Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Silence of the Netherlands

Normally a vocal and country that advocates freedom and peace, international justice and human rights, the Netherlands has been surprisingly silent in the current Middle East conflict.

Last week, a number of NGOs and aid organisations (a.o. Oxfam-Netherlands) published an open ad in a national newspaper calling the government to speak out against the ongoing violence. The ad, entitled “Wie zwijgt, stemt toe” [Who(ever) is silent, agrees] argues:

“The Dutch government, in our eyes, loses her credibility as advocate of international law, as long as she tolerates the law of the strongest in silence. An immediate, unconditional and complete ceasefire is the only way to offer citizens protestion. UN-Secretary General has called for this. We demand that the Dutch government raises her voice and unambiguously supports this call.


In a weak response to the appeal, Minister of Foreign Affairs Bot released a press statement, saying he “shares the concerns” of these civil NGOs, but falls short of condemning the violence:

It is terribly sad to see the tragic impact of the hostilities on the lives of the people in the region. Of course, I too see the human suffering the conflict is causing, and the disastrous humanitarian consequences.

The stance of the Netherlands, he says, is the same as that of the Council of the EU statement condemning the attacks on either side. To be fair, he did say that amid all this heated tension, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza should not be forgotten.

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