Dutch pro-Palestine group targeted in 'smear campaign' after freedom of information request leak

Dutch pro-Palestine group targeted in 'smear campaign' after freedom of information request leak
The Rights Forum had asked Dutch universities to reveal their ties to Israel and pro-Israel organisations.
2 min read
13 February, 2022
The Rights Forum said it submitted the request on behalf of pro-Palestinian academics and students [LightRocket via Getty]

A pro-Palestine organisation in the Netherlands said on Friday that it has been subjected to a "smear campaign" after a request to Dutch universities for information on ties to Israel and pro-Israel organisations was leaked.

The Rights Forum said it submitted the WOB request, the equivalent of a Freedom of Information request, to the universities "a few weeks ago".

"In the WOB request submitted, universities are asked for information about their organisational ties with Israeli academic institutions and companies, as well as with organisations in the Netherlands and abroad that are known for their active and unconditional support for Israel's domination of the Palestinians," the Rights Forum said in a statement.

The group said that their request was leaked by an employee at one of the universities to a pro-Israel organisation, then to De Telegraaf, one of the Netherlands' biggest newspapers.

"In no time, a smear campaign was launched in which The Rights Forum is accused... of anti-Semitism. Our office was inundated with abuse and hate messages by phone and email," the group said.

The group blamed the campaign on high-profile pro-Israel figures and columnists, who had accused the request and the organisation of being anti-Semitic.

As a result of the request, more than a dozen Dutch universities asked their staff to list interactions they have had with Israeli and pro-Israel organisations, The Times of Israel reported on Saturday.

The Israeli daily said some of the organisations listed by The Rights Forum are "mainstream Jewish entities from the Netherlands and beyond that do not define themselves as Israeli or solely focused on Israel".

Pro-Israel figures have demanded answers from Dutch justice minister Dilan Yesilgoz on why the request was approved.

The Rights Forum said it had put in the WOB request on behalf of a group of pro-Palestine staff and academics who feared they would be subject to a smear campaign if they submitted the request themselves.

"The academics and students approached us in December with the request to submit the WOB request they had drawn up to the universities. They feared damaging consequences for their careers if they did so themselves," The Rights Forum said.