always
possible, Amsterdam West police youth coordinator Ton Smakman
told emboff November 8 his greatest fear was that, One
stupid guy may see on television what is going on in France
and decide to do something like that here.

COMMENT
-------

8. (C) In the past year, the GONL has twice braced for riots
that did not occur: once after the murder of Theo van Gogh in
November 2004, and once after a white Dutch woman ran over
and killed a Moroccan youth attempting to steal her purse in
January 2005. In both instances, community leaders and
government officials combined calls for restraint with quick
action to identify and punish perpetrators of racist violence
on both sides. Behind the quick responses, however, was a
palpable fear that such incidents could easily spin out of
control -- and that Dutch society is ill-prepared to deal
with serious unrest among its large and disaffected immigrant
youth population. This realization is fueling a growing
debate in the media and political circles here on what can be
done to make French-style riots not only unlikely, but
unthinkable. END COMMENT.
BLAKEMAN