Prepare for the above claim – masquerading as the title – to be swiftly employed by hawkish politicians and ‘pro-Israel’ squawk boxes alike.

Why? The Netherlands’ oldest engineering firm, Royal Haskoning, has canceled a massive water treatment project with the Jerusalem municipality after intense pressure from the Dutch government to do so.

The reason: part of the plant would have been built over the Green Line, in Palestinian territory. According to Haaretz, the firm pulled out of the deal after strong pressure from the Dutch government, and released a statement detailing its refusal to violate international law:

“Royal HaskoningDHV carries out its work with the highest regard for integrity and in compliance with international laws and regulations,” it stated. “In the course of the project, and after due consultation with various stakeholders, the company came to understand that future involvement in the project could be in violation of international law. This has led to the decision of Royal HaskoningDHV to terminate its involvement in the project.”

The Dutch government warned Royal HaskoningDHV about the possible consequences of carrying out projects for Israeli companies in East Jerusalem or the West Bank.

This move will likely be characterized by hawkish individuals in America as a ‘boycott’ intended to bring Israel to its knees – as an existential threat to the country’s existence. Now, as I’ll detail in a moment, this decision by the Dutch engineering firm isn’t the result of a boycott, but rather adherence to new EU guidelines.

However, even if it were a boycott aimed at pressuring the Israeli government to move away from the occupation and settlement enterprise, such a nonviolent ‘protest’ would have nothing to do with advocating for the elimination of Israel, and everything with using economic protests to effect change.

This doesn’t stop a cacophonous component in America from often claiming otherwise regarding the use of boycotts to effect change, as I know all too well. (In a review for my forthcoming book – What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife? – conservative commenters called me an anti-Semite and Israel-hater due to my support for the idea of nonviolent boycotts or sanctions to move pressure Israel to change its geo-political stances.)

That said, the move by Royal Haskoning – and the Dutch government – is in line with new guidelines established by the E.U. (set to go into effect in 2014) forbidding European companies from doing business with Israeli institutions which have facilities in the Occupied Territories.

Per Noam Sheizaf regarding those guidelines:

One of its first articles states that, “the EU does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty” in any of the territories captured in 1967, including the Golan and East Jerusalem, “irrespective of their legal status under domestic Israeli law.” The EU, therefore, will not enter projects with organizations that are based or operate in the occupied territories.

Such guidelines themselves have inspired some to evoke Nazi-era boycotts of Jews as a parallel for Europe’s true intentions.

We are still at a stage in America in which critiques of, and protests against, Israel will inspire illegitimate claims of anti-Semitism and destruction-of-Israel motivations.

Claims intended only to shut down dialogue and debate.

Follow David Harris-Gershon on Twitter @David_EHG

Author’s Note:

In the past, I have voiced my support for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). However, to be clear, I don’t align with the movement, but with the principles of such nonviolent methods to effect change.

Put another way: a) As a liberal Zionist, I believe in the two-State solution, b) I view the occupation and the settlement enterprise as not just tragic moral failings and the cause of much Palestinian suffering, but a threat to Israel itself, and c) I support the idea of sanctions to pressure Israel to move away from these policies. I don’t align with any official BDS movement, but instead support non-violent protest to change policies.


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