In Europe, local politics is becoming the driver for change on Palestine
In April, the city of Liège in Belgium voted to boycott Israel, becoming the third European city to act in solidarity with Palestine in recent months.
Largely seen as a symbolic gesture given Liège has no official ties with Israel, this latest local decision suggests public pressure on the continent is shifting Europe-Israel relations.
Introduced by the Belgian Workers’ Party, the motion calls for "a temporary suspension of all relations with the state of Israel and the institutions that are complicit until the Israeli authorities put an end to the systematic violation of the Palestinian people”.
"Israel's international impunity is at the heart of why we're here today and why the extreme, systemic violence against Palestinians continues and is worsening"
Liège doesn’t have formal relations with Israel, but the city council’s ban prevents future collaboration.
Following the BDS win in Liège, the Belgian-Palestinian Association (ABP) is now pushing for the Brussels municipality of Ixelles, which has a twinning agreement with the Israeli kibbutz (or commune), Megiddo, to end ties with Israel.
Megiddo was built atop the ruins of the Palestinian village of al-Lajjun, whose inhabitants were expelled during the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948.
“We are not anymore in the paradigm of dialogue,” Gregory Mauzé, in charge of advocacy for ABP, told The New Arab. “We need to enter the paradigm of international pressure on Israel to freeze aid and break with these colonialist policies.”
This isn’t the first time Liège has expressed solidarity with Palestine. In 2021, the municipal council passed a motion affirming support for the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The city also has a twinning agreement with Ramallah.
Along with Liège’s decision, the Balkan Traffik Festival, a music event held in Belgium, rejected funding from the Israeli embassy in support of BDS.
These actions demonstrate growing momentum for the Palestinian cause and BDS in Europe, especially as Israel’s human rights violations keep coming under international scrutiny.
“There is a lot of awareness about Palestine in Norway, but with the Amnesty International report on apartheid, our arguments are given a lot more weight,” Line Khateeb, leader of the Palestine Committee in Norway, said, referring to the human rights organisation declaring Israel an apartheid state last year.
"There is growing momentum for the Palestinian cause and BDS in Europe, especially as Israel's human rights violations keep coming under international scrutiny"
Khateeb emphasised that as more European residents become aware of the reality on the ground, they are less willing to remain complicit.
For Inès Abdel Razek, advocacy director for the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy, complicity is the crux of the issue.
“Israel's international impunity is at the heart of why we're here today and why the extreme, systemic violence against Palestinians continues and is worsening,” Razek said.
“In different parts of Europe, there are progressive forces that recognise that and are committed to making sure that their taxpayer money and policies respect their responsibility in front of international law.”