Court hears suit to stop Netherlands exporting F-35 parts to Israel

By Stephanie van den Berg and Toby Sterling

THE HAGUE (Reuters) -Human rights groups sought to block the Dutch government from exporting F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel, arguing in court on Monday that the exports could make the Netherlands complicit in possible war crimes.

The Netherlands houses one of several regional warehouses of U.S.-owned F-35 parts which are then distributed to countries that request them, including Israel.

The rights groups, which included Oxfam Novib, the Dutch affiliate of the international charity, argued Israel was using the planes in attacks in Gaza that were killing civilians. Preventing that was more important than the Netherlands fulfilling its commercial or political obligations to allied countries, they argued.

“The (Dutch) state must immediately stop its deliveries of F-35 parts to Israel,” lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld said in summary proceeding at the Hague District Court.

“That is its obligation under … article 1 of the Geneva conventions, it is its obligation under the Genocide Treaty to prevent genocide, and it is its obligation under export law.”

Israel denies committing war crimes as it responds to a Hamas cross-border raid on southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which 1,200 Israelis were killed and around 240 taken hostage.

According to Zegveld, Israel’s response has been disproportionate. The Gaza health ministry says more than 15,000 people have been killed during Israel’s response.

But lawyers for the Dutch state said the they have considered the risks of allowing exports to proceed, and weighed them along with other factors, including Israel’s right to self defence, including in a potential wider Middle East conflict.

Lawyer for the Dutch state Reimer Veldhuis said it was “legitimate” to wonder whether Israel’s reaction to Hamas had gone too far.

“But an answer to that question cannot be easily given,” he said. “The suffering of the people of Gaza is great, and the state does not minimize that. But the law that governs armed conflict is not a simple calculation.”

He said that it did not make sense for a Dutch court to try to pass judgment on the actions of the Israeli military at a distance and without all the facts.

He said that it was also in the Netherlands’ broader security and political interests to follow through on obligations and continue the shipments – which could be routed from other warehouses.

A decision is expected in two weeks.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by David Holmes and Alex Richardson)