AMSTERDAM (JTA) — An alleged agent of Hamas said he attended a meeting that was co-organized by the Dutch branch of the Oxfam aid group and attended by government officials.
Abu Amin Rashed, a Palestinian-Dutch activist whom German, Dutch and Israeli officials said is a fundraiser for Hamas in Europe, wrote about the meeting Monday on Facebook.
“Workshop in The Hague devoted to Gaza/Palestine,” Rashed wrote on Facebook with a picture from the event. “The co-founder of the workshop was the foundation Novib with a remarkable presence of European and Dutch government delegates.”
Rashed has denied claims he works for Hamas, which is considered a terrorist group in Holland and in the European Union. But his involvement at an event organized by Oxfam-Novib raises concerns about the group’s use of money that the Dutch government gives it annually, a Dutch lawmaker suggested following media coverage of Rashed’s post.
Bente Becker, a former speechwriter for Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the current spokesman on international aid for their People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, on Monday submitted a series of critical questions about the event to Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag.
“Can you clarify who initiated this activity? Did Oxfam-Novib invite Mr. Rashed, or is Oxfam-Novib involved in the activity featuring Mr. Rashed?” Becker wrote to Kaag.
A former worker for the UNRWA agency for aid to Palestinians, Kaag is also the wife of a former Palestinian Authority diplomat. She has two weeks to reply to Becker’s query. Kaag is a member of the left-leaning D66 party, which is a junior coalition partner of Becker’s party.
Oxfam-Novib for years has been accused of having an anti-Israel agenda, though the group denies the claim.
Queried by De Telegraaf daily about the event, an Oxfam-Novib spokesman said it was not organized by his organization but by a group called United Civilians for Peace. The spokesman said his organization does not have ties with Hamas.
United Civilians for Peace, or UCP, was set up in 2001 by Oxfam-Novib and two other aid groups. According to a 2007 report by the CIDI watchdog on anti-Semitism in the Netherlands, UCP is not a registered nonprofit but an unofficial workgroup with funding and support by Oxfam-Novib, among other groups. It does not appear in the Dutch register of nonprofit organizations.
More than 70 percent of Oxfam-Novib’s budget of $259,000 for 2014-15 came from Dutch government grants, the group said in its annual report.
UCP, which says it promotes peace between Israelis and Palestinians, sent to Israel and the West Bank at least one group led by Dries van Agt, a former prime minister of the Netherlands whom the main umbrella group representing Dutch Jews last year said peddles anti-Semitism. It has also praised the campaign to boycott Israel while stopping short of joining the movement promoting it.