June 28, 2011 | Quote

Dutch MP Calls to Slash Funding of Anti-Israel NGOs

Positions of some groups ‘disgusting,’ says Johan Driesen.

BERLIN – A panel in the Dutch parliament earlier this month titled “To discuss the activity of NGOs in Israel and Palestine” has generated a heated debate among lawmakers and the heads of major Dutch NGOs about the legitimacy of boycotts targeting Israel and advocacy for a “one-state solution” for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Jerusalem Post obtained a transcript of the panel from an observer at the June 15 session in Holland’s parliament.

According to the transcript, leading Dutch humanitarian relief organizations defended boycott, divestment and sanctions actions against Israel, prompting Johan Driesen, from the Party for Freedom (PVV), to say, “It was the first time I sat down to talk with the directors of the aid groups and I found what they said not only surprising, but disgusting and I think the Dutch government should cut funding to organizations promoting this agenda.”

René Grotenhuis, director of the aid group Catholic Organization for Relief and Development Aid (Cordaid), said during the debate that “discussion over boycott of Israel in Palestine is justified.”

Henk Jan Ormel, from the Dutch Christian Democratic Appeal party, said he was “very surprised” to hear from the director of the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO) that he believes that “the two-state solution is not the basic assumption for peace.”

In response to a query asking why ICCO supports the website Electronic Intifada, Director Marinus Verweij termed it a “respected news source used by newspapers.”

The Dutch government funneled more than 120 million euros into ICCO in 2009, which has doled out funds to EI.

The Jerusalem-based watchdog NGO Monitor has stated that “EI Executive Director Ali Abunimah is a leader in delegitimization and demonization campaigns against Israel. In his travels and speaking engagements, facilitated by Electronic Intifada’s budget, he calls for a one-state solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, and routinely uses false apartheid rhetoric.”

In response to a question from Joël Stephanus Voordewind, head of the Christian Union party, who asked why groups were financing Palestinian groups publicly committed to promoting BDS activities against Israel, Grotenhuis defended BDS as “legitimate” because “it is important that people in Palestine look for ways to resist occupation, and it is a nonviolent way to do so.”

Cordaid will continue to receive 80m. euros from Dutch taxpayer monies until 2015.

However, the organization lost 42 percent of its government funds this year, and ICCO took a 55m. euro reduction this year.

According to a late December report in The Palestine News Network, Cordaid faced a drop in funds because of its “Palestinian connections.”

It is unclear if the Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal pulled the plug on considerable governmental funds for Cordaid and ICCO because of their anti-Israel activities. Yet Rosenthal told the Post in November that if ICCO is furnishing funds for EI “it will have a serious problem with me.”

Ronny Naftaniel,the executive director of the Haguebased Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI), told the Post on Wednesday that “The directors of these organizations spend the Dutch taxpayer’s money contrary to the Dutch policy to strengthen the bond with Israel.”

Naftaniel added that this is an “ unacceptable result: The Netherlands invests simultaneously in Israel and in boycotting Israel.”

He continued, “The Dutch aid organizations are seeing their budgets cut because of this. The real victims here will not be the directors with their huge salaries, but Palestinians and people in Africa in need of assistance.”

Professor Gerald Steinberg, the head of NGO Monitor, told the Post on Thursday, “Until recently, most Dutch legislators and officials had little information on how NGOs involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict utilize Dutch funding.

“Some political advocacy NGOs abusing the rhetoric of human rights have significant impacts, but there are no mechanisms to hold NGOs accountable for their activities.

For example, Dutch funding for ICCO goes to groups such as Badil, Electronic Intifada, and CWP [Coalition of Women for Peace]. They promote pro- BDS and similar agendas which are in direct contradiction to Dutch government policy. An independent and detailed review of all NGO funding – both direct and indirect – is long overdue.”

Driesen asked Oxfam Novib at the panel why the charity provided funds to the Dutch NGO “Stop de Bezeting” (Stop the Occupation). He noted that the group’s founder, Greta Duisenberg, had participated in demonstrations calling for Jews to be gassed, and had declared “Intifada, Intifada!” The Dutch foreign ministry earmarked 131m. euros in 2009 for Oxfam Novib, which sponsors projects in developing countries.

Oxfam Novib’s Director, Farah Karimi, declined to specifically address its financial aid for “Stop de Bezeting.”

“The business we have come to discuss is of extreme importance to you and your party, and I find it a shame to sit and speak about the behavior of Greta Duisenberg,” said Karimi.

CIDI noted in a report last month that over the past three years the Dutch government has allocated at least 10m euros to groups dedicated to promoting a boycott of Israel.

In response to CIDI’s report, Rosenthal told CIDI he will “intervene to block funding to groups promoting the BDS campaign.”