Wednesday, 11 December 2013

It's time to create a Dutch Lawyers for Israel NGO.

It’s time to create the Dutch Lawyers for Israel NGO to defend Israel from the threats of boycotts, sanctions, and other discriminatory measures that are increasing in the Netherlands.

When I visited Amsterdam in August, I told my Dutch colleagues and Israel supporters, both in public and private, of the need for them to create an NGO along the lines of the UK Lawyers for Israel to work actively in the legal field in their country on behalf of Israel.

I told them of the necessity to create such an organization to counter the assaults of boycotts, sanctions, anti-Israel discrimination, and delegitimization that is growing in Holland. This threat is extending beyond the realms of radical left-wing groups into the commercial and political sectors of Dutch society.

Now a Dutch company, Vitens, the largest drinking-water supplier in the Netherlands, decided it is refusing to work with Mekorot, Israel’s national water corporation. What makes this decision discriminatory and strange is that, although Vitens refuses to work with Mekorot, both the Palestinian Authority and Jordan continue to do so.

Further, with the new cooperation agreement, signed in Washington between Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, and the World Bank, for new water exchanges and allocations and a massive project of regional cooperation to develop the Red Sea-Dead Sea water channel, of which Mekorot will be an important participating partner, the Viten’s decision is strange in its timing.  

It came just two months after it had signed a cooperative agreement with Mekorot. As Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, said, “It is more than strange that this Dutch company should boycott an Israeli partner that works with the World Bank on a very important regional cooperation project. This only shows that by caving in to boycott pressures, one makes absurd decisions that result in a topsy-turvy situation.”

Viten’s states that it is in compliance with international law though there is no unequivocal international law ruling that prevent a company like Viten’s cooperating with Mekorot in work and development that will benefit all the inhabitants of Judea & Samaria, also known as the West Bank.

Viten’s decision follows another Dutch company, the Royal Haskoning DHV engineering firm, who recently cancelled its participation in constructing a sewage treatment plant across the Green Line that will benefit the Palestinian Arab population.

Dutch companies, it seems, are taking steps that hinder regional cooperation and negatively affects the best interests of the population in the disputed territories.

It is felt that Dutch companies take their position under the guidance of the Dutch government which has recently been discouraging companies from economic involvement beyond the Green Line, no matter who it harms.

It is now more urgent than ever that concerned legal professionals in Holland gather to create the Dutch Lawyers for Israel NGO to fight for common sense and justice. Lawyers, legal academics, and professors of international law should come together and create a body that will be both a think tank and an active organization to challenge the misconceptions and dangers of boycotts, sanctions, and other discriminatory measures that are increasingly being taken in the Netherlands against Israel.

Barry Shaw is the Special Consultant on Delegitimization Issues to the Strategic Dialogue Center of Netanya Academic College, Israel.

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