Palestinian rights body calls Dutch Jews’ umbrella group ‘pro-occupation lobby’

After Central Jewish Board accuses it of tolerating anti-Semitism, The Rights Forum claims widely accepted definition of term is ‘politicized’

Jan Keulen, director of Dutch pro-Palestinian group The Rights Forum, in 2013. (Screen capture: YouTube)
Jan Keulen, director of Dutch pro-Palestinian group The Rights Forum, in 2013. (Screen capture: YouTube)

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — The leader of a prestigious pro-Palestinian group in the Netherlands called the country’s main Jewish group a “pro-occupation lobby.”

Jan Keulen, director of The Rights Forum — a group that was founded by former prime minister Dries van Agt, made the allegation Saturday, in reaction to a police complaint in which the Central Jewish Board, or CJO, and another group accused The Rights Forum of consistently allowing anti-Semitic rhetoric on its Facebook page.

In a statement Saturday, Keulen dismissed the May 10 complaint as a “political smear campaign” by CJO and the CIJO youth and young adult division of the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, a watchdog on anti-Semitism.

The complaint details dozens of anti-Semitic comments by at least a dozen users whose texts were not removed for months and years even though they violate Dutch law. Some of these comments were removed following the complaint, while others remain.

Noting the Central Jewish Board and CIDI anti-Semitism watchdog calls in the past for the Netherlands to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition for anti-Semitism, Keulen argued that the “cat is out of the bag,” showing the Jewish groups to be “a pro-occupation lobby that will not rest until the definition of anti-Semitism is stretched and politicized.”

The two groups did not mention the definition in their complaint to police. CIDI favors territorial concessions by Israel to avoid it controlling Palestinian populations or land, which it says should be part of a Palestinian state. CJO considers this issue beyond its purview.

Former Dutch prime minister Dries van Agt (photo credit: CC BY Heden en verleden in het Torentje, Wikimedia Commons)
Former Dutch prime minister Dries van Agt (CC BY Heden en verleden in het Torentje, Wikimedia Commons)

Pro-Palestinian activists oppose the definition, for its inclusion in examples of discriminatory demonization of Israel. Amid pressures over this, the European Union’s agency for combating racism in 2013 dropped the definition. But it has since been adopted as official policy by the European Parliament, the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Romania, Bulgaria and Lithuania, among others.

Some of the complaints flagged by the Jewish groups did not reference Israel.

Peter de Jong on April 20, 2017 wrote on The Rights Forum’s Facebook page: “Not so strange that the Jews throughout the centuries were stigmatized as thieves and cheats.” His comment was removed shortly after the police complaint was filed.

Keulen noted the absence in the complaint of material directly attributable to his organization’s staff or publications, saying this “speaks volume” on its position.

Last year, CJO accused The Rights Forum founder Dries van Agt for the first time of personally peddling anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Van Agt has fought such accusations since the 1970s. In November, he was quoted as saying Dutch Labour “is good for the Palestinians, despite the strong Jewish lobby” in its ranks. He also said that the Jews “should have been given a piece of land” in Germany instead of the historic Land of Israel.

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