A Dutch consumer rights group promoting a ban on Israeli goods is planning to take legal action against one of the Netherland's largest Jewish institutions for alleged "abuse" of the postal system. The Jewish group denies foul play.
Peace, which is advocating a boycott of Israeli goods from the West Bank, says the umbrella group for the Jewish Orthodox communities in the Netherlands, NIK, deliberately caused it losses of thousands of euros.
Peace argues that NIK did this by using its Web site to encourage people to send thousands of Peace's prepaid envelopes through a mailing service that allows anyone to send mail to certain organizations at no charge, since the organizations pay the postal fees after delivery.
"For two weeks now we have been receiving empty envelopes which we put out for people to support our campaign," said Peace chairman Joost Hardeman. "We of course had to pay for this traffic. This illegal manipulation by NIK of the Royal Mail service has forced us to cancel our mail arrangement, and we are preparing a lawsuit against them to cover our costs."
The Amsterdam-based group is also planning to take legal action against two operators of pro-Israel Web sites, including a blog, that advertised Peace's prepaid mailbox.
Ruben Vis, secretary general of NIK, confirmed that the address of Peace's prepaid mailbox was posted on his organization's site, but said that was part of a report about Peace's claims that the Israeli Embassy was pressuring a publisher to drop a pro-boycott ad campaign. The embassy has denied this.
"Certain individuals may have decided to mail back to Peace their own prepaid envelopes, but NIK is certainly not involved," Vis said.
Hardeman, who is Jewish and says he supports Israel but opposes its occupation of Palestinian land, said Peace will nonetheless attempt to show NIK is to blame for "the abuse of the mail system."
The Israel Products Center, a Netherlands-based online store specializing in Israeli goods, recently complained to the Dutch advertising ombudsman organization that Peace's campaign against Israeli products has caused it financial damages because it directly targets their livelihood and brand.
Hardeman rejects the allegation. "We do not propose a comprehensive ban on Israeli goods, and we are opposed to this," he said. "We only demand that consumers be made aware, through labeling, of the origins of the goods they are purchasing. That way they can decide whether they want to buy a product which comes from Palestinian land that is illegally occupied by Israel."
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