Monday, July 27, 2009

The Dutch Government Has No Intention of Cutting Funding for Breaking the Silence

Question: What are the words for "Foreign Ministry spin" in Hebrew?

Answer: "Barak Ravid"


Dutch officials deny Israeli complaints over funding of leftist group

By Cnaan Liphshiz, Haaretz Correspondent

Diplomats from the Netherlands denied reports that they had received complaints from Israel over Dutch funding for a controversial Israeli human rights group. But Israeli officials insisted the complaints were made, as reported on Sunday by Haaretz.

Meanwhile, Holland's biggest pro-Zionist body said the organization in question, Breaking the Silence, "could deserve funding" from the Dutch government.

The article in Haaretz said that Israel has asked the Netherlands for clarifications about financial aid given to the human rights group Breaking the Silence, which recently released a collection of anonymous accusations of alleged human rights abuses by Israeli soldiers in Gaza.

The Volkskrant, one of Holland's largest papers, published a reaction by the Dutch foreign ministry which said no such complaint has been made, and that there was no reason to stop the subsidy.

According to a close colleague of the minister in The Hague, the subsidy is in line with the human rights policy of Maxime Verhagen, the paper reported, adding the Israeli embassy in Hague was made aware of this position.

The Israeli embassy in Hague was not available for a comment, but an Israeli diplomat said the complaint was conveyed as reported. "Maybe the two countries have a different definition of the concept of complaint," he added.

Haaretz reported that Breaking the Silence received 19,995 euros from the Dutch embassy in Tel Aviv, and that had this figure been higher by five euros, then it would require approval from the foreign ministry in Hague, headed by Verhagen, who is seen as a staunch supporter of Israel.

But the Volkskrant quotes Dutch diplomats as saying the organization received 24,000 euros. Ronny Naftaniel, the head of Holland's largest pro-Zionist group, says this is a pivotal issue.

"It is not right for the organization to receive funding without the public knowing about it," he said. But Naftaniel, a long-time supporter of Arab-Israeli coexistence and of the two-state solution, said he had no objection to the Dutch funding of Breaking the Silence as a principle.

"This organization could deserve funding from the Netherlands," Naftaniel told Haaretz. "Human rights organizations like this and like B'Tselem play an important role in Israeli society and can be of importance in making Israelis think critically about Israel."

Naftaniel added that Breaking the Silence's anonymous report rested heavily on hearsay. "The Israeli army behaves much better than most countries in combat conditions, but criticism is needed to prevent this from being taken for granted," he concluded

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