AMSTERDAM — In an unusual rebuke, Israel’s embassy in the Netherlands expressed “great concern” over the hosting in Rotterdam of an event organized by Hamas supporters.
The embassy published the statement Friday ahead of Saturday’s gathering of several hundred people at a conference titled “Palestinians in Europe,” which the embassy said was a front for Hamas.
Authorities had denied a request by pro-Israel activists to march in Rotterdam Saturday in protest of the gathering, which was organized by the Palestinian Return Center, or PRC, Het Paroool daily reported.
Israel outlawed PRC for its alleged affiliations with Hamas in 2010. A 2011 report by the German Ministry of the Interior stated that “Hamas does not operate openly in Europe. Instead it uses, for instance, the Palestinian Return Center in London as a forum.”
The European Union blacklisted Hamas and regards it as an illegal terrorist group.
Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb, a Labor politician who was born in Morocco to a Muslim family and has spoken harshly against anti-Semitism, declined requests by representatives of the Jewish community to ban the gathering. He said the Dutch National Coordination Board for Counterterrorism and Security authorized the event, though a board spokesperson denied this.
Noting Israel’s concern over the gathering, the embassy’s statement (in Dutch) also addressed the rejection of the application for the march submitted by the Christians for Israel group. “At the same time, the silent march in Rotterdam, which is the least one can and should do against those who preach hate, extremism and terror, was not allowed to take place,” the embassy wrote.
Recently, the Dutch government prevented senior Turkish politicians from campaigning in the Netherlands for a “yes” vote in a referendum in Turkey, which passed on Sunday. It gave new powers to the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Whereas Israel routinely condemns recognition abroad of terrorist groups fighting it, its embassies rarely comment on administrative decisions in foreign countries, and especially not in friendly nations like the Netherlands.
Several Dutch politicians also protested the decision to allow the conference to take place.
“It defies logic that people are free to preach for subjugation, whereas a peaceful group like Christians for Israel is banned from performing a silent protest,” Joel Voordewind, a lawmaker for the Christian Union party, said Friday in a statement.
Among the speakers at the PRC conference was Dyab Abou Jahjah, a Lebanon-born activist from Belgium whom a leading daily recently fired allegedly for calling for violent attacks on Jewish Israelis. He wrote on Twitter: “by any means necessary,” in reference to an attack in which a Palestinian terrorist plowed a truck through a crowd of soldiers visiting a popular tourist spot in Jerusalem.
Jahjah — who after the 9/11 attacks of 2001 in New York spoke of his “feeling of victory” and who has called the heavily Jewish-populated city of Antwerp the “international capital of the Zionist lobby” — reiterated at the conference the statement that got him fired.
“I know there are officers of justice in the room, waiting to write down things. Let me tell you from now on: I have no problem supporting the Palestinian resistance against occupation by any means necessary,” Jahjah said, as hundreds of listeners applauded.