AMSTERDAM -- Reports of increased anti-Semitism and a secret video showing Jews harassed on the street in Amsterdam have prompted Dutch authorities to consider using "decoy Jews" -- undercover officers wearing yarmulkes -- to combat hate crimes.
No decision has yet been made to use the tactic. But the country's justice minister and Amsterdam's acting mayor both say they are considering it. And advocacy groups say intimidation has become a serious issue for Jews in the Netherlands.
"For ten years now Jews who are recognizable as such from their clothing can't walk peacefully on the street," the Center for Information and Documentation Israel, a Jewish activist group, said in a statement Friday. "The perpetrators of this kind of incident almost always get away unpunished."
The issue was given new impetus with the airing on television last week of a hidden-camera video produced by Joodse Omroep, or Jewish Broadcaster -- a small television company that gets an allotted amount of airtime each week on public TV stations.
For the video, two youths and a Rabbi wearing yarmulkes went walking in a primarily Moroccan neighborhood in Amsterdam. The footage showed them being subjected to a range of ill-treatment, from dirty looks to insults -- and even, from one man, a Nazi salute.
Dutch Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin said Thursday that decoys are sometimes used to lure hard-to-catch criminals, like rapists, and could have some use in combating hate crimes against homosexuals and Jews.
In response to questions from parliament, Hirsch Ballin said he would put together a program devoting more resources to investigating such incidents, as well as to more education in schools and a quicker legal process for discrimination-linked cases.
Recent press reports have claimed that anti-Semitism is on the rise in the Netherlands due to increasing friction with the country's Muslim minority, which now makes up 6 percent of the population.
But Hirsch Ballin told parliament -- in a debate prompted by the video -- that "anti-Semitism is not on the rise," citing government statistics from the first months of 2010.
"The number of incidents rises and falls, and is connected to tensions in the Middle East," he said.
The number of anti-Semitic discrimination cases in Amsterdam did rise in 2009 from the previous year, according to the country's anti-discrimination bureau, from 17 to 41. Discrimination cases on the basis of skin color or country of origin rose from 232 to 336 in the same period.
Amsterdam's acting mayor, Lodewijk Asscher, has also said he would consider the idea of using decoy Jews and other "unorthodox methods" to combat racism and homophobia. However, his spokeswoman, Tessel Schouten, said the city doesn't yet have specific plans to do so.
Hirsch Ballin's spokesman, Wim van der Weegen, said that other measures, such as increased camera surveillance on some streets, might be a more effective way of registering incidents.
But Van der Weegen said the justice minister believed using decoy Jews would be within the boundaries of the law.
"It would be impossible to say that wearing a yarmulke amounts to entrapment," he said.