This week, senior Dutch officials, including Prime Minister Mark Rutte and
Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, are visiting Israel to officially launch the
Netherlands-Israel Cooperation Forum.
The delegation also includes
representatives of dozens of Dutch companies.
The central purpose of the
visit and the forum is to “boost economic cooperation between Israel and the
Netherlands and highlight economic opportunities.”
beneficial initiatives reflect the valuable and deep-seated ties between the
Netherlands and Israel.
However, the foundation supporting these ties is
in need of urgent repair.
The Dutch government distributes major budgets
to Israeli and Palestinian non-governmental organizations (NGOs), mostly via
large aid organizations based in the Netherlands, that are often quite
The stated purpose of this policy is to support activities
consistent with Dutch objectives, such as a twostate solution and economic
cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians.
However, many of the NGO
recipients engage in incitement and economic warfare targeting Israeli
companies, and Dutch companies that do business with Israel. These campaigns
undermine Dutch foreign policy objectives and are counterproductive for regional
development and peace.
Economic warfare against Israel, also known as
“BDS” (boycotts, divestment, sanctions), is a central component of a strategy
developed by NGOs at the 2001 UN Durban Conference aimed at demonizing and
isolating Israel internationally. The Dutch government has publicly denounced
BDS initiatives, stating that they directly contradict Dutch policy and harm
Yet, there are at least 17 NGOs receiving Dutch support
that actively partake in blatant anti-Israel BDS campaigns. Groups such as
Addameer, Defense for Children International – Palestine Section, and Miftah,
endorsed the 2005 Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS against
BDS organizations receive Dutch support through numerous
frameworks. The most direct is through the NGO Development Center (NDC) in
Ramallah, which manages funds on behalf of the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden
and Denmark. In this arrangement, the governments jointly make the funding
decisions and maintain oversight of their grants. NDC grant recipients include
Al Haq and Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR ), which are very active in
BDS activities, anti-Israel UN moves, and in attempts to exploit European and
international courts, including the ICC, to initiate “war crimes” indictments
against Israeli officials.
Such abuse of Dutch taxpayer funds is clearly
both immoral and counter-productive.
In addition, the Netherlands
provides indirect support to BDS groups by outsourcing cooperation (and
policy-making) to Dutch aid organizations. Research by NGO Monitor shows that
prominent Dutch groups such as ICCO , Kerk in Actie (“Church in Action”) and
Oxfam Novib, which receive large-scale funding are considered to be important
partners for the Dutch government in the Middle East.
Moreover, ICCO and
Kerk in Actie are church-based organizations, adding a dangerous theological
component to their involvement in economic warfare against Israel.
the Inter-church Organization for Development and Cooperation, is an
illustrative example – in 2012, ICCO received €81 million, 84 percent of its
total budget, from the Dutch government. This makes ICCO a major instrument for
outsourcing of Dutch foreign policy, and highlights the contradictions inherent
in the long history of support for BDS organizations.
The most extreme
example of ICCO ’s destructive political funding is Electronic Intifada, an
online media platform dedicated to promoting an extreme anti-Israel agenda,
including BDS and highly offensive articles that compare Israelis to Nazis. ICCO
has been criticized by the Dutch Foreign Ministry and Members of Parliament for
its funding of Electronic Intifada, but officials in charge of spending this
taxpayer- provided budget have refused to end support for EI and other radical
Another ICCO partner is an organization known
as the Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP), which, despite its name, is a leader
in BDS and economic warfare.
Through its “Who Profits” campaign, CWP
identifies Israeli and international companies to be targeted by anti-Israel
activists. CWP officials have also been photographed holding the flag of PFLP, a
terrorist organization notorious for pioneering plane hijackings and responsible
for numerous attacks against civilians.
ICCO support for CWP, Electronic
Intifada, and other NGOs opposes and frustrates Dutch policy goals and
principles. This is a systemic and structural problem, perpetuated by ICCO ’s
policy-making apparatus, which includes individuals such as Mitri Raheb, a
Palestinian pastor who co-authored the Kairos-Palestine document.
document uses religious language to deny the Jewish historical connection to
Israel and advocate for “a system of economic sanctions and boycott to be
applied against Israel.” For an inter-church organization claiming to promote
cooperation and development, such incitement and related activities are entirely
In contrast to these destructive activities, the Dutch
government is also making a serious, and important, investment in the
Netherlands-Israel Cooperation Forum, to benefit both countries, as well as
Dutch and Israeli businesses.
In parallel, leaders must also examine the
impact of policies that provide government funds to NGOs that abuse their
positions in promoting activities such as BDS campaigns that prevent peace,
economic cooperation, and development.
The author is the European Desk
Coordinator at NGO Monitor.
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