Translated by NGO Monitor from the Dutch online newsmagazine De Telegraaf
Censorship on the Gaza boat
by Bart Olmer
Thursday 30 June 2011, 10:54
Furious as a result of the paranoia, the dictatorial environmental, the mutual distrust and the uncooperative behavior on board, all Dutch journalists have left the ship in which Dutch activists seek a confrontation with Israeli marines at the Gaza Strip.
This unique photo shows the Dutch Hamas chief Amin Abou Rashed (left) behind Yusuf al Qarawadi, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood (photo: Telegraaf)
The four editors that left claim they were being censored by activists who didn’t want to deal with critical questions; for example, a question concerning the financing of the ship which was purchased for almost 300.000 Euros. One of the ways this money was gathered was by visiting mosques in the Netherlands, as this newspaper previously revealed.
Vara-editor Hasna El Maroudi decided to leave because the organization refused to reveal which passengers would be there: “I didn’t want to be surprised by the attendance of figures or organizations which I don’t want to have anything to do with. It also remained unclear how the finances of the boat were managed. I also repeatedly inquired into that topic but the answer seemed to remain hanging somewhere in this vague web of organizations, umbrellas and umbrella organizations.” Hasna El Mouradi is a former NRC-columnist.
Now it suddenly becomes clear that the infamous Dutch Hamas chief Amin Abou Rashed has also been attending the crew’s training sessions over the past few days in Greece. El Maroudi: “Amin was attending the day on which the Dutch delegation studied a part of the non-violence course. Wilfred van de Poll, journalist for Trouw, talked a bit with Amin about his presence and his role within the organization. “The master-mind behind the fleet” took care of the acquisition of the boat. He also took care of the lion’s share of the financing.”
El Maroudi: “During dinner Anne de Jong (one of the driving forces behind the fleet) furiously rattled on that it was all lies and that Amin is an extremely kind man who promotes the Palestinian cause with an incredible amount of love. However much I would love to believe her blue eyes – I cannot. Simply because his involvement in the fleet had been kept a secret until his arrival in Greece. Not only for the outside world, but also for the passengers.”
Trouw-reporter Wilfred van de Poll also backed out as passenger because he didn’t trust the organization anymore. According to him, the organization was completely paranoid especially concerning possible leaks to De Telegraaf. The Trouw-journalist talks about “childish accusations” and a “sphere of suspicion” that prompted the journalists to get off the boat.
Wereldomroep radio reporter Eric Beauchemin also quit: “After a week in Greece I have lost all trust in the Netherlands-Gaza foundation. Already at our first meeting on the island of Corfu things actually went wrong. One of the organizers was furious because a Dutch journalist allegedly leaked information to De Telegraaf. I have been working as a journalist for 25 years, but never have I seen such a closed organization. I wanted to make a video report of the mandatory two-day training in order to show how the activists prepared themselves. But the organization prohibited entrance to a lot of parts of this training.”
The Wereldomroep radio reporter talks of a “stunt” (boerenbedrog) Preceding the trip he attended the mandatory meeting in the Netherlands and went through a ‘screening’. “When the organizers told me I was one of ‘the chosen’ I felt obliged to be happy. In hindsight this all looks like a trick: there was no select group of people and also no famous Dutchmen. Instead of the 32 Dutch participants, the organizations had trouble gathering even 10.”
Also freelancer Bud Wichers, an experienced crisis-reporter, backed off, and so his report for EenVandaag was also ruined: “The facts were constantly contradictory to what we had been told. At a certain point the breach of confidence had become irreparable.”
Martijn Dekker, spokesman for the Netherlands-Gaza foundation, is deeply ashamed by the collective departure of the journalists. Dekker, a doctoral student for Political Anthropology at the Free University in Amsterdam, called the quarrel between the activists and the reporters ‘shocking’: “4 journalists that tell the same story is something you can’t beat around. Being closed is the exact opposite of what we claim to be, namely open and transparent.”
Dekker: "We can be open about the source of the money with which the boat has been paid. We were allowed to look into the books of the donating foundation Israa. From this it turns out that all donations have come from Dutch private people and not from some shady sheik abroad.” The foundation Netherlands-Gaza claims to have released the list of attending people only after departure because there was still some shifting of people occurring between the ships. The Dutch ship has left yesterday and will arrive today at a meeting point where three other ships are already waiting.
The foundation was forced to admit that Rashed was present in Greece because of his involvement with the acquisition of the ship. But the organization denies his involvement in the trainings, selections and briefings. Now suddenly a picture has turned up in which Hamas chief Amin Abou Rashed is standing behind sheikh Yusuf al Qarawadi, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Al Qarawadi hopes to transform Egypt into a fundamentalist dictatorship. The sheikh, a staunch anti-Semite infamous for his inciting speeches, has been living in exile in Qatar. After the uprising against Egyptian president Mubarak, he returned to Cairo. Al Qarawadi wishes to stone homosexuals and adulterers, wants to ‘dissemble’ Israel and encourages suicide attacks within Israel and is of the opinion that men can ‘chastise’ insubordinate women.