The Netherlands Foreign Ministry wants Jews everywhere to criticize Israel


AMSTERDAM (JTA) — The Dutch Foreign Ministry officially is urging Jews no matter where they are to speak out against Israel’s presence in the West Bank.

An official ministry document listing as an objective actions that “encourage diaspora Jewish communities to voice their opposition to the occupation” appeared in a report published earlier this year on Dutch funding for the Breaking the Silence group.

It’s an unusual statement for European governments offering funding for organizations that they say are promoting peace or coexistence between Israel and the Palestinians. Breaking the Silence is a group of Israeli combat veterans who oppose the occupation.

Sigrid Kaag, the Netherlands’ minister for foreign trade and development cooperation, once worked for UNRWA, the United Nations agency that provides assistance to Palestinians, and is the wife of a former Palestinian Authority diplomat. Her ministry pledged $218,000 to Breaking the Silence in its 2018 budget.

Separately, a Dutch pro-Israel group said that the previous Dutch envoy to Ramallah approved subsidies for an anti-Israel organization when his son was working there.

The report on Breaking the Silence included the reference to Diaspora communities under the rubric “Goal 3: To increase opposition in the international arena to Israel’s prolonged occupation of the OPT based on global shared values.” OPT stands for “occupied Palestinian Territories.”

NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based watchdog group that focuses on funding for Israeli and Palestinian groups, criticized the ministry’s “intruding on Israel-Diaspora relations, on one of the most sensitive issues,” as the group’s founder, Gerald Steinberg, termed it in a statement Tuesday.

An NGO Monitor spokesperson said it was the first time the group has seen an explicit reference to internal relations between Jewish communities on an official EU document.

Chris Bakker, a spokesperson for Kaag, declined to answer JTA’s questions on the document, including on whether the objectives it specified belonged to his office or to Breaking the Silence.

Also Tuesday, the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, said on its website that is has information that Peter Mollema, the previous representative for the Netherlands in the Palestinian Territories, approved subsidies for the Al-Mazen group in 2016, when his son was working there as an intern. CIDI called it a “conflict of interest.”

Al-Mazen has called Israel’s policy “apartheid” and has accused it of “ethnic cleansing.” It has mounted multiple lawsuits against Israel and has been a supporter of the boycott campaign since 2006.

Bakker, the ministry spokesperson, did not immediately reply to JTA’s request for a comment on CIDI’s claims.

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