THE HAGUE: Netherlands recognises Gaza, occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem as birthplaces, but not the ‘state of Palestine’.
The man whose case led to the Netherlands recognising the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, as official birthplaces, said he is still dissatisfied because the new ruling avoids the word Palestine and therefore fails to acknowledge his identity.
Emiel de Bruijne, who was born in East Jerusalem in 1992 and has Dutch citizenship, sued the Netherlands and took his case before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) seeking his right to register as Palestinian-born, instead of Israeli.
On February 9, in a widely celebrated move, the Dutch government announced it would begin to recognise the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as official birthplaces for Palestinians born in the country from May 15, 1948, onwards, after the establishment of Israel when the British Mandate officially ended.
“This decision means that we are no longer registered as being born in Israel. That is a step in the right direction but by avoiding the word Palestine, our identity is still denied,” De Bruijne told Al Jazeera.
In the ruling, published by the Dutch Interior Ministry, a footnote maintains the development “is also in agreement with the Dutch position that Israel has no sovereignty over these territories and its position on the non-recognition of the ‘State of Palestine’.”
Raymond Knops, Interior Ministry state secretary, said the new category reflects the Oslo Peace Accords terms signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in the 1990s, and later the United Nations Security Council resolutions.
De Bruijne, the son of a Dutch father and Palestinian mother, moved with his family to the Netherlands when he was nine.
He has been trying to change his registration since 2010 to secure his “right to Palestinian identity”.
“Identity is very important to Palestinians. The administrative aspect is, therefore, a key issue. It says something about how we are seen as Palestinians,” he said, adding that he will not be happy until the words “Palestinian Territories” are added to the Dutch civil registry.
“The term is internationally accepted, and various Dutch government websites already use it,” he said.
De Bruijne lost his appeal in 2018 to the Council of State – which advises the Dutch government and serves as a top administrative court – but the Council nonetheless advised the Interior Ministry to amend the registration.
In spite of repeated requests, the registration was not changed, so De Bruijne decided to file the case at the ECHR.
Despite the recent announcement, De Bruijne’s lawyer Tom de Boer told Al Jazeera that he would continue to pursue the case at the ECHR.
Other Dutch Palestinians were also left disappointed.
Ghada Zeidan, De Bruijne’s mother, chairs Palestine Link, an organisation that promotes Palestinian interests in the Netherlands.
“In our opinion, it’s a bureaucratic solution, completely decoupled from the human interest of the issue. It feels like the Netherlands is setting aside our Palestinian identity,” she said.
She noted that the Netherlands includes other non-recognised areas in the civil registry, such as Western Sahara, Taiwan and the Panama Canal Zone.
Previously, as well as Israel, “unknown” was an option as a birthplace – it was added in 2014 after Palestinians protested against putting “Israel” down.
Dutch activist Ibrahim al-Baz is one of 5,000 Palestinians in Vlaardingen, a city near Rotterdam with the largest Palestinian community.
“My Palestinian nationality means everything to me. It’s my right to self-determination which is now denied,” said al-Baz, a first-generation Palestinian who arrived in the sixties.
More than 130 countries including Bulgaria, India and Nigeria, and the UN General Assembly, recognise Palestine as a sovereign state, but most European Union members do not.
Marcel Brus, professor of public international law at the University of Groningen, said that the Palestinian nationality is still being denied but called the decision to recognise the birthplaces as an “acceptable solution”.
“Although the declaration of the State of Palestine took place in 1989, its recognition as a state according to international law at that time was very controversial. Therefore, I believe that recognising Gaza and the occupied West Bank as birthplace for people born around that time or before it is an acceptable compromise,” he told Al Jazeera.
However, Brus said the recognition of the State of Palestine has advanced since, and that it would be reasonable to give children who are born now the choice to opt for “Palestinian Territories” or “Palestine” as their place of birth.__Al Jazeera