Belgian NGOs call for trade ban with Israeli-occupied territories on the West Bank
In light of recent events in Israel and the occupied West Bank, various Belgian NGOs and activist groups have called for a trade ban with the occupied territories.
A petition with over 20,000 signatures, launched by Belgian NGOs and trade unions, was handed over early this week to Belgian minister for Economy Pierre-Yves Dermagne. On Tuesday, Katelijne Suetens of NGO Broederlijk Delen called on Belgium to "end trade relations with illegal settlements in occupied territories anywhere in the world" in an opinion piece in Flemish newspaper De Morgen.
The petition, launched by Belgian NGOs and trade unions, gathered 20,324 signatures for a ban on trade with Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. The petition is part of the "Made In Illegality" campaign and is part of a European citizens' initiative, which aims to collect one million signatures on a European scale.
Katelijne Suetens, policy officer at the NGO Broederlijk and member of the Made In Illegality campaign, reiterated the consortium's demands in an opinion piece published in De Morgen on Tuesday. "The war in Ukraine, as well as the coming into power of a government with an overt annexation agenda in Israel, illustrates a general trend", Suetens writes. "International standards are becoming weaker and weaker. We call on Belgium to take trade measures in line with the ban on acquiring territory by force, in accordance with international law, and to end trade relations with illegal settlements in occupied territories anywhere in the world as soon as possible."
The activists point out that the European Union has banned the import of products from Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia, "but there is no such ban on Palestinian territories illegally occupied by Israel under international law".
"The colonisation and annexation of Palestinian territory are serious violations of international law. In the face of such violations, third countries such as Belgium or the EU have obligations: to enforce international law, not to recognise the situation as legitimate, and not to provide aid or assistance. By importing and marketing products and services from the Israeli settlements, the EU and its Member States are contributing to the economic prosperity of the settlements", says the "Made In Illegality" campaign.
The activists point out that the European Union has banned the import of products from Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia, "but there is no such ban on Palestinian territories illegally occupied by Israel under international law". The NGOs behind the initiative hope that Belgium can pave the way for other European countries to ban trade with Israeli settlements.
Tension in the area has been running high recently. This weekend, at least one person was killed and 100 injured in heavy riots in the West Bank. According to witness reports, dozens of houses and cars were set on fire. The riots followed a military attack by the Israeli army in the West Bank city of Nablus. At least 11 Palestinians were killed in that attack, including six members of an armed resistance group. It became one of the bloodiest incidents in recent months in the region.
For his part, Belgian Economy minister Dermagne vowed that the Belgian government will continue to work towards recognising Palestine as a sovereign state.
Minister of Economy Pierre-Yves Dermagne © BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK