Dutch sent F-35 parts to Israel despite human rights concerns

An F-35 fighter jet. Photo: Odi Busman

The Dutch government has supplied parts for F-35 fighter jets to Israel despite concerns by civil servants that the bombardment of Gaza breaches international law, the NRC reported on Wednesday.

Israel ordered components from the F-35 European Regional Warehouse, based at Woensdrecht airbase, in the wake of the October 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas, as part of what Israeli chief of staff Herzl Halevi called a “seamless co-operation” between ground troops and air defence in the Gaza Strip.

Caretaker foreign affairs minister Hanke Bruins Slot and foreign trade minister Liesje Schreinemacher were informed of the delivery in October, according to the NRC.

Under the terms of the deal Israel can request parts from European stocks without requiring a separate export licence each time, but the Dutch government can intervene if a delivery conflicts with its foreign policy.

Officials said there was a danger that Israel’s bombing of targets in the densely populated Gaza enclave risked breaching international laws, but recommended allowing the order to go through. Blocking the delivery would potentially harm relations with Israel and the United States, they said.

More than 10,000 Palestinians have been killed since the bombing began, according to Gaza’s ministry of health, while UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said Gaza was becoming a “graveyard for children”.

Rome statute

The foreign affairs ministry told the NRC that it had considered both “Israel’s right to self-defence” and “the risks of breaching humanitarian laws of war” in its decision.

But human rights lawyer and UvA international law professor Liesbeth Zegveld said said the Dutch government was potentially complicit in war crimes under Article 8 of the Rome Statue, the treaty that established the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

“The Netherlands should assume that everything that is being delivered will be deployed in disproportionate air attacks that do not discriminate between civilians and Hamas fighters,” she said.

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