Israel using Dutch dogs to terrorize Palestinians

This video shows Israeli forces using a dog to attack and injure 20-year-old Ahmad Shteiwi as he participated in an anti-occupation protest in the West Bank village of Kufr Qaddoum, near Nablus, in March 2012.

It is one of numerous instances of Israeli forces setting dogs on unarmed Palestinian civilians, including children – a violent tactic reminiscent of US police practices against Black citizens.

The Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq and Dutch lawmakers are calling on the Netherlands to immediately halt the annual export of dozens of police and military dogs to Israel.

Such dogs “are intentionally used by Israeli occupying forces to terrorize and bite Palestinian civilians, especially during protests and night house raids,” Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin wrote to Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders and trade minister Lilianne Ploumen earlier this month.

Attacks on children

After the images of the 2012 attack on Shteiwi emerged, causing embarrassment to Israel, the army announced it would temporarily stop using dogs at demonstrations.

But Israel’s use of the animals against Palestinians has not stopped. In March, a video emerged of Israeli soldiers setting dogs on a Palestinian child in Beit Ommar in December 2014:

Military Court Watch, an organization that monitors the treatment of children in Israeli military detention, collected further evidence of Israel’s use of dogs against Palestinians.

In one instance, a 15-year-old Palestinian boy detained by Israeli occupation forces last August and taken to an Israeli settlement, said an interrogator threatened to “bring dogs into the room and that he would deny me food,” if the child did not confess to throwing stones.

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem also documented at least eight cases of Israeli army dogs being used to attack and injure Palestinian civilians in 2011-2012.

“Lethal weapons”

Israel’s use of dogs against civilians recalls infamous scenes from the US Civil Rights struggle, when white supremacist police used dogs to attack Black citizens demanding their rights.

But it also remains a present-day similarity, as highlighted in the US Department of Justice investigation into the Ferguson Police Department, launched after the lethal shooting of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown in August 2014 sparked nationwide protests against police racism and brutality.

The report of the investigation, published in March, found that police in the Missouri town “exclusively set their dogs against Black individuals, often in cases where doing so was not justified by the danger presented.”

In one case, the report states, “officers deployed a canine to bite an unarmed 14-year-old African American boy who was waiting in an abandoned house for his friends,” causing puncture wounds to his arm.

The American Civil Liberties Union says that police dogs are “lethal weapons capable of biting at 2,000 pounds pressure per square inch.”

The civil rights group adds that “their handlers have been implicated in a vicious form of racial profiling” that has led to legal action across the US in recent years.

In the early 1990s, for instance, the ACLU of Southern California documented hundreds of mostly Black and Latino citizens being bitten by Los Angeles Police Department dogs. It alleged that the dogs, trained to “attack and maul,” were routinely sent into nonviolent situations.

Trained to terrorize

Police dogs trained in the Netherlands to bite civilians have been exported to Israel for more than two decades.

Tonny Boeijen, owner of Four Winds K9, boasts that 90 percent of the dogs used by the Israeli military are trained by his company, based near the eastern city of Nijmegen.

He told the newspaper NRC that he has delivered dozens of dogs to Israel every year for 23 years.

Another 15 to 30 dogs are provided to Israel annually by Engelbert Uphues, a trainer in the German city of Ramsdorf, NRC states.

An Israeli army dog attacks a Palestinian protester during a demonstration against the expropriation of Palestinian land in the village of Kufr Qaddoum, near Nablus in the occupied West Bank, 16 March 2012.

Wagdi Eshtayah APA images

The Dutch government requires firms to obtain licenses to export so-called “strategic goods.” But a license will be denied if a correlation can be established between the export and human rights violations.

Military and police dogs are not considered strategic goods, but the Dutch police and defense ministry classify them as “means to violence,” just like pepper spray and handguns.

The Netherlands considers Israel to be a sensitive country for exports – along with Iran, Eritrea, South Sudan and others accused of human rights abuses or violations of international humanitarian law.

“The dogs are absolutely used by Israel as weapons against Palestinians and their export must be banned,” human rights lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld told NRC.

“It is common sense that service dogs fall under the rules on strategic goods,” Wassila Hachchi, a member of parliament for the center-left D66 party, has said. She is among a group of lawmakers from several parties urging the government to stop the exports to Israel.

The Dutch customs service has already halted the export of strategic goods to Israel including handguns, camouflage paint and infrared cameras.

Trade minister Lilian Ploumen told parliament last month that she is willing to stop the export of military dogs as well.

She said that although the dogs do not fall under European rules governing strategic goods, she would look into establishing a national system to regulate their export. She added that she would also discuss a common approach with European counterparts.

But given the ongoing and widespread complicity of EU governments in Israeli abuses, it is likely that sustained pressure will be needed to translate words into action.

Risk of legal action

Israel’s use of dogs to intimidate and terrorize civilians is prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention, which governs Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Al-Haq states in its letter to the Dutch government.

It adds that the use of service dogs for torture would rise to the level of a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Individual executives from complicit companies such as Four Winds K9, and even Dutch customs or other officials, could therefore be held accountable for aiding and abetting war crimes, Al-Haq warns.

Dutch human rights attorney Liesbeth Zegveld says she’s already looking into whether she can sue Four Winds K9 and the Dutch state on behalf of Palestinian victims.

Ali Abunimah contributed research.




It's obvious to everyone by now that Israel enjoys impunity against international law. But the Netherlands can institute its own procedures to stop this disgusting collusion with apartheid. There's something basically appalling in the act of training animals to attack and even kill humans, and the courts should try those suppliers under the harshest statutes. As pointed out in the article, the use of dogs against civil protesters is a grave violation of the 4th Geneva Convention. It's even a violation of whatever rights we care to assign to the animals misused in this fashion.

Please keep us updated. And if anyone has a petition to the Dutch authorities, by all means post it here.


Where are all so-called Human Rights organization, Where is United Nation?? Why international media didn't cover all these brutal act against Muslims?


Please know that attack dogs COME WITH THEIR HANDLER.
1) either Israeli defense force persons went to Holland to train as the dogs HANDLER.
2) Dutch Dog HANDLERS have come to Israel to work with the dogs
3) one dog one HANDLER.
4) If one of these dogs were to attack a child - the child would be dead within minutes & the HANDLER would not be able to call off the dog.
5) ATTACK DOGS have a very short SHELF LIFE - no living creature can live with such continuous stress & rage that is required of attack dogs.
6) These dogs are terminated with in at most 18 months of being deployed.
Ask a REPUTABLE & RESPONSIBLE professional dog trainer & they will tell you.

Adri Nieuwhof

Adri Nieuwhof's picture

Adri Nieuwhof is a human rights advocate based in the Netherlands and former anti-apartheid activist at the Holland Committee on Southern Africa. Twitter: @steketeh