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Dutch court’s anti-Israel ruling is meaningless, but part of a dangerous trend – opinion

Anne Herzberg - 29 February 2024

A Dutch appeals court recently ruled to block the Netherlands from delivering US-owned F-35 military jet parts to Israel. According to the court, the parts, stored by the US in a warehouse located in the Netherlands, allegedly “constitute a clear risk” of being “used in serious violations of international humanitarian law” in Israel’s war against the Hamas terrorist group in Gaza. The decision overruled a lower court decision that had dismissed the case out of hand.

Despite the celebrations from anti-Israel activists, such a ruling will likely have little material consequence regarding the F-35 parts. It is unclear if Israel even needs such parts at this time, and the United States can simply route them to Israel through a different country.

But the ruling demonstrates, in the wake of the October 7 massacre by Hamas, the appalling and growing trend of legal activism originating with anti-Israel non-governmental organizations (NGOs). These groups seek to exploit courts to hamper Israel’s war against Hamas and to force political decisions they could not otherwise obtain through lobbying, protests, and the ballot box.

Notably, however, these suits do not only seek to harm Israel in its fight against terrorism. As the Dutch case shows, this legal warfare, or lawfare, can also harm the national security and economic interests of the countries where these cases are being filed.

The Dutch suit was initiated by four NGOs – Oxfam Novib, Amnesty International, PAX, and the Rights Forum – ostensibly attempting to stop the supply of weapons and other aid to Israel. In reality, their goal – bad PR for Israel – was achieved the moment a court agreed to hear the case, regardless of whether the F-35 parts are shipped to Israel.

The Dutch case is part of a broader discriminatory Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign promoted by these NGOs. Amnesty International is among the most active NGOs that systematically promote demonization of Israel, BDS, and antisemitism – under the facade of universal human rights.

This bias and discrimination has been reflected in its promotion of artificial and manufactured definitions of apartheid, as well as extensive efforts to exclude antisemitism as an issue of human rights concern.

Oxfam Novib has provided funding to several number of highly biased and politicized NGOs active in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The Rights Forum, founded by former Dutch prime minister Dries van Agt, who has faced accusations of antisemitism since the 1970s, is one of the leaders of the European anti-Israel BDS lobby.

Unsurprisingly, as they ceaselessly attack Israel, these NGOs have engaged in no efforts to hold perpetrators of the Hamas massacre accountable, to lobby on behalf of Israeli hostage families, or to help the many victims of horrific sexual violence that occurred on October 7.

Instead, NGO-driven cases targeting Israel have intensified, with NGOs seeking rulings or injunctions to block allied military support in the Netherlands, as well as in the United States and the UK. Not only do these groups seek to weaken Western ties with Israel, most of the groups involved reject the legitimacy of Israel’s existence as the nation-state of the Jewish people within any borders.

Western courts are being exploited by those who sanitize terrorism

For example, in November, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a suit against the US government on behalf of two Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-affiliated NGOs – Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), and Al-Haq – accusing President Joe Biden of being complicit with Israel in genocide in Gaza.

At the same time, the groups’ complaint to the court simply referred to Hamas, the actual perpetrators of genocide, as a “political party.” In addition to sanitizing the terrorist organization and erasing its crimes, these PFLP-linked NGOs routinely produce reports and UN submissions demonizing Israel and denigrating the right of Jewish self-determination.

It is this sympathy for Israel’s enemies, and corresponding hatred for Israel, rather than humanitarian concerns, that are therefore driving the exploitation of Western courts. And even when lawfare cases are thrown out, they still bring benefits to the NGOs filing them, including publicity for their false claims and building negative narratives about Israel.

This should give pause to these NGOs’ donors, which in Oxfam Novib’s case include the governments of the European Union, Sweden, and the Netherlands, and should spur judges to levy sanctions against those bringing such lawsuits with obvious destructive aims.

Ultimately, the case in the Netherlands will not directly interfere with Israel’s ability to defend its citizens and carry out necessary operations against terrorists in Gaza. Highlighting the nefarious aims of the NGO lawsuit, the Dutch government noted that the F-35s are primarily necessary for Israel’s security against Iran, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon.

Instead, the real losers of this lawsuit could end up being the Dutch government and the Dutch people. Should the Netherlands refuse to violate its binding agreements with the US, the latter might select a different country, one that honors its commitments, as a partner in the F-35 Lightning Program.

oing so would not only cause current and future economic damage to the Netherlands but would also harm the prestige of the Netherlands as being seen as a reliable ally in the international fight against terrorism.

Meanwhile, Israel is busy using weaponry, not to target civilians, as falsely claimed by the NGOs, but to rescue innocents and remove the threat of Hamas. Mere hours before the Dutch court ruling, Israel undertook a daring overnight operation to free two Israeli hostages cruelly held captive in southern Gaza for more than four months.

While the rescue was underway, anti-Israel activists around the world condemned the developments. The truth about the operation, which only emerged in the morning, exposed these hysterical condemnations as nonsense  – much like the propaganda presented by the NGOs to the Dutch court.

Shortly after the decision, the Dutch government announced it was appealing the ruling. It also launched a furious PR effort to convince the US and its other defense partners that it should remain part of the F-35 project and other allied initiatives. Time will tell whether the damage to the Netherlands caused by the malign activities of these anti-Israel NGOs can be undone.


First published in the Jerusalem Post. Published with permission of the author. 

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