Leader of right-wing broadcaster resigns after anti-Semitism accusation
Taco Dankers, the supervisory board chair of broadcaster Ongehoord Nederland announced his resignation from the broadcaster with immediate effect. On Wednesday, Dankers was at the center of an article published by NRC stating that he is in charge of a think tank that regularly shares anti-Semitic statements.
"Unfortunately, controversy has arisen around me following recent media coverage. The press has painted an image of me which I myself do not recognize, and I distance myself in the strongest terms from anti-Semitism, racism and statements that lead to polarization, discrimination, and hate speech," Dankers said in a statement. "To remain would harm the important mission of broadcaster Ongehoord Nederland. That is why I will resign from my position as chair of the supervisory board today November 3, 2021."
The Dutch public broadcasting foundation, NPO, previously announced that it was "very shocked" by the reporting about Dankers and the think tank, and announced it would hold a meeting with the broadcaster. The board of Ongehoord Nederland said it stands "in word and deed" for respecting "all human rights."
Minister Arie Slob, whose portfolio includes media issues, said it is wise for Dankers to leave Ongehoord Nederland. "There is no place in the system for anti-Semitism," said the minister.
Israel interest group could file charges
Earlier in the day, the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI) said it was investigating whether it is possible to file a police report against Dankers and the think tank. "If it is legally possible, we will do it," said CIDI director Hanna Luden.
"This kind of anti-Semitic prejudice is a problem for our entire society, not just the small group of Jews who live here," Luden said of Dankers' alleged statements. "I find such xenophobic statements, such misconceptions about reality and different groups really alarming."
On Twitter, CIDI said that Dankers "blames the Jews for almost everything in a classically anti-Semitic way" in interviews, and the Gefira think tank publications. "This is incompatible with someone who holds a public position in the Netherlands," said Luden. "We believe that this person should not be involved in a public broadcaster."
The think tank promotes division and a fear of outsiders, CIDI said. "It is so clearly xenophobia, Jew-hatred, and conspiracy theories aimed at certain people," Luden said about Gefira's statements. "I can't imagine an ordinary person not getting sick of this."
National Coordinator on Fighting Anti-Semitism, Eddo Verdoner, told NRC that he wanted to talk to the Public Prosecution Service about Gefira, which he believes spreads "pure hatred." A recent bulletin from the platform from September reads as "a manifesto that looks like it came straight out of World War II."
Fourth high-profile resignation
In July it became clear that Ongehoord Nederland, led by Arnold Karskens, was allowed to join the public broadcasting system. This means that the broadcaster, just like the other aspiring broadcaster Omroep ZWART, can make programs for the NPO for the next five years. Karskens was previously criticized because he believes that public broadcaster NOS distributes "fake news." The Council for Culture gave him a slap on the wrist for that when he joined the system.
Dankers is the fourth employee of Ongehoord Nederland to resign from their position. Haye van der Heyden, Ybeltje Berckmoes and Joost Niemöller also resigned at earlier dates. The founder, Van der Heyden, left at the end of 2019, after he said that Holocaust deniers should be given space in the broadcaster's programs to tell their story during an episode of the NPO Radio 1 program De Perstribune. "The consequences in the media of last Sunday's interview on De Perstribune, which went well in my opinion, were so intense and bloody that I really don't need this anymore," the screenwriter wrote to the board of the broadcaster.
Berckmoes and Niemöller also resigned in May 2020. Berckmoes left because, according to her, there was no room at the broadcaster for "spiritual and other experiences." Niemöller withdrew after the broadcaster filed a claim for damages against the maker of a satirical film. Niemöller thought that was not an appropriate move for the broadcaster and its leadership.
Karskens did not want to comment on the news on Wednesday. He referred to Dankers' statement on the Ongehoord Nederland website.
Reporting by ANP.