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Fireworks ignited and eggs thrown as Holocaust museum opens

Fireworks were ignited and eggs thrown as pro-Palestinian protesters gathered in Amsterdam where a new National Holocaust Museum has been opened.

The Israeli president’s visit to the newly-opened National Holocaust Museum in Amsterdam has sparked protests in the city.

Thousands of protesters were heard chanting “never again is now” and “ceasefire now” at Waterloo Square in central Amsterdam, near the museum, which held an opening ceremony on Sunday and invited guests including the Israeli president Isaac Herzog and Dutch King Willem-Alexander.

They also held Palestinian flags and signs that said “Jews against genocide” and “the grandchild of a holocaust survivor says: Stop Gaza Holocaust”.

Demonstrators hold Palestinian and Israeli flags. Pic: Reuters/Piroschka van de Wouw
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Demonstrators hold Palestinian and Israeli flags. Pic: Reuters/Piroschka van de Wouw

Demonstrators hold signs directing Mr Herzog to the International Court of Justice. Pic: AP/Peter Dejong
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Demonstrators hold signs directing Mr Herzog to the International Court of Justice. Pic: AP/Peter Dejong

Dutch Jewish anti-Zionist group Erev Rave organised the protest with the Dutch Palestinian Community and Socialists International, while human rights group Amnesty International put up detour signs around the museum to direct Mr Herzog to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

The protest organisers emphasised they were protesting against Mr Herzog’s presence and the war in Gaza, not the museum and what it commemorates.

“For us Jews, these museums are part of our history, of our past,” said Joana Cavaco, an anti-war activist with the Erev Rav Jewish collective, addressing the crowd ahead of the ceremony.

“How is it possible that such a sacred space is being used to normalise genocide today?”

Pic: Reuters/Piroschka van de Wouw
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Pic: Reuters/Piroschka van de Wouw

The Rights Forum, a pro-Palestinian Dutch organisation, called Mr Herzog’s presence “a slap in the face of the Palestinians who can only helplessly watch how Israel murders their loved ones and destroys their land”.

Addressing the inauguration of the museum, Mr Herzog said: “Friends, I am deeply grateful to everyone that has supported the establishment of this new Holocaust museum. At this pivotal moment in time, this institution sends a clear, powerful statement: remember.

“Remember the horrors born of hatred, antisemitism and racism. And never again allow them to flourish. Unfortunately, ‘never again’ is right now. Because right now, hatred and antisemitism are flourishing worldwide, and we must fight it, together.”

The Israeli president did not acknowledge the protests in his address and a spokesperson for the president declined to comment on them.

Mr Herzog was among Israeli leaders cited in an order by the top United Nations court earlier this year for Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in Gaza.

He accused the International Court of Justice of misrepresenting his comments in the ruling in January. Israel strongly rejected allegations levelled by South Africa in the court case that the military campaign in Gaza breaches the Genocide Convention.

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Israel's president Isaac Herzog (R) alongside Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte (L), at the opening of the new Holocaust museum in Amsterdam. Pic: Israel's president’s spokesperson
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Isaac Herzog (R) alongside Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte (L), at the museum. Pic: Israel’s president’s spokesperson

Israel's president Isaac Herzog at the opening of the new Holocaust museum in Amsterdam. Pic: Amos Ben Gershom / GPO
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Mr Herzog looking at one of the museum’s displays. Pic: Amos Ben Gershom / GPO

“I was disgusted by the way they twisted my words, using very, very partial and fragmented quotes, with the intention of supporting an unfounded legal contention,” Mr Herzog said days after the ruling.

In a statement issued ahead of Sunday’s opening, the Jewish Cultural Quarter, which runs the museum, said it was “profoundly concerned by the war and the consequences this conflict has had, first and foremost for the citizens of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.”

It said that it is “all the more troubling that the National Holocaust Museum is opening while war continues to rage. It makes our mission all the more urgent.”

The museum is housed in a former teacher training college that was used as a covert escape route to help some 600 Jewish children to escape from the clutches of the Nazis.

The number of Palestinians killed in Israel’s military offensive since the 7 October Hamas attacks has surpassed 31,000, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza.

Israel has accused the ministry of inflating its numbers, but in previous wars, its figures have held up to United Nations scrutiny, independent investigations and even Israel’s figures.

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