The Low Countries at Their Lowest

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NRC Handelsblad is arguably the most respected newspaper in the Netherlands.  Hans Moll was an editor there for twenty years.  He is now retired, and has a few things to say about what he experienced there.

In his new book, Verzwijgen als of het gedrunkt staat, of Hoe de nuance verdween: NRC Handelsblad over Israël, de Islam en het integratiedebat (How the Nuance Vanished: NRC Handelsblad on Israel, Islam, and the Integration Debate), Moll provides a very valuable document of our time: an insider look at the kind of day-to-day reportorial and editorial decision-making, in matters big and small, that leads a newspaper to convey a less than objective view of the world.

Moll’s accounts of his professional experiences do not necessarily apply only to his own former employer.  Like many other “newspapers of record” across Europe and in the U.S., NRC Handelsblad leans to the left, and the stories Moll tells about his newspaper provide insight into the mentality of journalists and editors at elite dailies ranging from The New York Times to The Guardian to Le Monde.

Moll began as a freelance editor, and then a full-time editor, for NRC‘s book section.  Back then, in the late 1980s, he was proud to work for NRC, which he considered the summit of Dutch journalism.  The newspaper once called itself “a whetstone for the spirit “ and prided itself on its objectivity and nuance.  But no more.  Its coverage, especially of Islam-related issues and of the Middle East conflict, has been increasingly one-sided.  It is now distinctly pro-Hamas and anti-Israel.  “If you’re seeking news about the misconduct of young Moroccan men,” laments Moll, “you must read something other than the newspaper NRC Handelsblad.”

In the offices of NRC‘s book-review section, Moll tells us, there is a bookcase crowded with recently published titles.  Most of them are books that reviewers aren’t interested in writing about, and that therefore can be taken home by anyone who wants them.  After 9/11 and the 2004 murder of Theo van Gogh, Moll grew increasingly interested in Islam in the West – and discovered many works on the topic in that bookcase full of discards.  He found some of them “very interesting.” But why, he wondered, weren’t these books by people like Hirsi Ali, Ibn Warraq, Sam Harris, Roger Scruton, and Paul Berman not being reviewed?  The answer soon became clear enough.  These authors, according to his colleagues, were “neocons” – and, therefore, untouchables.  When a fellow NRC reporter saw Moll with a copy of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book My Freedom, he clicked his heels Nazi-style and, rendering the title in German, said, “Good book, huh – Mein Freiheit!”

At the other end of the NRC spectrum from “neocon” Nazis like Hirsi Ali are people like John Esposito, who was interviewed for NRC by its Middle East editor, Carolien Roelants, when his book Who Speaks for Islam? came out. Roelants identified Esposito in her piece as a professor of international affairs and Islamic studies at Georgetown University; what she omitted to mention was that he runs Georgetown’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center, named for and funded by a member of the Saudi royal family.  Moll notes that some might call Esposito a “’bought” professor; but Roelants appeared to be at pains to stress his supposed “neutrality.” As Moll points out, Esposito’s sanguine message about the future of Islam in the West is hard to reconcile with – among much else – 2009 survey results showing that one-third of British Muslim students consider it legitimate to kill in the name of Islam and that forty percent support sharia law in the U.K.  But such information, Moll observes, has yet to make it into in the NRC.

Then there’s Israel.  When a new synagogue opened in Amsterdam last year, Israeli Ambassador Harry Kney-Tal gave a speech in which he mentioned Israel’s shabby treatment by the media.  He had sent a letter to the NRC about an article in which Israel’s founding was recounted entirely from a Palestinian perspective.  Nowhere in the article, complained Kney-Tal, was there “even the slightest reference to the fact that the newborn Israel in 1948 was dealing with a war of extermination.” NRC never ran the letter.

Nor does one ever read on the front page of NRC about “Palestinian dignitaries, politicians and imams calling for the destruction of Israel.” While Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reports almost daily online about anti-Semitic and anti-Israel “TV broadcasts, radio speeches, textbooks, plays, sermons and historical treatises” in the Palestinian territories – which teach “that the Protocols of Zion are authentic,” that “Israel spreads AIDS,” that “Jews are intrinsically bad,” that “Israel has no right to exist,” that “the Holocaust was an exaggeration,” that “terrorist attacks against women and children are warranted,” and that “children may commit terrorist attacks” – such news is not fit to print on the front page of NRC. Yet while it deep-sixes Muslim Jew-hatred, NRC eagerly declares Geert Wilders to be a hater of foreigners and attributes to Israeli parliamentarian Aryeh Eldad the view (which he has never expressed) that Muslims are not human.

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  • Larry

    What does NRC stand for?

    • g_jochnowitz

      Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant

  • BS77

    The Dutch, the English, the French…..take that PC libtard multicult open immigration weed, stuff it in yer pipe and smoke it….choke choke, cough cough….yeah, choke on it. How do you like it now? It's a nasty thing, isn't it? You have invited the Trojan Horse into your gates and now you moan in regret. Well, whaddya goin' do?

  • Guest

    There seems to be a psychological need, among Left wing Westerners, to always look the other way when non-white people commit acts of hatred and violence, and to somehow put the ultimate responsibility on the West, for everything.

    Where does this need comes from? Western cultures are probably, by and large, the most sensitized cultures when it comes to intolerance and hatred. Thanks to the progressive Left wing tradition in Western countries, Western cultures are the most sensitized and consciously anti-racist and inclusive societies in the world. But somehow
    this admirable quality, brought to us by the LEFT- is completely lost when it comes to bigotry and sexism and racism and imperialist aspirations from non-Western people.
    In fact, it is THE LEFT that is the most active in looking for explanations to excuse racism, imperialism and violence when it comes from non-Western people.

    Where else but in Western countries has it become a stigmata to even give a hint of prejudice towards people from other cultures and races?

    Why is it that precisely these highly-conscientiously anti-racist culture strives to find excuses for the most vitriol, retrograde forms of bigotry and hatred when the perpetrators are non-white? Why does precisely this Western culture which frowns on religious bigotry from Christian conservatives, find excuses for much worse bigotry and violence when the religious bigots happen to be Muslim?

    Are we so used to examining our own Western crimes -past and present-, that we no longer even accept the idea that fascism and imperialism and racism and sexism are by no means exclusive property of Europeans?

    WTF is wrong with us?

    • traeh

      I think the answer is partly that the left to some extent projects human relationships as experienced in the West, onto relations between States. In the West, a significant threshhold of maturity is crossed when we recognize that the "Other" is not to be rejected or scapegoated, and that we shouldn't project our own flaws onto him. And that (unconsciously) Christian attitude works decently well in a culture that has had 2000 years to figure out "Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's", i.e., to figure out separation of religion and state, individualism (based on freedom of conscience), etc. In a society of individual rights, respect for the Other as due equal rights and respect to oneself generally works. But then many on the left take that psychological epiphany of altruism and open-mindedness, approrpriate in their own society, and project it in a very self-centered way on the whole world. But what if the whole world doesn't believe in individual freedom? What if the whole world doesn't believe in separating religion and state? What if there is totalitarianism? And so the left, by a paradoxical provincialism, ignorantly projects its own decency onto evil actors. And any conservative who suggests that there are evil actors is treated as a backwoods provincial who has never learned to be open to the Other. But in fact, in some ways the conservative is more open to the Other, because the conservative in some cases recognizes the actual character of the Other, where the liberal does not.

    • David Tsal

      What's wrong with us is that we are human beings.

      We are all human. As humans, we are made of both desire for good and desire for evil.

      Leftists believe that evil can be defeated. This is already a big mistake, but they also forget to take into account the evil withiin themselves, or even don't see it at all. But it's there. So it's bound to come out. If it doesn't come out one way, it comes out the other, as in support of every non-white dictatorship and shenanigans (and even the "correct" white ones, llike those from Communist Soviet Union.)

  • Jim

    Think…" left wing bigotry"

  • steven l

    Is it not true that Holland send to the Concentration Camps more Jews than any other country of Europe!

  • Thome

    Your brother and many others like him will one day wake up in the nightmare called reality, which is created by his stupid Flower Power Generation. Our world is dealing now with the damages caused by the crooked idea's born in the '60 movements. Everything is those people was false and morbide: starting by the adoration of mass murderers like Mao, Castro and Che Guevarra and end by political correctness toward Muslim terror. An excellent example for left wing elitism is the situation in Sweden and Norway who are slowly falling apart due to mass immigration of Third world anaphabetes who are creating Sharia enclaves in countries that tried to give them shelter.

  • diann

    I understand your comments. There is a price we pay for speaking the truth as we see it. It's true that our liberal friends and family will distance themselves from our message. Somehow we are expected to accept theirs without question. Be strong and hold to your beliefs…. always open to incoming information from any direction…. and an ability to adjust your views in the light of new evidence. Blessings….

  • StephenD

    Chez my friend, perhaps an appeal to the common values you both share is in order. For instance, he may not recognize that you both in fact, desire to see such things as Fairness and Equality upheld and that you both disapprove of Stealing, etc. All these ideas that you both share are approached from different angles and believed not held by the other. When you can show him you too truly care for the welfare of your fellow citizen and the way you would demonstrate that is by thus and such as opposed to his approach of this and that.
    My point is, the things that matter in life are mostly shared and once acknowledged can be the foundation of growth (of your understanding and relationship with one another). Just my simple two cents.

  • BS61

    He may still wake up – I did just recently! I was stuck in the MSM for way too long.

  • InRussetShadows

    So now God is responsible for the Holocaust, and not the Nazis, huh. So the Nazis had no choice in what they did and can't be held accountable? Who then was responsible for your post? Was that God too? *laughs* You can't be serious. You didn't even think through the results of your foolish position.

  • g_jochnowitz

    Why didn't God strike Hitler with a bolt of lightning? If He wants, He can still do so with Khamenei, Ahmadinejad, Nasrallah, etc.
    The only unambiguous victory of the Jews in the Bible is found in the Book of Esther, where God's name does not appear.
    As for the ten plagues, they were anti-Egyptian and only tangentially pro-Jewish. Once the Jews made it over the Sea of Reeds, they were left to die of thirst and get attacked by Amalekites and others.
    Here is my poem on the subject:….