Dear Minister Zijlstra,
Your official visit to Israel on January 9 provides an important opportunity to address some critical issues that concern both the Netherlands and Israel.
Our countries have many similarities, including both being thriving democracies with pluralistic civil societies. Indeed, civil society is a major aspect of the Netherlands. Since 2014, according to official reports, the Dutch government has provided over €75 million in direct and indirect funding to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.
Unfortunately, as we have brought to your attention on multiple occasions throughout the past year, much of this funding goes to highly politicized NGOs that act in ways that are antithetical to the values inherent in democracy and civility. Some recipients of Dutch government funds promote antisemitism, as defined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and as adopted by a June 1, 2017 European Parliament resolution; use language that refers to “resistance” in order to justify and excuse terrorism; have alleged links to terror groups; and engage in legal warfare against Israeli officials and companies that do business with Israel.
Dutch funding for such NGOs occurs primarily through the Ramallah-based mechanism known as the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat (Secretariat), jointly funded with Denmark, Switzerland, and Sweden. The Netherlands provides €3.1 million to the Secretariat for the period of 2013-2018.
The Secretariat framework transfers Dutch taxpayer funds to four NGOs with links to Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a designated terrorist organization in the EU and Israel. As our research shows, the concern regarding Dutch funded NGOs with ties to terror was not directly addressed by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was ignored by the IOB’s “Evaluation of Dutch Development Cooperation in the Palestinian Territories 2008-2014.”
One such organization, Addameer, which received $325,000 from the Secretariat in 2014-2016, is described by Fatah as an official PFLP “affiliate.” Several of the NGO’s employees were convicted of terrorism charges by Israeli courts. For instance, Khalida Jarrar, Addameer’s outgoing vice-chairperson, is a senior PFLP official. Jarrar was administratively detained on April 1, 2015 by Israeli security forces. On April 15, 2015 she was indicted for various offenses including active membership in a terrorist organization (the PFLP) and inciting violence through a call to kidnap Israeli soldiers to be used as “bargaining chips for the release of Palestinian prisoners.”
Another example is Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P). DCI-P received $738,000 from the Secretariat for 2014-2016. Many of the NGO’s board members have reported ties to the PFLP. For example, Mahmoud Jiddah is reportedly a “PFLP member” and Hassan Abed Aljawad is described as a Bethlehem-based “PFLP activist” and “leader. ” Additionally, Hashem Abu Maria, a DCI-P employee, was hailed by the PFLP as a “commander” after his death in 2014; DCI-P dedicated its 2014 Annual Report to his memory.
Furthermore, according to the Secretariat’s 2016 Annual Report (p.5), Secretariat-funded NGOs worked together to “pressure international bodies” as part of their activities in “promoting” international law. According to the report, these efforts led to a British judge issuing an “arrest warrant for Tzipi Livni for being the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs and member of the Security Cabinet during ‘“Operation Cast Lead.’”
As you noted in a parliamentary meeting on November 15, 2017, another NGO funded by the Secretariat, the Women’s Affairs Technical Committee (WATC), was involved in a youth center named after Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who murdered 38 Israelis, including 13 children. As a result, on June 30, 2017, in correspondence with NGO Monitor, you confirmed that “in cooperation with the other donor countries of the Secretariat, the Netherlands has decided to suspend cooperation with WATC until further notice.” But there is no indication that the broader NGO funding failures have been addressed.
Perhaps you already know that two of the Secretariat’s four backers have already taken action. Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen recently announced his government’s decision to stop funding this program, and in September 2017, the Swiss Federal Council ratified its decision to prohibit funding from NGOs that promote antisemitism, racism, and hatred. Norway’s decision in 2016 to quickly reverse its brief agreement to fund the Secretariat further demonstrates recognition of the problems inherent to this mechanism and its grantees.
Your upcoming visit presents a unique opportunity to add the voice of the Netherlands to the moral statements by Norway, Denmark, and Switzerland in denouncing this discredited NGO funding framework. Funding terror-affiliated groups and activities that spread antisemitic poison in no way benefit the relations between our two countries. Promoting democracy, human rights and civility is too important and should not be entrusted with such groups.
With a hope you will address some of these issues on your visit, and in the spirit of cooperation, I welcome you to Israel.
Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg