Something different: the flag

As if there aren’t enough problems in this world. At least, there are some persons who bring light and voice to international silence and darkness.

De Telegraaf

In the Netherlands, Gretta Duisenberg, the wife of Wim Duisenberg, the president of the European Central Bank has been flying the Palestinian flag at their home in Amsterdam. The standard was draped over the railings of a second-floor balcony, clearly visible from the street in the affluent neighbourhood where they live.

‘I am unhappy with the way in which the Netherlands and Europe have responded to what (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon’s government has done to the Palestinians,’ she told reporters of the Dutch daily newspaper De Telegraaf. ‘You must hold me responsible for the flag and not Wim. I am demonstrating with the flag in Amsterdam and I have hung it from the balcony,’ she was quoted as saying.

Gretta Duisenberg does not understand the complaints about her flying the Palestinian flag at their balcony. ‘Palestinians have to see the Israeli flag every day.’ Out of solidarity with the Palestinians, Duisenberg’s wife has for more than six weeks, hung a Palestinian flag from off her balcony, at her home in the Amsterdam neighbourhood Rivierenbuurt.

Gretta Duisenberg had bought the flag through the internet to take it with her to a demonstration held in Amsterdam on April 13, to protest Israel’s assaults on Palestinians. At the demonstration she walked in front with a group of Palestinian women from Jenin. After the demonstration, Gretta hung the flag from off the balcony adjacent to her study room. ‘Everytime we were in Amsterdam, during the weekend, I saw the flag. I appreciated that.’

This week, however, the flag disappeared. Wim Duisenberg, president of the European Central Bank brought the flag down. Gretta said that her husband brought down the flag after a criminal complaint alleging “anti-semitism” was lodged by a Jewish organisation ‘Federatief Joods Nederland’.

Gretta’s neighbours, Ron and Rosa van der Wieken consider the flag as ‘virtual inconvenience’. In particular, when they noticed that it became ‘a long-term project’, as they said. On May 9, Ron van der Wieken wrote his neighbours a letter (‘Gretta, Wim’) in which he requested that the flag would be brought inside. They referred to their children who live in Israel and to the ‘bloodthirsty regime’ which symbolized the flag. ‘We are Jews’, said Rosa van der Wieken. ‘They should understand that we don’t like this.’ Moreover, that flag was meant for us, she reportedly said to the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad.

Gretta Duisenberg said that their reaction was exaggerated. ‘Palestinians are every day forced to see the Israeli flag and the barrel of Israeli tanks everyday. Then, you must not be restrictive about your freedom in Amsterdam.’ When she read the letter, Gretta called her neighbours and got into an argument immediately. Her neighbour hold her responsible for what happens with his children. Rosa van der Wieken, who is a member of the Dutch liberal party, VVD, said that the ‘one-sided support for the Palestinian people is a form of anti-semitism.’ Gretta responded: ‘Nonsense! An anti-semite is somebody who blames a Jew for his very being and existence. That is not what I do.’

The chairman of the organisation, Herman Loonstein, and lawyer, alleged that Gretta was guilty of anti-semitism and inciting hatred. The complaint claimed that Duisenberg, as ‘one of the most powerful men in Europe and the world’ should distance himself from the comments of his wife. The organisation requested its sister organisation in New York, the World Jewish Congress to examine the possibility of having the ECB chief declared ‘persona non grata’ or an ‘undesired’ person in the U.S..