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9,000 join Brussels march calling for Gaza ceasefire

06:39 24/01/2024

An estimated 9,000 people joined a Brussels march against violence in Gaza at the weekend, according to police counts.

This was the fourth national demonstration since violence broke out in October last year, Bruzz reports, with this one organised by several civil society organisations including Amnesty International, 11.11.11, Association Belgo-palestinienne (ABP), Een Andere Joodse Stem and trade unions such.

A block of Jewish organisations also marched to “reiterate its refusal to equate Jews with Israeli policy”.

“Our demands remain the same,” Ludo De Brabander of Vrede vzw told reporters. "We demand a permanent ceasefire, which should be an obvious thing – it's shocking that this is not happening."

Demonstrators marched from Brussels North to Place Jean Rey in the heart of the European district, drawing attention to the fact that Belgium holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

“As president, Belgium is in a good position to at least take initiatives,” De Brabander said.

“We’re thinking about a military embargo, but also about suspending the association agreement between the EU and Israel. That agreement states that human rights are an essential part of it. Then apply that agreement.”

Demonstrations in October, November and December attracted 12,000, 21,000 and 27,000 participants respectively – more than the 9,000 who turned out to the latest one.

“It makes you a bit despondent, and it’s very frustrating: a genocide is taking place before our eyes and it goes on and on,” De Brabander said.

“Belgium is now going to participate in a mission to protect shipping, but with a ceasefire such a thing would not even be necessary.

"This is the image we create with Europe: when it comes to trade interests we are capable of action, but for human rights and victims we remain deaf and blind. We are completely undermining Europe's moral authority, if it still exists.”

The demonstration took place without any significant incidents, though smokebombs were used and retail chains such as Zara, KFC and Carrefour were plastered with slogans and stickers calling for a boycott.

Some protesters called for an intifada, meaning an armed uprising against the Israeli occupation, and chanted slogans such as "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free", which is considered anti-Semitic by some.

The demonstration’s organisers called on Belgium to support the legal proceedings against Israel and to end all forms of complicity with it.

“It's time to put an end to this conflict, which has already claimed far too many lives and created an unprecedented humanitarian disaster,” said Gregory Mauzé, a member of the ABP.

“It is time for Belgium and the European Union not only to call for an immediate ceasefire, but also to take concrete action to force the state of Israel to put an end to its murderous offensive.”

Photo: Nicolas Maeterlinck/Belga

Written by Helen Lyons