Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
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Almost 30 years since the death of the great Joop den Uyl

October 12, a new record to form a Dutch government has been posted by current negotiations. In length, it overtakes a fake formation attempt to create a Second Cabinet Den Uyl (see below). The new Government Rutte III is expected in another week, now a coalition agreement for its one-seat majority (76 out of 150 seats) has been reached.

December 24, 2017, it will be 30 years since the passing of the amazing Dutch Socialist politician Joop den Uyl. Here a few words about this remarkable man, in his honor and for our admonition and edification.


His prime-ministership (1973-77) knew much upheaval and turmoil (the oil crisis, terrorist attacks by Moluccans, the Lockheed affair (bribes for the Queen’s husband) and closing of an abortion clinic), among other points. But, just talking about these dramas would do his work injustice.

He was a true Socialist in that he saw himself as the representative of the workers – not for his glory but for their well-being. He was really principled and anything but an opportunist or weathercock. He would smile but his default attitude was grumpy. He knew what was at stake.

He was very stubborn, but that didn’t mean that his ears were stopped-up. He loved arguing with his close ones – not to win, but to find the best positions. Once he arrived at such conclusions, he would not butch.

His wife was a fiery feminist and he heard her. As prime minister he met with feminists, sat on the floor listening to them, in front of the cameras.

He did not sweat the small stuff, symbolic action. His first deed in 1973 was to give the most prominent organization for homosexuals, the COC, legal entity status. He also introduced a minimum youth wage. He encouraged many people to keep building a new more honest society. Den Uyl helped lay the foundations of the Dutch modern liberal attitude.

Yet, he was perplexed how little he could steer or influence things for the better. Everything seemed conditional on everything else and more than piecemeal change turned out impossible. Still, for me he embodied the will to fight, regardless. He stood for morality and integrity. Those make a difference, even when one is unable to implement most ideals.


The establishment already earlier employed him for dirty work. In 1965, coal-mines in the South had to close. Den Uyl was Finance Minister, got to announce it and then was widely blamed for it. The dirty trick worked. Many blue-color workers from then on saw Den Uyl as their enemy.

After rows concerning marriages from several of the princesses, the upcoming May 4, 1973, Queen Juliana’s Silver Jubilee, was feared as a cause for a public call of enough is enough, we want a republic. (Though, in presidential elections, Queen Juliana would have won anyway.) To have the Left in opposition was dangerous – it should be in government.

The 1976 Discovery of a Lockheed (and Northrop, covered-up by Den Uyl) scandal involving Queen Juliana’s husband, became another threat to the House of Orange-Nassau Monarchy. Socialist Prime Minister Den Uyl had to sooth the situation to keep the Queen from abdicating, which would have cost his party dearly in next elections. (The Queen was much loved for her humility and simplicity. At her accession to the throne she spoke the remarkable words: “Who am I that I am allowed to do this.“)

He was a brilliant orator with endless energy. Sometimes he won by debating opponents until they left exhausted, with only his people left.

Den Uyl was a genius debater and a clever political animal. And still, his rule fell through betrayal he had not anticipated. General elections after his maximal four years, gave the Socialist Party 10 more seats (from 43 to 53) – the Dutch wanted more of Den Uyl! The Christian parties held coalition negotiations with the Socialists for more than half a year, on the face of it to form a second cabinet Den Uyl. Yet, shockingly, they then suddenly struck a deal with Conservatives, bypassing the Socialists. His only administration was the last Dutch Left-wing one ever since.

Calm returned and Socialists became redundant again and were dumped by the established order. It cynically had used Left-winger Den Uyl to maintain the basic status quo.

After the coup, friends and family members jointly, as consolation, wrote him a brilliant roman à clef Cabinet 1989 : The Third Cabinet Den Uyl in Session (sorry, it’s in Dutch), in which he emerged a chanced hero who in his own nonchalant way saves the day, inspector Colombo style.

Following the putsch, he himself wrote much about how to bring about a better world, also internationally. Yet, his writings would stay largely unused by his untimely death. He smoked – at the time a popular way to hyper concentrate. That’s probably what killed him.


After him, few of his students or successors could stand in his shadow. For me, integrity in Dutch politics died with him. (Living in Israel now for 25 years, I don’t know if it meanwhile has reincarnated in anyone. My friend Eva van Sonderen suggests as candidate Den Uyl’s fellow Democratic-Socialist hard working idealistic humble honest fighter for a more just and loving city for all, also from a strict Calvist home and heavy smoker, the widely loved and mourned Mayer of Amsterdam Eberhard van der Laan, who just passed away from long cancer.)

Now, the Dutch Left on its own almost has a parliamentary majority (D66 19, GreenLeft 14, SP 14, Labor 9, Animal Party 5, and 50+ 4, even without Left-wingers in the Christian parties (19 + 5), total: 65) but at election time, it was terribly divided – while the Right was solidly unified. Rutte III, the upcoming Administration, has just presented its plans, and finally the Left is uniting – a year too late. Then they would’ve had the largest fraction and formed the new government, instead of Rutte, whose party lost 8 seats in the elections! Now they only can protest.

I read, from the age of 10, four dailies a day. At 16, I discovered their biases. At 1973, I was 20. I knew Dutch politics. Den Uyl was for me the only real politician I’ve ever seen in the Netherlands. He was an idealist. Almost the only one. He went into politics to work for a better world.

I feel honored and inspired to have lived at a time and place where I got to see a person move in the arena of lying self-serving egotist elitists and keep his integrity and heart for everyone. The great Joop den Uyl.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500th blog post with the ToI. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having a peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To find his earlier blog posts on a certain subject XXX, among his over 1200 ones, go to the right-top corner of the Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". His second daily active less tame blog, to which one may subscribe, one may find here: or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.