This week Israeli PM Netanyahu visited the Netherlands. One would expect tough security measures, and there were, but still the details of his flight to the Netherlands were posted on websites. The visit was framed in terms of a celebration and sealing of the age old ties between the Dutch people and the Jewish people and the Netherlands and Israel. The visit attracted both strong supporters and opponents of Israel’s occupation of Palestine and its apartheid-like politics on the Palestinians. The Palestinian Home called for demonstrations and also a of Dutch Israeli’s expressed their concerns. One MP of the anti-islam PVV called upon Israel to continue building Jewish-only colonies in the occupied territories.
Radio Netherlands Worldwide asked three people closely involved with the issue who they think Mr Netanyahu should meet during his visit.
The director of the foremost Jewish organisation in the Netherlands, Ronny Naftaniel, says he is quite satisfied with the prime minister’s plans. (The Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel is organising Mr Netanyahu’s visit to the Amsterdam synagogue.)
“It is a very short trip, but if he had more time I would advise Mr Netanyahu to meet with Dutch captains of industry. Business relations between our countries are quite close, they can always get better. He could also meet here with refugees from Arab countries to learn more about the Arab spring and what role Israel can play.”
Not everyone is happy with Mr Netanyahu’s visit. Politicians from across the political spectrum are expected to query him about Israel’s continued settlement building and the stalled peace process.
The Israeli prime minister will also be met by protesters from various groups representing the Palestinian community in the Netherlands, as well as critical sectors of the Jewish community. Harry de Winter is one of the founders of A Different Jewish Voice.
“He shouldn’t be coming at all. You shouldn’t be putting out the red carpet given the terrible human rights situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories. If the Netherlands were a true friend of Israel, it would be more critical of Israeli policies. Israel would benefit more from that kind of friendship.”
Another group demonstrating against Mr Netanyahu’s visit is the Dutch Palestine Committee. Director Wim Langkamp says the only thing Mr Netanyahu should be doing in the Netherlands is to appear before the International Criminal Court.
“Back in 2004, another international court in The Hague ruled that building the wall separating Israel from the West Bank was illegal. Since then, Israel has committed many more violations of human rights, including the murder of nine people on the Gaza flotilla. The ICC is in the Hague, within walking distance of parliament, where he’ll be tomorrow.”
Netanyahu praised the Dutch stance on Iran sanctions but at the same time the Dutch government urged Israel to freez the illegal policy of settlements. Of course exactly the issues that triggered the demonstrations against his visit and The Palestinian Home pressed for Netanyahu’s arrest for war crimes and crimes against humanity. You can see some pictures of the protests HERE and HERE.
You can watch here the video made by CIDI, a Dutch lobby supporting the current politics of the state of Israel, of the speech by Netanyahu when he visited the Portugese synagogue in Amsterdam:
The Dutch political stance on Israel is one of supporting with only mild critique on what can be seen as ‘the matrix of control‘: a framework created by strategic settlements, Israeli-only highways and the separation wall and (I would add) the efforts to disturb Palestinian control of Gaza and the Westbank by Hamas and Fatah and stalling the peace talks. In his speech in the video above, Netanyahu refers to the critique on Israeli policies with regard to the Palestinians and Iran as a ‘theatre of the absurd’. But for his opponents his equation of Jewishness with Israel and his views on Palestinians and Iran would equally amount to be part of a theatre of the absurd. The current Israeli policy means denying Palestinians legitimate rights as do the Palestinian authorities as well with their citizens. In all cases the Palestinian people loose. A more balanced approach would at least recognize that the past and fate of both Palestinians and Israelis are entangled, as anthropologist Abu-Lughod explains:
SPIEGEL Interview with Lila Abu-Lughod: ‘Any Solution Will Have to Involve More Creative Thinking’ – SPIEGEL ONLINE – News – International
Any resolution must involve a recognition of the fact that Israel was founded on the expulsion of Palestinians. Then we can think and talk together about restitution, redress, compensation, or whatever it takes for a more just way forward. In Israel and Palestine we have an amazing opportunity — to think about changing history by considering a democratic state with a living future for everyone.