The Dutch government has defended the right to boycott Israel, in a rejection of Israeli efforts to outlaw such political activity.
In response to questions from Green Left MP Rik Grashoff on Israel's threats against human rights defenders active in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, Foreign Affairs Minister Bert Koenders said that "statements or meetings concerning BDS are protected by the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, as enshrined in the Dutch Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights."
According to Koenders, Israel regularly raises the topic of BDS in bilateral meetings with the Dutch government. The minister said that while the government itself does not support the boycott of Israel, "endorsing BDS falls under freedom of expression."
The Netherlands is the second European Union (EU) state to publicly state that support for the Palestinian-led BDS campaign should be protected under the principle of freedom of expression. In March 2016, the Swedish foreign ministry affirmed that BDS "is a civil society movement" and that "governments should not interfere in civil society organization views."
Riya Hassan, Europe coordinator for the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), welcomed Koenders comments.
"With the Netherlands joining Sweden in defending the right to advocate and campaign for Palestinian rights under international law through BDS, Israel's attempt to get the BDS movement outlawed in Europe and to bully its supporters into silence has been dealt a serious blow."
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