Erik Ader, a former Dutch diplomat whose father had saved Jews in the Second World War and in whose name the JNF planted 1100 trees on the lands of Beit Nattif, visited the destroyed village to protest JNF's use of his father's name to cover up for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
Erik Ader Speech:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am the [proud] son of the man you see commemorated on this plaque. Proud because this man managed, with the help of many others, to save the lives of two to three hundred Jewish compatriots during the Holocaust, as is testified by Yad Vashem. He was betrayed, arrested, severely tortured to squeeze information out of him, which failed completely, and finally executed on the 20th of November 1944. Had he not been betrayed and lived to implement his audacious plan to overrun the transit camp for Jews on Dutch soil the number of people saved could easily have been over a thousand.
It is a bit silly, of course, to be proud of someone else’s courage and deeds. Even if it’s one’s father. I didn’t even known him. But I can’t help it.
What I am not at all proud of is the location of this plaque. This plaque marks the spot where grateful survivors planted 1100 trees in my father’s name. Pine trees. “To make the desert bloom”, as those who donated them were led to believe. There was no desert here. There was a thriving Palestinian community, a community which was forcefully expelled. Cleansed. The trees, planted in my father’s name, a man who stood up to defend basic human rights, these trees were planted to cover an act of ethnic cleansing. We never had a chance to ask him what he would have made of all this. No need either: based on what he stood for he would have been upset by this travesty of truth and justice.
The unveiling of this monument was done by my mother on the 22nd of November 1967. She had the gift of believing and trusting people until proven otherwise. She was not aware of the scam that she was participating in. But what is bothering me as a Dutch citizen is the fact that the Chargé d’Affaires of the Dutch embassy at the time, Mr. Van der Kun, was also present at this ceremony. He must have known what was going on. Diplomats are not all as daft as you might think. The Dutch embassy must have known what was going on, here and in all these other locations, where the JNF was covering up and wiping out the traces of an earlier Palestinian existence. No doubt this was reported to the Government in The Hague, and no doubt this information was systematically ignored as unwelcome: it did not fit in with what Dutch public opinion wanted to hear at the time. It preferred to remain blissfully ignorant about the injustices done to the Palestinian people.
This is going on to this very day. I am embarassed by my country, which continues to give tax breaks to the JNF, which is, by its deeds, a discriminating organisation. It practised it’s discriminatory behaviour after the Naqba of 1948, it did so after the conquest of the West Bank, it continues to do so to this very day by foresting lands which are expropriated from the Bedu in the Negev and by funding settler organisations in the Occupied Territories. The JNF stands to be accused, of being complicit in ethnic cleansing and I am ashamed to see my father’s name tied to it.
I’m ashamed of my country which over the years has given Israel a blanc check. All we did was accepting Israel’s violations of International Law, all the while mumbling toothless admonitions. We were Israel’s useful fools, buying in into a peace process that was systematically sabotaged by Israel while providing cover for creating facts on the ground. The moments when all this could have been averted the international community failed to put adequate pressure on Israel. After the Camp David summit of 1978, after the murder of Rabin in 1995, at the time of the Arab League Summit peace proposal of 2002, repeated in 2007. We are still failing. People who are entitled to Dutch social security, and who are living in the West Bank are treated by my Government as if they were living in Israel proper, in violation of international and of Dutch law.
Taking you back to the memory of my father and knowing how he was tortured: it hurts, it hurts like hell to know that this very day, like yesterday and tomorrow, Palestinians were, are and will be tortured at the hands of Israelis. More often than not totally arbitrarily, not seldom minors, more often than not because they stood up for their rights and dignity.
Why are we commemorating? What is the use of commemorating the horrors of the past and honour its heroes if we fail to draw universal lessons from it? What is the use if we look exclusively at the transgressions committed against us, while we fail to see what lessons they contain for our own behaviour?
The Dutch are not alone in their failings. Instead of discrediting Israel for all it has done some countries in Europe and elsewhere are trying to discredit and outlaw the BDS- movement. What is wrong with asking for sanctions on violations of international law? What is wrong with divesting from companies which benefit from a brutal occupation? What is wrong with boycotting people who in words and deeds advocate the oppression of another people? BDS was the non-violent way to undo Apartheid in South Africa. Why would it be all wrong here and now? It seems to be the only way to stop Israel in its suicidal tracks. As the legendary Bishop and Nobel-laureate Desmond Tutu asked: ”If you see your friend being drunk, should you not take the keys of his car?”
South Africa abolished it’s de-humanizing Apartheid-system. It created a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” to come to terms with the sins of the past. Instead of covering up its sins by means of the JNF, instead of denying it’s past, it would help if Israel finally stood up and acknowledged the sins it committed in its creation, expressed remorse in the best Jewish traditions and would seek atonement by trying to undo the injustices done to the Palestinians.
I hope to live and see a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” in Israel-Palestine. If so I’ll come and rejoice and plant another 1100 trees in Israel.
Thank you very much for your attention.
[For now I’ll plant 1100 trees in Far’ata the day after tomorrow, on the 20th of November. Large swaths of olive tree groves were burned with impunity by settlers and as recently as ten days ago the rightful owners were chased away from their olive groves to deny them their harvest, under the watchful eye of the IDF. Planting 1100 olive to give moral and material support to people who live in a state of their rights being trampled on, without any protection by the Government of the occupying country. They have their lands confiscated, their olive trees torched, A Government which is supposed to guarantee their right under international law but works in collusion with the settlers with the aim to make the occupation permanent and …]