rans Timmermans, party leader on behalf of GroenLinks and the PvdA, delivers the 34th Abel Herzberg lecture in the Rode Hoed, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 10 September 2023. The lecture has been held annually in Amsterdam since 1990 to keep the ideas of writer Abel Herzberg alive. EPA-EFE/RAMON VAN FLYMEN


Members of Timmermans’ party demand more pro-Palestinian line


Dutch politician and former European Union deputy Frans Timmermans is facing heat over his vocal support for Israel following the Hamas terrorist attacks that began on October 7.

Members of the Socialists and Green coalition in the Netherlands are demanding Timmermans rectify his comments regarding the violent assault, especially the depiction of Israel’s retaliation as “self-defence”.

In a letter published by the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, coalition members referred to the situation, talking about “apartheid state Israel” and “fascism of the Israeli state” that is “difficult to ignore”.

The authors of the letter were Juliette Mattijssen (a member of both parties), Geke Hasperhoven (Green Party), and Martine Doppen (Green Party). They had also asked PvdA and GL members to sign it. Historically, the Green Party has maintained a sympathetic stance towards the Palestinian cause.

The Left-wing party members demanded the leadership, Timmermans and Jesse Klaver, rectify their comments regarding the Hamas action.

In their letter to the leaders, the authors said they “disapprove the violence of Hamas, and don’t ask to approve it” but added they did demand “an honest depiction of the situation and interpret the origin of violence in its context”.

That context is, according to them, the “apartheid state Israel” and the “fascism of the Israeli state”.

On social media, party members and sympathisers had already reacted similarly to the condemnation of Hamas and “the right to self-defence”.

Among comments were some stating Israel was “far-Right” and the leaders’ reaction “completely unnuanced”. Others indicated maps they said showed Israel “stole” Palestinian land.

In the letter, there is also an announcement that the members will “defend” their opinion on the matter during the party conference in Rotterdam on October 14.

On the evening of October 10 , Timmermans stated on TV that Israel had the right to defend itself. He said he believed the country’s current circumstances should be better appreciated but also said he demanded “proportionality” from Israel. He added that turning off power and water to Gaza was not proportionate.

In the Dutch Parliament, Klaver said it was “perfectly logical” that Israel had the right “to protect itself” and “will do everything possible to ensure that Hamas is not able to carry out such an act again”.

The conflict between Israel and Palestine is a sensitive issue on the broader Left, with a large proportion, especially on the hard Left, putting most of the blame for the current situation on Israel. The French La France Insoumise party, for instance, refuses to describe Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

In major cities across the West, there have been several pro-Palestinian demonstrations, often by protesters of foreign ancestry or of Islamic faith but also more general activists on the Left.