Dutch Parliament Calls for Stripping BDS Groups of State Funding

A pro-Israel group based in The Hague says funding Israel boycott groups violates the policy of the Dutch government, which 'has declared itself to be against BDS.'

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An Egyptian wears a T-shirt with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) logo.
An Egyptian wears a T-shirt with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) logo.Credit: AP

The Dutch parliament passed a nonbinding motion calling on the government to deny funding to organizations calling for a boycott against Israel.

The motion, co-signed by three lawmakers, including a prominent politician for the ruling People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, was passed Thursday in the Tweede Kamer, the Dutch parliament’s lower house.

“Parliament requests the government to end as soon as possible direct or indirect funding for organizations which, according to their mission statements or activities, work to achieve or promote a boycott of Israel, and especially for those organizations that play a leading role” in the effort, states the motion authored by Kees van der Staaij of the Reformed Political Party, a devout Christian movement.

The other cosignatories were Joel Voordewind of the Christian Union party and the ruling party’s Han Ten Broeke, the spokesman for the parliament commission on foreign affairs and chair of the defense committee.

The Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, which is a pro-Israel group based in The Hague, noted on its website following the vote that government funding for groups supportive of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, movement, “contradicts the policy of the government, which has declared itself to be against BDS.”

The vote followed weeks of political debates on the issue that exposed divisions within the Dutch coalition.

Last month, Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, who belongs to Dutch Labor, said that calls for boycotts of Israel were protected under freedom of expression. He also said the Dutch government would not revoke the tax-exempt status of nonprofits supporting BDS. The Dutch government, however, opposes boycotting Israel.

“The Dutch line is that the government is opposed to boycotts of Israel, but advertising BDS falls under freedom of expression,” Koenders wrote May 19 to a lawmaker who queried his office on the matter. Unlike many other European countries, the Netherlands does not have a law against denying the Holocaust for the same reason.

Last week, a motion calling for banning the import to the Netherlands of products from the West Bank and other areas that came under Israeli control in 1967 failed, with only 23 out of 150 lawmakers voting in favor.

On Tuesday, the Tweede Kamer voted against a motion calling on the government not to implement European Commission regulations from 2015 that require special labeling from such areas. Authored by Ten Broeke, it received the support of 69 lawmakers.

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