A Dutch politician from an anti-racist party declined to shake hands with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, before a meeting at the Dutch parliament in The Hague on Wednesday.
Tunahan Kuzu, a member of Parliament who was born in Turkey and co-founded the new multi-ethnic party, Denk, or Think, in 2014 to represent immigrants to the Netherlands, explained later that he intended the gesture as a sign that many in the Netherlands object to the abuse of Palestinian civilians living under Israeli military rule in the occupied territories.
Photographs and video of the incident showed Kuzu, who was wearing a Palestinian flag pin on his lapel, smile and nod as he was introduced to the Israeli leader but withdraw his right hand behind his back as Netanyahu extended his.
Netanyahu reacted to the snub by making a gesture of dismissal and turning away as he said, “Oh, OK.”
In a statement posted on Facebook, Kuzu said that after the cameras left the room, he confronted Netanyahu with photographs of Palestinians suffering abuses in Gaza and the West Bank — including one of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, with one arm in a sling, who was placed in a headlock by an Israeli soldier — and asked the Israeli leader if this matched his rhetoric about promoting democracy, technology, and security in the region.
Netanyahu was greeted more warmly by Prime Minister Mark Rutte, but the Dutch leader made it clear that his government wants an immediate end to the building of Jewish-only settlements on the territory Israel seized in 1967, supports the labeling of Israeli exports produced in the occupied West Bank, and would not bar citizens of the Netherlands from taking part in the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against firms that aid Israel’s occupation.
In his remarks, Netanyahu said that “Israel is not only defending itself, Israel is also helping to defend Europe” from “radical Islamist terrorists.”
On the flight home, Netanyahu recorded a message for his social-media followers in which he said the incident showed the difference between “those who want peace and those who don’t.”
The Israeli prime minister could find a much more receptive audience on his next trip to the Netherlands if the anti-Islam Freedom Party, which is leading in the polls, comes to power after elections in March.
The nativist party’s leader, Geert Wilders, encouraged Israelis to build settlements across the occupied West Bank during a visit to Israel in 2010 and has described Muslim immigrants as a threat to Europe’s Judeo-Christian roots.
In his party’s platform, released last month, Wilders promised to “de-Islamize the Netherlands” by closing the nation’s borders to immigrants from Muslim countries, expelling refugees, closing all mosques and Islamic schools, and banning the use of the Quran.