How the Dutch Gaza Flotilla Backfired Politically
A Dutch ship was organized as part of the Gaza flotilla in order to help Hamas, portray that effort has humanitarian, and create anti-Israel sentiment. The story of how this effort backfired is a fascinating tale of contemporary political warfare. Indeed, the end result has been to make the Dutch debate more pro-Israel and anti-Islamist.
Many articles — often with Dutch Internet media taking the lead — exposed alliances between Dutch far leftists and local Islamists who, together with some Christian groups, formed the organization Nederland-Gaza organizing Dutch participation in the second Gaza flotilla. The result has been a serious public debate and an actual increase in pro-Israel activity and support in the country.
As a result of the organizers' extremism exposed by these reports, all of the Dutch journalists scheduled to sail to Gaza quit, complaining of the flotilla’s “dictatorial atmosphere, paranoia and mutual distrust.”
The Dutch blog KeesjeMaduraatje was one of the first to publish material about extremist elements in the second Gaza flotilla, revealing that Free Gaza Holland’s chairman, Rob Groenhuizen, was a convicted communist extremist who used to be a member of Dutch groups affiliated with the German terrorist Rote Armee Fraktion.
Groenhuizen’s group also had ties with the Palestinian terrorist organization PLFP and members participated in a terrorist training camp in Yemen in 1976.
In an e-mail exchange, Groenhuizen’s wrote about the second flotilla’s real goal:
This game about humanitarian aid is part of a tremendous plot -- something that Israel tries to postpone as long as possible -- but with every uprising in the Arab world and each mistake Israel makes, the end is coming nearer. ... Everybody knows Israel is not sustainable.
Another Dutch blogger, Carel Brendel, recently revealed more details about ties between Nederland-Gaza, Islamist groups in Europe, and Hamas in Gaza. On June 18 Brendel wrote that he had found evidence that the Italian NGO Associazione Benefica di Solidarieta con il Popolo Pelaestinense (ABSPP) and the Dutch NGO ISRAA each had donated 100.000 euros for the purchase of the Dutch/Italian boat .
Dutch Hamas member Amin Abu Rashed, who was arrested last year on the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ship in the first flotilla, is co-founder of ISRAA, a Dutch Islamic charity. Rashed also co-founded the European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza (ECESG) along with Ibrahim Akkari, a Dutch Muslim Brotherhood leader.
In addition, Rashed has worked for the Rotterdam-based Hamas charity El Aksa, banned by the Dutch authorities. That group was part of the network headed by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s most influential cleric who has made fiery antisemitic statements.
The chairman of ISRAA, Mohamed el Doori, is also treasurer of the Dutch Federation of Islamic Organizations (FION), still another offshoot of the European Muslim Brotherhood. Both organizations are participating in the Nederland-Gaza coalition.
On May 14 De Telegraaf published another article in which reporter Bart Olmer revealed tapes from the minutes of meetings of the Nederland-Gaza movement’s board proving that Amin Abu Rashed was the driving force behind fundraising for the Dutch boat.
Last week, another Dutch daily, Trouw, ran an article in which Hasna el Maroudi, a reporter for left-wing sites, pointed to Abu Rashed’s central role in the operation despite the attempts of the Nederland-Gaza group to hide that fact. As a result, she decided not to sail on the boat. Another journalist, Wilfred van de Poll, also pulled out after Rashed told him in an interview that he had purchased the boat and admitted to connections between the Nederland-Gaza organization and Hamas.
Then a group of clerics and members from the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PKN) organized a petition demanding an end to ties between the Protestant NGO Kerk in Actie and Sabeel after it was shown that officials of Kerk in Actie collaborated with Sabeel -- an Arab-Christian group -- in propagating blatant lies about Israel.
Other Internet media reports about ties between Dutch NGOs and extremist Palestinian groups caused the Dutch government to change the guidelines on government subsidies for NGOs that fund anti-Israel groups. There is now a debate in the country over cutting back sharply on such funding.
While these developments have exposed the Gaza flotilla as an operation of Hamas and radical left groups seeking to delegitimize and discredit Israel, they also have much broader significance. What has happened in Holland is a case study showing how Internet publications and research on the hidden radicalism and extremist ties of purportedly humanitarian and moderate groups can change government policy, media attitudes, and public opinion.