Economic cooperation or economic warfare?

There are at least 17 NGOs receiving Dutch support that actively partake in blatant anti-Israel BDS campaigns.

EU building 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)
EU building 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)
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.”
These mutually 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 destructive.
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 peace efforts.
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 Israel.
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.
ICCO , 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 anti-peace organizations.
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.
This 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 inexplicable.
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.