How the Dutch government subsidizes BDS supporters - heavily
How the Dutch government subsidizes BDS supporters - heavily

During a debate in late May on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Dutch parliament, Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said: “Statements or meetings concerning BDS are protected by freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, as enshrined in the Dutch Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.”[1] Hypocritically, thereafter Koenders, a member of the Labor party, PvdA, informed the Israeli government that his government opposes BDS.

What Koenders did not say was that the Dutch government heavily subsidizes Dutch organizations for development cooperation which support BDS. The government uses the simplest trick in the book to juggle the truth, earmarking its subsidy to these bodies for other purposes. Thus the Dutch government, despite its official claims to the contrary, de facto financially strengthens and legitimizes BDS promoters.

One of several pro-BDS organizations greatly subsidized by the Dutch government is Cordaid, a Catholic development cooperation body. According to NGO Monitor it received 491 million Euros from the Dutch government from 2007 to 2011.[2] Since then the amount has increased further.

Cordaid has a long history of hate promotion against Israel. Jitschak Santis, formerly with NGO Monitor said: “Cordaid’s biased activities are illustrated by their funding decisions, publications and political positions…Cordaid Director René Grotenhuis, argued during a 2011 panel in the Dutch parliament, that BDS is a defensible tactic because, ‘it is important that people in Palestine look for ways to resist occupation, and this is a non-violent way to do so.’[3]

In 2012, Cordaid joined a coalition of 22 European NGOs in producing a report titled “Trading Away Peace: How Europe Helps Sustain Illegal Israeli Settlements.” The organization promotes the BDS agenda, calling on the EU and national governments to wage political warfare through economic sanctions against Israel. Cordaid also joined in a 2009 report titled “Failing Gaza: No rebuilding, no recovery, no more excuses.” The report falsely claims that Gaza remains occupied. In addition, the organization funds various anti-Israel NGOs in Israel and the Palestinian territories.”[4]

Cordaid’s support for anti-Israel actions goes back much further. In 2002 a major scandal developed concerning the Ford Foundation’s funding of LAW, the Palestinian Committee for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment. LAW heavily incited against Israel. It refused to answer spending inquiries, with over 2 million dollars unaccounted for, misappropriated, or placed in bank accounts instead of being spent on programs.[5] LAW was subsequently disbanded.

The Ford Foundation gave LAW 1.1 million dollars, and after the scandal broke it had to rearrange its funding policy. Little attention was paid at the time to the fact that Cordaid gave LAW the sum of 1.5 million dollars, topping the Ford Foundation’s donation.

One could do somewhat similar analyses on other Dutch development cooperation bodies such as Oxfam-Novib and ICCO. 

It should also be mentioned that Liliane Ploumen, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Aid and Development Coordination was employed by Cordaid for several years and even became its director. From 2007 to 2012 she was also chairperson of the Dutch Labor Party.

In July 2015 Koenders placed a wreath at Yad Vashem. In the guestbook he wrote “discrimination and antisemitism are still alive today. We owe it to the millions who were murdered in the Holocaust to continue to fight this evil through remembering the past and by educating today.”[6] However, when a motion to counter anti-Semitism within the educational system was raised in the Dutch Parliament later that year, the Labor party, the junior partner in the government, opposed it.[7]

Koenders has also firmly backed the labeling of products from the disputed 'West Bank' and the 'occupied' Golan by the European Union. Yet Koenders did not ask for similar measures against many other countries where the legal situation is much clearer, for instance Turkish occupied Northern Cyprus. This is a typical anti-Israeli mutation of the classic anti-Semitic double standards.[8]

At the beginning of October 2007 Koenders, then Dutch Minister of Development Cooperation, made three million Euro available for emergency help to Gaza. His ministry issued a press release saying: “The one and a half million inhabitants of Gaza are victims of the closure of the borders by the Israeli army after the takeover by Hamas [of the Gaza Strip].”[9]

The press release also mentioned that the Netherlands helped the agricultural sector in Gaza in various ways and stated “due to the closing of the border passage at Karni, the first 500,000 carnations meant for export to the auction in Aalsmeer [in the Netherlands] have been destroyed.”

Koenders claims that he is a humanitarian. Yet his press release made no mention of the context for the closure, the thousands of rockets and mortars that had been fired at Israeli villages by Hamas and others from Gaza, killing, wounding and threatening Israeli civilians.

This was what one might call a typical humanitarian racist statement implying that only white people can be held responsible for their acts.
A few years ago the Labor party website carried the statement: “No other lengthy conflict puts so much pressure on the world as the Israeli-Palestinian one.” The statement has since been removed – it is to be hoped that this is because by now even the leaders of the Labor party understand how ridiculous it is.

In 2013 Labor held its first congress on the Middle East. Party leader Diederik Samsom said “more in particular Israel – as the strongest party in the conflict – is responsible for the productive resuming of the peace process to reach a sustainable two state solution.”[10]

This was what one might call a typical humanitarian racist statement implying that only white people can be held responsible for their acts. From the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights one must conclude however that all individuals are equally responsible for their acts.[11]

Samsom looked away from the responsibility of many others with regard to the peace process.

Not a word about the enormous responsibility of the Palestinians and their Arab and Muslim supporters for the current situation.

Not a word about the mass murder which was the objective of the Arab and Muslim attack on the new State of Israel in 1948.

Not a word about the refusal of all Arab states to negotiate with Israel after 1967 in Khartoum.

Not a word about the genocidal party program of Hamas, the largest Palestinian party.

Not a word about the continuous glorification of the Palestinian terrorist by the Palestinian Authority.

Not a word about the  Palestinian terrorism in response to Israel’s voluntary withdrawal from the Gaza area.

Koenders’ distorting of the truth about BDS is thus just one element in a much broader environment of political degeneration. The Labor party is a standard-bearer for this environment, and Koenders’ false claim that the Netherlands opposes BDS without mentioning that it heavily finances major BDS supporters fits in perfectly.

As a post-script: A few weeks after Koenders’ statement on BDS three Dutch pro-Israeli parties brought a motion in parliament that asked the Dutch government to stop financing directly or indirectly organizations which strive to promote boycotting or anti-Israel sanctions.[12] The motion was accepted.

Koenders’ Labor party voted against it.[13]

See For updated information on Manfred Gerstenfeld’s published articles, books and interviews in English




[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[6]Yad Vashem Jerusalem, volume 78, October 2015.


[8] “Koenders zet etikettering weer op agenda,” Telegraaf, 20 November 2014.

[9] Minister Koenders geeft 3 miljoen voor Gaza . (,2007/10/Minister-Koenders-geeft-3-miljoen-voor-Gaza.html)  4 October 2007. [Dutch]

[10] Afsluitende speech Diederik Samsom – Midden-Oosten debat PvdA Nieuwe Buitensocieteit te Zwolle, 2 maart 2013.