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No, we don’t support a boycott of Israel

The Dutch Jewish group, A Different Voice, opposes Israel's settlement policies, not its existence

In his article about the attitude of the new Dutch Foreign Minister, Bert Koenders, on Israel, Cnaan Liphshiz also attributes two opinions to A Different Jewish Voice. First, we are — wrongly — said to support a complete boycott of Israel. Second, Liphshiz quotes only part of the statement we made about the departure of former Dutch Foreign Minister Timmermans, Koenders’ predecessor, distorting our message. This selective reporting feeds Mr Liphshiz’ right-wing agenda, which is in line with his former partner CIDI, the major right-wing ‘pro-Israel’ organization in the Netherlands.

A Different Jewish Voice has spoken out on the issue of a settlement boycott, akin to what has been promoted by the Israeli peace movement, promoting the divestment from settlements and the boycott of — both Israeli and international — companies that profit from the settlements. The decision to speak out on this issue was not taken lightly by us. We believe that the settlements are a major obstacle to a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and therefore a threat to a peaceful and democratic future of Israel. Because we feel connected to Israel, we feel obliged to speak out.

As for our statement on the departure of Minister Timmermans, Mr Liphshiz has conveniently left out part of the text, merely stating that we hope that Minister Koenders will take a more confrontational approach on Israel. The full quote, which has been published on our website in Dutch, goes as follows:

A Different Jewish Voice expresses hope and anticipation that Timmermans’ successor, Bert Koenders, will take a more confrontational and justice-seeking course of action on Israel. We hope he will promote policies which will support Israel to reflect on its course and set limits — both by words and by deeds — to the expansion of the illegal settlements [in the Occupied Palestinian Territories], which are [by far] the biggest obstacle to peace. Recognize an independent Palestine, and take steps against Israel’s settlement policies. Plea for a larger European role in the peace process. That is what will really benefit Israel.

However, even more than his suggestive statements and selective quoting, it is disturbing that Mr Liphshiz seems to think that when it comes to Israel, you are either with Israel, supporting everything the State does, or you are against Israel. In spite of the sloppy reporting by Mr Liphshiz, as A Different Jewish Voice we have the unwavering conviction that those who truly support Israel should have the courage to speak out on difficult issues such as settlement expansion. These issues harm the future of Israel. A prosperous and safe future for Israelis unavoidably means that Palestinian rights need to be addressed and that we need to allow Palestinians to live a normal life in which their human rights are respected. We will be sure to speak out on this to our new Foreign Minister.

About the Author
Jaap Hamburger is chairman of A Different Jewish Voice in the Netherlands, a Jewish organization in favor of a two-state solution and against the occupation.