On 3 April 2018, the Dutch Nieuw Israëlitisch Weekblad (New Israelite Weekly) reported on a smear campaign by pro-Palestine protesters against a Jewish police officer. “Dutch BDS activists have started a smear campaign against police officer Max Engelander. The insults on social media got from bad to worse in a short period of time, ”said the editorial board of the Nieuw Israëlitisch Weekblad.
Engelander regularly issues fines to the activist Simon Vrouwe when he collects donations without permit. A permit is indeed required for this, although you may wonder why this violation is such a priority for the police. Simon prefers to stand quietly alone with his installation on Dam square, where he informs passers-by about the occupation of Palestine and the fate of the Palestinians. Occasionally he receives some donations which he transfers directly to Gaza via Western Union, something which cannot be wrong, according to Simon’s beliefs.
Pro-Palestine protests on Dam Square are a thorn in the side of the pro-Israel lobby. The pro-Israel lobby tries to get Simon and others removed from Dam Square in Amsterdam, the main square in Amsterdam which is the “place to be” for protestors. A group of zionists constantly provokes Simon and other pro-Palestine activists, who regularly even attack Simon and the other pro-Palestine activists. Michael Jacobs is especially prone to cause problems. Jacobs already got convicted several times for mistreatment of pro-Palestinian activists.
The pro-Israel lobby lobbies the city council aggressively, and with results. On 28 April 2017, Eberhard Van der Laan – the former mayor of Amsterdam who established a formal cooperation between Amsterdam and Tel Aviv – severely curtailed the demonstration right of Simon Vrouwe. Simon was only allowed to stand on Dam Square once every two weeks for three hours. Simon Vrouwe started demonstrating on other squares in Amsterdam as well. But contrary to what Van der Laan had hoped for, the ban did not solve any problem. The zionists just moved with Simon to the other squares and disrupt Simon’s protests where-ever he goes.
Another activist Rob van Norren also often demonstrates on his own at Dam square, where he, like Simon, is constantly harassed by zionists. On 12 April 2019 Femke Halsema – Van der Laan’s successor – also severely curtailed Rob’s right to demonstrate. Rob was only allowed to be on the Dam once every two weeks for only three hours as well. But Rob went to court and the judge annulled the decision of the mayor. The judge ruled that protesters protesting alone can not be restricted in their freedom of speech. As a side effect, Simon Vrouwe could return to Dam square as well and can protest on Dam square as often as he wants. But as he moved back to Dam square, the zionists followed.
Halsema appears to have accepted her loss in the courtroom, but it has not solved the problems between pro-Palestine protesters and zionists. After dozens of requests from us, Halsema or her staff still refuses to meet with us to find a solution for the harassment by zionists, appearing to be afraid to be accused of antisemitism.
Halsema continues to bother Simon Vrouwe with police officers who check whether Simon accepts donations for the Palestinians in Gaza. If Simon is caught again, he will have to pay a penalty of 2000 euros to the municipality – an administrative sanction. The police deployment is remarkable considering the complaints by Halsema during City Council meetings in which she emphasizes that she doesn’t have enough police officers to fight organized crime.
Officer Max Engelander takes it a step further. Sometimes he’s waiting out of sight behind a few other people, then rushes over to Simon to fine him when Simon takes a donation. Strange behavior from a police officer, in any case. But Max Engelander is not just a cop. He is strongly pro-Israel and demonstrates that regulary publicly. And the situation is even worse. On 4 April 2016, Engelander signed a petition calling upon the city government to remove Simon Vrouwe and other pro-Palestine protesters from Dam square. That makes the behavior of Engelander – eager to fine Simon for collecting money for the Palestinians – remarkable to say the least.
Also remarkable is that the police in the article of the Nieuw Israëlitisch Weekblad indicate that pro-Palestine protesters may be prosecuted for defamation of Engelander and other cops. But defamation only applies when incorrect information is shared. As police spokesperson Sara Tillart said to the Nieuw Israëlitisch Weekblad: “This case is under investigation because of the officer’s Jewish background. We are still discussing the matter internally. This took place in a public place and people are allowed to film there. But if one is guilty of defamation or slander [of police officers], it has consequences. ” The threatening comments in the article against the pro-Palestinian activists turn out to be empty words. None of the pro-Palestine protesters are charged with defamation or slander. In addition, after publishing the Dutch version of this article on 2 January 2020, nobody has been charged by the Dutch government.
Of course, the Nieuw Israëlitisch Weekblad emphasizes the Jewish background of the police officer, as if we would have done something different if he had been a Christian or an atheist. This is about his unusual and biased behavior towards pro-Palestine activists and his outspoken public hostility towards Simon Vrouwe, for example by signing such a petition. That does not suit any officer of the law.
On 24 May 2019, Simon Vrouwe was interrogated by the Dutch police by order of public prosecutor A.J.M. Vreekamp. A police officer briefly shows him a photo instigating that he was on the photo. The officer told Simon – with a little smile on his face – that he should get himself a good lawyer and the sooner the better. Finally, the police found something to criminalize Simon, after the defeat that Halsema suffered in court. The mayor, the prosecutor and the police work closely together on this issue.
Five officers who know Simon Vrouwe very well all declared that Simon is the man on the photo who threw a glass bottle containing poo against the front door of the Anne Frank house on 14 May 2019. The front door was damaged. Simon was outraged and shocked about the false accusations. He was not even in Amsterdam that evening (which became also evident later after the police requested information from his telecom provider). Despite Simon’s tremendous aversion towards Israel, he would never do anything to Jewish institutions or Jews. That would also be strange, since he often stands up for the Palestinian cause together with Jews. During the interrogation, Simon subtly points out to the officer that the man on the photo does not even look like him. The officer grins a little evasively and writes down what Simon says.
But the public prosecutor Vreekamp continues. In the spring of 2019 and in the first half of the summer, various police officers work on behalf of Vreekamp on a detailed file. A hearing in court is planned for 25 October.. On 4 October, Simon even has to report himself already to the probation service. They treat him as if he is already convicted.
At the end of September, public prosecutor Vreekamp spends her free time on a terrace near Dam square, and accidentally sees Simon cycling towards Dam square with a Palestinian flag. Vreekamp did not know Simon personally, and had based the prosecution on the statements of the five cops who know Simon very well. But she immediately concludes that Simon is not the man on the photo.
Many internal consultations between the Public Prosecution Service and the police then follow. Vreekamp realizes that this will be a lost case in the courtroom. Continuing with the case is not an option she concludes. But canceling the case also means a big blow for the Public Prosecution Service and especially for the police.
Vreekamp realizes that she has no choice. She dismisses the charges, cancels the hearing at the Amsterdam court and invites Simon and his lawyer to her office. A charm offensive was being launched, hoping to prevent media attention. On 28 November, Simon and his lawyer enter the giant building of the Public Prosecution Service near Central Station. Overly friendly she receives them. Vreekamp offers far-reaching apologies. And the costs of Simon’s lawyer will be paid of course. Pretending interest in why Simon is demonstrating for the Palestinians, she does her best to please Simon and his lawyer. After everything that happened, the feigned interest no longer impresses Simon.
And you guessed it already… the file also shows that Max Engelander is one of the police officers who stated that Simon was the man on the photo. A police officer who knows Simon thoroughly. Also police officer Christiaan Merks, who knows Simon very well as well, was one of the police officers who stated that Simon was the man on the photo. When Merks sees Simon on Dam square, he behaves super friendly to him….. as part of the charm offensive. Now the
question remains: what inspired five officers to designate Simon as a suspect, while it was immediately clear to the public prosecutor Vreekamp that Simon is not the man on the photo?
On 10 December, Simon publicly posts about the incident on his Facebook page for the first time. Vreekamp and the police realize that the charm offensive has failed and that documents and photos will be published. The friendlier attitude of police officers is over and done with. The police and the Public Prosecution Service immediately draft new charges against Simon, and so on Monday 6 January Simon was ordered to come to a police station again to be interrogated again. Meanwhile, Simon was not allowed to file official complaints against zionists after he was beaten again by a zionist. Officers then dismissed Simon without mercy. Past official complaints have all been dropped.
Not only Simon is badly treated by the police. On 17 February 2019, a police officer stated that he had seen Rob van Norren with a swastika on Dam square. It turned out to be a lie. The police was forced to correct the false report. The police officer stated that he saw a swastika by mistake. Oh well, we all sometimes see swastikas when they are not there… Right?
Both the police, the public prosecution service and the municipality of Amsterdam were approached for feedback. The Public Prosecutor’s Office and the police have acknowledged receipt of the draft article, but have not proposed any changes. The municipality has not responded to my request for feedback