Last November, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, leader of the Dutch Liberal Party, exchanged his coalition partners, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Party, for the Labor Party. Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal, a Liberal, was replaced by Labor politician Frans Timmermans.
Uri Rosenthal had opposed anti-Israeli reports by the European Union and the United Nations, urged the EU to isolate Hezbollah, and had the Dutch government cut its funding of NGOs that deny Israel's right to exist and that fund and advocate boycott, divestment and sanction [BDS] activities, aimed at pressuring Israel to end its "occupation" of so-called Palestinian land.
In 2010, Salam Fayyad, Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, launched an international campaign to end the sale of produce from Jewish settlements in Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem.
The present Rutte government argues that labeling products from Judea and Samaria as made in Israel is misleading. According to the Dutch government, the area, which it refers to as the West Bank, is Palestinian territory occupied by Israel; the same applies to East Jerusalem.
Although there are literally scores of territories under dispute -- including Northern Cyprus, Gibraltar, Taiwan, the Falkland Islands, the Sakhalin Islands, Tibet, Kurdistan, Kashmir, Ossetia and the Western Sahara, as well as countless lesser-known areas -- Frans Timmermans, the new Dutch Foreign Minister, is a supporter of the BDS movement against only Israel. Last week, Timmermans told the Dutch Parliament that the label "Made in Israel" had to be removed from all products sold in the Netherlands that come from Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. So far, the labeling guidelines are not a legal requirement but a recommendation only. Nevertheless, Timmermans will be lobbying the EU to turn his recommendation for labeling into binding EU policy.
With its new policy, the Dutch government comes out in support of pressuring a fellow democracy, Israel. Israel might well wonder why, after four wars against it (1947, 1956, 1967, 1973), and decades of being shelled by missiles, mortars and rockets, it should continue to hold -- seemingly in perpetuity -- land for adversaries that are not only sworn to it destruction, but who even refuse to negotiate -- just in case one day their adversaries might feel like negotiating, as they are internationally and bilaterally legally obligated to do. Instead, Hamas has simply continued to advocate Israel's destruction, and the Palestinian Authority, in the West Bank, has tried to short-circuit its legal obligations by having the United Nations hand the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank all that it wants, free of cost.
Less than two years ago, Timmermans' predecessor, Rosenthal, stopped all Dutch government subsidies to non-government organizations [NGOs] that deny Israel's right to exist and that support BDS activities. Previous Dutch governments had each year allocated hundreds of millions of euros of so-called humanitarian aid to such organizations. They included the Dutch branch of Oxfam (Oxfam Novib), the Catholic Organization for Relief and Development Aid (Cordaid), and the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO). Some of these organizations, such as ICCO, received up to 90% of their budget from the Dutch government.
As a result, Dutch taxpayers' money has been funneled to radical organizations such as the virulently anti-Israel website Electronic Intifada, supported by ICCO, and, in addition to its BDS efforts against Israel, that also publishes articles accusing the Israeli authorities of genocide.
Timmermans' pro-Palestinian positions may well lead the Dutch government to resume its funding to ICCO and, hence, indirectly, to Electronic Intifada. Two years ago, Timmermans was one of the most vocal critics of Rosenthal's decision to cut funding to what he called "ICCO, this decent Christian organization." He also accused Rosenthal of trampling freedom of speech by his attempts at "censorship" of the Electronic Intifada.
Timmermans' BDS propaganda, however, also reinforces anti-Semitism in the Netherlands. Early this month, many ordinary Dutch were shocked when a group of Dutch teenagers of Turkish descent, interviewed on television, publicly professed their hatred of Jews and praised Adolf Hitler for his treatment of Jews, including the murder of Jewish babies. One of the youths said he was "more than pleased with what Hitler did to the Jews;" another added, "I hate Jews, period. Nothing you do will make me change my mind." The attitude of the Dutch Islamic youths does not differ from that of Islamic youths in neighboring countries. A recent survey in Belgium showed that 75% of young Islamic immigrants harbor anti-Semitic feelings, compared to only 10% of non-Islamic indigenous youths. A Dutch government minister, however, who advocates labeling Jewish products to comply with the demands of the anti-Semitic BDS movement, can only reinforce anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli feelings.
Following the airing of the interviews with the Turkish youths, the Simon Wiesenthal Center wrote to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, urging him to "take action on a broad front to investigate the presence of anti-Semitic attitudes in Dutch society." If the Dutch government were to distance itself from the BDS agenda, rather than support it, that would be a good first step. Allowing Dutch taxpayers' money to flow once again to websites such as the Electronic Intifada, which propagate anti-Semitism, would be a clear indication not only of the Dutch government's unwillingness to fight anti-Semitism, but of its willingness to support it.