On 11 October, a large demonstration was held in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Brussels. The slogan? “War in Gaza: For a ceasefire and a just peace, against colonial violence and apartheid”.
Reading this text, things are clear: the culprit for everything is Israel. Israel, which colonises, illegally occupies and has shamefully despoiled a territory that does not belong to it, exerting such violence on its inhabitants that the key to peace is now in its hands alone.
This is obviously forgetting many things. First of all, it is forgetting that the reference to a free and autonomous Palestinian territory before the creation of Israel is largely a chimera, given that Palestine was under Ottoman domination for four centuries, until 1917, before the British conquest put an end to that domination and Palestine came under the British mandate in 1920, a mandate granted by the League of Nations and whose objective was already to create a Jewish national home in Palestine.
We also forget that it was following the Shoah that the UN adopted a plan in 1947 to divide Palestine into two independent states, one Jewish and the other Arab. Following this, in 1948, David Ben Gourion proclaimed the independence of the State of Israel. The very next day, the first Arab offensive against Israel broke out.
While most of the world’s countries recognised Israel as a state as soon as it declared independence in 1948, most of the Arab-Muslim world did not. All voted against the 1947 Partition Plan, and since then only Egypt (in 1982), the Palestinian Authority (in 1993), Jordan (in 1994) and Mauritania (in 1999) have recognised the State of Israel. More recently, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco signed the Abraham Accords in 2020.
At present, neither Syria nor Iran, nor of course Hamas and Hezbollah, recognise the existence or legitimacy of Israel.
However, the Palestinian people gave Hamas a majority in the Gaza Strip in the 2007 legislative elections – under conditions contested by the other Palestinian factions, the ballot having been marred by numerous irregularities – which enabled it to oust the Palestinian Authority. And Hamas, founded in 1987 by three sheikhs from the Islamic organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood, insists that the land of Palestine, from the “sea” [Mediterranean] to the “river” [Jordan], is Islamic land, and therefore advocates the destruction of the State of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic Palestinian state over the whole territory of former Mandate Palestine.
Islamist and terrorist, that is what Hamas is, as it has just demonstrated once again with Flood of al-Aqsa, the terrorist attack on 7 October that clearly targeted civilians, an operation that was part 11 September and part Bataclan.
And since 2007, the people of Gaza have been suffering at the hands of Hamas, which bans elections, punishes homosexuality by death, scorns freedom of expression and has just been responsible for the deadliest attack on Israel since its foundation in 1948.
If there is to be a ceasefire and a just peace, we may well ask ourselves whether the first thing to do would not be to oust from power this terrorist organisation, with which it is naive to think that Israel can establish a dialogue: we do not debate with those who deny our very right to exist.
But for the Palestinian people to take this essential step, they would no doubt have to finally recognise the legitimacy of a Jewish presence in these Muslim lands. And this is perhaps where the problem lies. For although the facts are stubborn, they seem powerless to change the situation: for a Muslim Arab in the region, it is undoubtedly preferable to live under Israeli law than under Hamas law. And yet it is Israel that many Palestinians continue to see as the enemy to be destroyed.
75 years after the creation of the State of Israel, and whatever one may think of this historic decision, it is high time for the current inhabitants of the region to accept the legitimacy of the presence of Israelis in the region. They were born there, often to parents who were themselves born there, and it is quite indecent to continue to deny them the basic right to live in their only country.
It is on this basis, and on this basis alone, that the borders of a lasting peace, necessarily a two-state peace, can be outlined in the future.
But the escalation of pro-Palestinian propaganda goes in exactly the opposite direction, as when the Belgo-Palestinian Association published a press release on 7 October in which it dared to write that: “This same attachment to international law leads us to condemn all indiscriminate attacks on civilians, recalling, following Nelson Mandela, that ‘it is always the oppressor, not the oppressed, who determines the form of the struggle’. The endless cycle of violence can only end if Israel puts an end to the structural violence of its apartheid colonial regime. It is up to the international community to force it to do so”.
Or as when she wrote, following Israel’s response to Operation Flood of al-Aqsa: “Committed to the law, we have always handled the notion of genocide with care. Palestinian organisations are now openly raising the question of Israel’s perpetration of genocide against Gazans.”
Worse still, on 11 October last, Samidoun Brussels, a solidarity network for Palestinian prisoners, marched through the streets of Brussels, clearly stating its opposition to the very existence of the Hebrew state: “We defend a free Palestine from the sea to the Jordan”.
However, Samidoun is an integral part of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Palestinian movement designated as a terrorist organisation by the European Union, the United States of America, Canada and Israel. Samidoun therefore acts as a front for the PFLP abroad, playing an important role in anti-Israeli propaganda, fundraising and recruiting activists for the PFLP and against Israel.
And Samidoun’s call to demonstrate ended with these words: “Glory to the martyrs! Victory for the Palestinian resistance! Long live the struggle for return and liberation, from the river to the sea!”
This not even veiled praise of terrorism did not seem to move many people in Belgium, since only three of the twenty-one organisations that had launched a call to demonstrate “For a ceasefire and a just peace, against colonial violence and apartheid” decided to publicly disassociate themselves: the FGTB, Ecolo j and the Jeunesses Socialistes.
As for the Mayor of Brussels, Philippe Close, he clearly needs more to ban a demonstration. So it is now a given that you can demonstrate in the streets of Brussels for the destruction of a state by any means possible, including the most despicable. Terrorism, the murder and hostage-taking of children and babies, everything is legitimised by the sledgehammer argument of colonial violence and apartheid.
How is this possible?
Among the many possible ways of looking at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one day we will have to take a serious look at anti-Semitism in the Arab-Muslim world. For whatever the Israeli government’s wrongs, they are no match for those of many Islamic dictatorships, against which Arab-Muslims living in Belgium or elsewhere in the West, whose sense of solidarity never seems to vibrate as much as when the oppressor is a Jew, are rarely indignant!