Gretta Duisenberg, wife of European Central Bank president Wim Duisenberg, has met and lunched with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat as part of her unofficial delegation to investigate conditions in the Occupied Territories. Mrs Duisenberg’s visit has been condemned by those who see it as a partisan misuse of her husband’s influential name.
Already well known for her Palestinian sympathies, Mrs Duisenberg undertook the week-long trip as chairwoman of her group “Stop the Occupation”. In May last year, the ECB chief’s wife excited controversy when she hung a Palestinian flag from the balcony of their Amsterdam home.
The current visit has provoked protests from the Dutch Christian Democratic and conservative VVD parties, on the grounds that Mrs Duisenberg is travelling to Israel using a diplomatic passport issued because of her husband’s status. Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer initially instructed Mrs Duisenberg that her private travel on the diplomatic passport was unacceptable, but is believed to be considering the matter in the light of a letter from Wim Duisenberg defending his wife, who has no other passport.
Journalist Heddy Lubberding, who is accompanying the delegation, says Mrs Duisenberg refuses to discuss the passport.
Heddy Lubberding speaking to Newsline´s Ann-Marie Michel 2´13”I believe she thinks it’s not really the issue. The real issue is that politicians in the Hague like VVD and the Christian Union, don’t want her speaking out on the part of the Palestinians, and they are trying to … make her mission as difficult as possible, and this is only one of the methods they use.”
Mrs Duisenberg’s response to criticisms has been that she is independent of her husband’s office, and that she has a right to express her opinions. Particularly controversial is her recent assertion that she understands the mental processes that lead to Palestinian suicide bombings.
The flag incident”She does condemn violence on both sides … but she says … ‘I do understand the despair of the Palestinians who have now been living for so many years in such awful, difficult circumstances, circumstances that people in the world don’t understand, leading to desperate acts like that.’ She herself has witnessed the situation in the Occupied Territories for the first time, and this she says convinces her even more that the situation is so bad that people do get desperate.”