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Divesting Dutch water firm called ‘hypocritical’ over Gaza projects

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(JTA) — Several Dutch politicians accused the Vitens water company of hypocrisy in its decision to abandon projects with an Israeli firm because of West Bank settlements while pursuing projects in Hamas-led Gaza.

The ruling VVD and three other parties filed critical queries in parliament this week to Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans asking whether his office advised the government-owned Vitens to divest from Mekorot, as some Dutch media reported. Timmermans told the media on Thursday that his office had no objections to working with Mekorot.

Rene Dercksen, a lawmaker in the provincial parliament of Utrecht, where Vitens is headquartered, filed queries at the provincial parliament asking the provincial government to seek clarifications from Vitens on what he said was contradictory policy.

Vitens announced on Tuesday that it had decided to abandon several joint projects with Mekorot because Vitens “attaches great importance to integrity and adheres to international law and regulations” and Mekorot’s activity, which includes providing water to the Palestinian Authority, “cannot be seen separately from the political context.”

The Reformatorisch Dagblad daily quoted a Vitens spokesperson as saying the company wished to “remain neutral.”

But in a statement earlier this month, Vitens said it had agreed to cooperate with the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, a governmental arm of the Hamas government in Gaza. The utility’s donors include the World Bank and European Commission, according to the United Nations.

In an interview for the news agency Novum, Han ten Broeke, a prominent VVD lawmaker, said Wednesday that Vitens’ move was “not a case of discouraging Israeli settlements but the unmasking of a superimposed activism.”

“We believe that as a Dutch water company, Vitens should content itself with providing clean and good water to its clients in the Netherlands,” Dercksen told JTA. “But if it chooses to be political, Vitens must be consistent. Working with government in Gaza inevitably means working with Hamas, which the European Union views as a terrorist group. This is an unusual choice for a company concerned with international law.”

Sebastien Kraaijeveld, a spokesperson for Vitens, declined to comment on the matter.

The Dutch ambassador in Israel has been summoned to a meeting on the water issue at the Israeli Foreign Ministry headquarters in Jerusalem, according to reports.

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