PRESS REVIEW 23 JANUARY 2008
An overview of the day's press from Radio Netherlands.“A friend of Israel, a comrade of the Palestinians.” The heading in de Volkskrant refers to Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen, who is on a visit to the Middle East. The foreign minister tells the newspaper that it would be going too far to describe the Netherlands as a mediator in the conflict. “You shouldn’t make yourself bigger than you are. But I would like to make some contribution to the success of the peace process.”
De Volkskrant writes that “as a friend of Israel Mr Verhagen visits the offices of the political elite in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The next day he makes a promise in Ramallah that the Netherlands ‘stands shoulder to shoulder next to the Palestinians to make the peace accord possible’.”
The foreign minister, who is on his second visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories in seven months, says the Dutch government wants to play a more active role in the Middle East, “which is why I show my face here often”.
Mr Verhagen told de Volkskrant that he views Israel as a “good partner” and that he has a lot of “credit” with the Palestinian Authority, which is why he “can pass on messages”. The Dutch foreign minister says the Netherlands “facilitated talks between Israel and the Palestinians” during the donor conference in December.
Dutch foreign minister brings three messages
Mr Verhagen told de Volkskrant: “I have three messages. To Israel: Open the Gaza border as soon as security permits. To Gaza: You achieve more with peace than with aggression. To Hamas: I’ll never let you get what you want.”
The foreign minister says that there is no use in being cynical or sceptical about the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks now that they are being resumed after seven years. He says, however, that within the international community “there is a strong feeling of it’s now or never”.
De Volkskrant says that Mr Verhagen emphasised this point while speaking to a conference of mostly Israeli and Jewish American participants. The newspaper reports the foreign minister being applauded when he condemned “Hamas terrorism. But afterwards it’s quiet when he calls for a more balanced approach to Israel by the United Nations or for the necessity to open Gaza’s borders. ‘The more Gaza’s citizens suffer the more excluded and hateful they’ll become’.”
According to de Volkskrant, “Maxime Verhagen is attempting to continue to build on the success which the Netherlands achieved in November, when it got Israel to open its border with Gaza for the export of Palestinian flowers.”
Burka ban will only affect schoolteachers and civil servants
AD leads with the news that the Dutch cabinet will announce next week that it will not ban the burka, an Islamic garment which covers the body with the exception of the eyes. At the end of 2005 the Dutch parliament had approved an initiative of MP Geert Wilders, calling for a total ban of the garment.
AD writes that the cabinet does not want to ban the burka “because that would be in conflict with freedom of religion. It does however want to ban clothing which covers the face in schools. Civil servants will also be forbidden to wear the burka.”
Petition to end ‘admissions boycott’ of Iranian students
AD reports that a group of 50 professors has organised a petition calling on the Dutch government “to end the categorical exclusion of Iranian students and scientists”. More than 2300 students and academics, many of them Iranians, have so far signed the online petition.
The initiative is a reaction to a letter by Education Minister Ronald Plasterk and Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen which was sent to institutes of higher education in September. It called on them to show “great restraint” in admitting Iranian students “in order to keep Iran from receiving specialised knowledge about atomic weapons”.
AD writes that “The Netherlands is the only country that has called on its universities to be vigilant. As a result the technical universities of Twenthe and Eindhoven have refused admission to all Iranian students.”
Freed US prisoners extremely grateful for work of Dutch DNA experts
Today’s issue of De Telegraaf includes a touching article about the release of an innocent man sentenced to life imprisonment in the United States on charges of murder.
Yesterday, Tim Masters was released from a Colorado prison after serving nine years of the sentence, because a Dutch couple specialising in advanced DNA research, Richard and Selma Eikenboom, had offered proof that another man was the killer.
De Telegraaf quotes Mr Eikenboom as saying: “When Masters fell into his family’s arms I got a lump in my throat and my wife wiped away a tear.”
Dutch customs can’t decide: tiger or pussycat?
Trouw writes that Dutch customs officials are attempting to determine whether a 15-kilo cat seized last week is a tiger or a pussycat. A couple from Eindhoven purchased the Ashera cat for 27,000 euros in the United States.
Customs officials argue that the cat, named Shin-Chan, could be a wild animal. Some experts say it is a cross between an African Serval and an Asian leopard cat and is wild while others say an Ashera cat is a cross between a Savannah cat and a domestic cat and hence a domestic animal.
Trouw writes that “The Ashera cat is a new phenomenon in the Netherlands, so new that experts couldn’t say whether it is suited to be a pet.” The owners are angry because they say they had previously made arrangements with customs officials. They write on their website that customs only decided to seize the tiger/pussycat after Shin-Chan’s picture appeared on the front page of De Telegraaf.