THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) — Ronny Naftaniel, the former leader of Holland’s main pro-Israel lobby, was feted by the Dutch prime minister and hundreds of others.
“I grew up observing you,” Premier Mark Rutte told Naftaniel Monday at a speech at Naftaniel’s retirement party at the Hague’s Royal Theater. “Your optimism is unparalleled and as long as you maintain that courage, so shall we.”
Naftaniel led the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, for approximately 40 years. In addition to pro-Israel work, under Naftaniel the center became the country’s leading watchdog on anti-Semitism.
Also in attendance were Rutte’s predecessor, Jan Peter Balkenende, and Frits Bolkestein, an ex-European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services.
Established in 1973 in the wake of the Arab oil boycott, the Hague-based center has a staff of about 10 and is considered one of Western Europe’s most active pro-Israel groups. It and its youth division send dozens of Dutch and Belgian journalists, teachers and politicians on fact-finding mission to Israel annually.
Haim Divon, Israel’s ambassador to the Netherlands, said: “You are the voice of the Dutch Jewry and saying ‘thank you’ doesn’t begin to cover it.”
In interviews to Dutch media, Naftaniel said that because of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic tendencies, CIDI’s work “is unfortunately more relevant now than ever.” He added: “I found the turnout extremely impressive. Friends of Israel from all corners of the Netherlands and beyond came especially for this event and I hope it shows something about what my work has meant for the community.”
In addition to his work for Israel and against anti-Semitism, Naftaniel also had a key role in restitution talks with the Dutch government for Holocaust-era property, which yielded $500 million compensation in the years 2000-2002.