BERLIN – Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal “will monitor ICCO’s activities.
He will consider this as a minus when he makes up the balance when ICCO applies
again in new a subsidies-round,” Ward Bezemer, a spokesman for Rosenthal, told
The Jerusalem Post last week.
Bezemer was responding to the Interchurch
Organisation for Development and Cooperation’s defense of its use of public
funds to finance the anti-Israel Electronic Intifada website.
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met with the Dutch charity on January 13, and told ICCO that its support of EI
contradicts the government’s foreign policy, ICCO said in a statement.
equates Israeli policies with the Nazi regime and advocates boycotts against the
Jewish state, the Jerusalembased NGO Monitor reported in November. NGO Monitor
asserts that EI is plagued by expressions of modern anti-
Rosenthal told the Post then, “I will look into the matter
personally. If it appears that the government-subsidized NGO ICCO does fund
Electronic Intifada, it will have a serious problem with me.”
January 14 expressed defiance of Rosenthal’s policy positions rejecting ICCO
support for EI.
ICCO titled its statement, “ICCO will not change policy
after discussion with Dutch foreign minister,” and said “it discussed its
funding of the website The Electronic Intifada with Dutch Minister of Foreign
Affairs Uri Rosenthal. It was a tough and straightforward discussion, but ICCO
sees no reason to change its policy. International law is the main guideline for
The ICCO said, “According [to] the minister, the site
offers a platform for the call for boycott of Israel. Supporting this website is
therefore, in the minister’s view, diametrically opposed to Dutch foreign
policy. ICCO disagrees with the minister on this.”
According to the ICCO
statement, “Since 2005, more than 170 Palestinian and some Israeli organizations
have called for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli policy. The
purpose is for Israel to comply with international law and respect human rights.
This pressure is justified as the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian
territories continue. It is a peaceful and legal way to push for an end to the
Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and to achieve a peaceful and
NGO Monitor criticized ICCO’s statement and reported
Dutch government funding of another anti-Israel nonprofit.
said that Oxfam Novib sponsored a speaking tour for Ali Abunimah, a co-founder
of EI, who has called for the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, wrote the Post by e-mail on Monday:
“We note that Foreign Minister Rosenthal is continuing the important inquiry
into ICCO’s funding of Electronic Intifada.”
He continued, “EI is a
leader in the demonization of Israel, including the anti-Semitic BDS (boycott,
divestment, and sanctions) campaign, and frequently compares the Israeli
military to Nazis. EI executive director Ali Abunimah labels Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as
‘collaborators,’ and PA participation in peace talks as ‘collaboration.’”
Steinberg added, “As the Dutch government opposes such activities and
statements, this inflammatory rhetoric and calls to isolate Israel
internationally are entirely counterproductive to achieving peace in the region.
We will continue to monitor the investigation and call for the end of ICCO
funding for all issues related to the Arab-Israeli conflict until a full audit
has been completed.
“Our research shows that the Dutch government also
funds Oxfam Novib, which in 2009 funded a Netherlands speaking tour for
During the tour, Abunimah called for an end to Israel as a
Jewish state, advocated for the BDS movement, and invoked the rhetoric of
‘apartheid.’ These are not isolated incidents – this type of poisonous activity
is precisely why European government funding of NGOs requires close oversight
and full transparency.
We expect the Dutch government to investigate this
funding as well,” Steinberg said.
Ruud Huurman, a spokesman for Oxfam
Novib, the Dutch affiliate of Oxfam, responded to Post queries by e-mail on
Wednesday. “In 2009, Oxfam Novib provided modest funding for a public discussion
entitled Towards a Rights-Based Solution for the conflict in
The event took place on 16 May 2009 in the renowned
Amsterdam-based public debate center De Balie. The funding consisted of Euro
5,650 and included the traveling and lodging costs of Mr.
event was organized by the Netherlands Palestine Committee, in cooperation with
al-Awda and the Palestinian community in the Netherlands,” Huurman
When asked about Abunimah and EI’s calls for boycotts against
Israel and the allegations that his and EI’s comments are anti-Semitic, Huurman
wrote, “Whilst Oxfam Novib has not itself signed on to the call for the boycott,
divestment and sanctions (BDS) in relation to Israel’s policies in the occupied
Palestinian territory, we fully support the democratic right of Mr. Abunimah to
express his views in this regard.”
“Oxfam Novib has been working in the
occupied Palestinian territory since 1982 and with Palestinian refugees in
Lebanon since 1985. Our work there targets the most vulnerable Palestinians such
as rural communities, women and children. We also support Israeli and
Palestinian civil society organizations striving for human rights and respect
for international law. Oxfam Novib bases its work on the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights and international law. We would never provide support to
organizations and individuals who discriminate or incite violence and hatred,”
ICCO “behaves like a state within a state,” Ronny
Naftaniel, head of The Haguebased Center for Information and Documentation on
Israel, told the Post via telephone on Tuesday, speaking from Kiev, where he was
attending a Jewish conference.
The Dutch people want to support aid for
people in developing countries and not for anti-Israel propaganda and boycott
measures against the Jewish state, he said.
Naftaniel dismissed ICCO’s
claim that it adheres to international law.
“If you support an
organization that is against the existence of the State of Israel and promotes
boycotts, then they are themselves against international law.”
members of parliament support Rosenthal’s opposition to EI, Naftaniel said.
There might be legal obstacles to pulling the plug on ICCO funding during the
life of the contract, he said.
ICCO received a four-year budget from the
Dutch government and the contract expires in three years, Naftaniel
Rosenthal’s decision and the Dutch parliamentary majority against
Dutch taxpayer funding for anti-Israel NGO activity could have implications for
other Dutch charities, Naftaniel said.
It is unclear if the Dutch foreign
minister will take legal action to terminate ICCO’s funding during the life of
the four-year agreement.
Yochanan Visser, who made aliya from the
Netherlands in 2000 and is head of the organization Missing Peace, told the Post
on Tuesday that “based on our research, we came to the conclusion that the Dutch
government should immediately cut the subsidy to ICCO, because it continues to
refuse a stop to the funding of Electronic Intifada, which is a jihadist news
Visser said that in official statements, ICCO “calls for a just
peace for everyone (Israeli’s and Palestinians) and states that protection of
human rights and International law is the main guideline for her
“But in reality it continues to fund a news site (EI) that
whitewashes suicide terrorism, makes pleas for Islamist terrorist groups like
Hamas and Hizbullah, demonizes Israel and invokes hatred of the Jewish state. It
is impossible to understand how this enhances the chances for peace.”