Israel upbraids Dutch over ‘preposterous’ Mideast report
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Israel upbraids Dutch over ‘preposterous’ Mideast report

Official document laments Palestinian suffering while ignoring terrorism, critics say; calls for talks with Hamas and sanctions against Israel

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

A pro-Gaza march in Amsterdam in 2009. (photo credit: CC BY Jos van Zetten, Flickr)
A pro-Gaza march in Amsterdam in 2009. (photo credit: CC BY Jos van Zetten, Flickr)

A Dutch report on the Middle East conflict that paints Israel as the sole aggressor drew a harsher-than-normal response from Jerusalem recently, in a challenge to its traditionally close ties with the Netherlands.

The report, published in March by the Advisory Council on International Affairs, has also been harshly criticized by pro-Israeli Dutch politicians, who charge that it is full of factual errors and unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinians. Among other shortcomings, critics bemoan that the report, entitled “Between Words and Deeds: Prospects for a sustainable peace in the Middle East,” calls for sanctions against Israel because of settlements yet advocates talking to Hamas and omits any reference to Palestinian terrorism.

“I must conclude that this has to be a fake report. Either that, or a particularly daft parody of a ‘typical European Middle East policy’ report,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, wrote to The Times of Israel. “Were this a real position document, it would not have made so many elementary mistakes in its basic assumptions. This error-rich flatbed engenders, by logical deduction, a whole set of expectedly misled and misguided analytical statements, which in turn bring the text to some uproarious conclusions.”

The Netherlands is considered one of Jerusalem’s closest allies in Europe, being the only country on the continent to list both the military and civilian wings of Hezbollah as terrorist organizations.

The Dutch embassy in Ramat Gan refused to comment either on the report or Palmor’s response, referring to the Foreign Ministry in The Hague. But ministry spokesman Ward Bezemer also opted to remain silent. “I’m afraid we’re not interested to react,” he wrote in an email to The Times of Israel. Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, who visited Israel earlier this month, has not publicly spoken about the report, though he was scheduled to deliver a reaction before July 5, when the Dutch parliament’s summer recess begins.

‘As long as Israel’s actions in occupied territories do not change, there is no reason for the Netherlands to promote bilateral relations with Israel’

The Advisory Council on International Affairs, which is based at the Dutch Foreign Ministry, is an “independent body which advises government and parliament on foreign policy,” according to its website. “Between Words and Deeds,” a report that includes nonbinding policy recommendations, was commissioned by the Dutch Senate and it is now upon the Foreign Ministry to decide whether to adopt its positions.

Han ten Broeke, a senior lawmaker from the Netherlands’s ruling party, VVD, called the 58-page report [Dutch] an “astonishing combination of wishful thinking and biased and unrealistic recommendations.”

The text “is unbalanced and unfair,” he said in a statement. “Unbalanced because it presents a list of iron-clad demands of Israel, couched in objective international law requirements which, according to the report, Israel does not meet, while the same point of departure is not applied to the Palestinian dialog partners in the West Bank and Gaza,” ten Broeke said. His party is critical of certain Israeli policies as well, he added, but it does also have a list of demands to the Palestinians.

Wim Kortenoeven, a former lawmaker for Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom and pro-Israel activist, was one of the first Dutch politicians to slam the report. “Despite its lofty references to international law and justice, it is nothing but a vicious indictment of the Jewish State; ignoring the Islamic root of the conflict; omitting crucial historical data; denying or omitting the legal rights of the Jewish people in Palestine; and manipulating facts, figures and UN resolutions,” he wrote in an op-ed for The Times of Israel.

MP Wim Kortenhoeven (photo credit: David Suurland)
Ex-MP Wim Kortenhoeven (photo credit: David Suurland)

“It is silent on Israel’s terrible dilemmas, predicaments and territorial constraints, and it even ignores such essentials as the Islamic threat and Palestinian incitement against Israel and peace. In its conclusion, the AIV calls for the imposition of sanctions against Israel and for establishing (Dutch and EU) relations with Hamas, which is an organization that calls for the genocide of all Jews.”

The authors of “this piece of unbelievable incitement against Israel” include special UN rapporteur on Israel John Dugard, and former European Commissioner and Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van den Broek, who are both involved in anti-Israel advocacy, according to Kortenoeven. “These so-called experts did not only go to the extremes in trying to blacken the Jewish State, they also showed a stunning ignorance where it concerns the basics of the conflict Israel is involved in,” he said in a statement, recommending the Dutch government dismiss the report.

Among the many grievances critics have with this report is the very first sentence of the foreword: “The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, which has been ongoing for decades, is accurately described as a conflict between ‘the victims and the victims of the victims.’” Although a footnote explains that this phrase is derived from French political scientist Dominique Moïsi, critics note that it seems to compare the Holocaust with Palestinian suffering.

Israel’s establishment in 1948 and victory in the 1967 war caused “great injustice” to the Palestinians, the controversial document states, yet fails to refer to Israeli civilian casualties inflicted by Palestinian terrorism. Moreover, the Western boycott of Hamas, the report claims, “constituted additional complications in peace talks.” The authors also write that, “As long as Israel’s actions in occupied territories do not change, there is no reason for the Netherlands to promote bilateral relations with Israel… Rather, those actions are reasons to freeze or limit these relations, especially in economic and military areas.”

PM Benjamin Netanyahu, right, with Dutch FM Frans Timmermans in Jerusalem on June 17, 2013. (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash90)
PM Benjamin Netanyahu, right, with Dutch FM Frans Timmermans in Jerusalem on June 17, 2013. (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash90)

So far, however, bilateral relations remain solid. Earlier this month, Timmermans, the Dutch foreign minister, agreed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the establish a bilateral Dutch-Israeli Cooperation Forum. “The Forum’s objective is to strengthen bilateral relations by increasing cooperation in the field of innovation and by bringing together representatives from the business sector, academia, civil society and the government, and to explore new fields of possible cooperation,” according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

‘Can anyone believe that serious specialists can mistake UNGA resolution 194 for a Security Council resolution?’

The report, in an embarrassing mistake, confuses a United Nations General Assembly Resolution with one made by the UN Security Council. The authors suggest that a “just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem” would be based on the “Security Council Resolution 194 from 1948.” They are of course referring to UN General Assembly resolution 194, which resolved that “the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date.” On the refugee question, the council “considers it desirable to negotiate with all relevant parties, including (the democratically elected) Hamas movement,” the report states.

Hamas gained a parliamentary majority in a 2006 election, following which it launched a violent coup to take over as sole de facto power in the Gaza Strip.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry in The Hague (photo credit: Courtesy, Wikimedia Commons)
The Dutch Foreign Ministry in The Hague (photo credit: Courtesy, Wikimedia Commons)

In light of such errors and controversial positions, Jerusalem rejects the report in its entirety. “Of course, one cannot take seriously the underlying implication of this document, that is — that prestigious Dutch experts can be so fundamentally ignorant (and prejudiced?) regarding the basic facts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Palmor, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, told The Times of Israel.

“Can anyone believe that serious specialists can mistake UNGA resolution 194 for a Security Council resolution?! Or that they can deliver a full report on the conflict without even mentioning (let alone take into account) the strategic threat posed by suicide bombings, radical Islamists and Iranian instigated violence?! Can anyone believe that professional peace-seekers can ever ignore the Hamas coup in Gaza and its permanent armed challenge to the [Palestinian Authority], as a basic obstacle to political compromise, both Israeli-Palestinian and inter-Palestinian?!”

Calling the report’s allegations “preposterous,” Palmor suggested the Dutch government shelve the document before it can do more damage to the prestigious council. “The question of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is far too serious to be referred to by such a bizarre text,” he said. “It is high time it gets the serious treatment it deserves.”

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