Earlier this week, the Flemish trade unions called on their members to no longer handle flights in which weapons of war were transferred from one flight to another with the final destination Israel. That set off all the alarm bells for Green co-chair Nadia Naji and MP Staf Aerts: transit permits in Flanders are hardly issued and no arms transports for the Israeli army have been approved since 2006. This clearly still happens under the radar. ‘How can we argue for a ceasefire and protection of human rights when the weapons that are bleeding Palestine to death are illegally passing through Flanders? This must stop immediately’, the Greens emphatically say, urging the ministers involved, Jambon and Van Peteghem, to intervene.
To transfer weapons from one aircraft to another in a country, the destination country requires a transit permit. In Flanders, these permits are hardly applied for and issued: while there were 94 such permits in 2000, there will be only 3 in 2022. Transit has grown, but hardly any permits are applied for in Flanders. Moreover, such transit transports to Israel in Flanders are completely impossible on paper. And yet in recent weeks, American weapons have been transferred from one flight to another in Flanders.
Naji: ‘On paper, the transit of weapons from Flanders to Israel is impossible. But the boycott action by the unions now painfully reveals that it does happen, but under the radar. That is very disturbing and above all unacceptable.’
The Greens strongly urge that Ministers Jambon, responsible for permits, and Van Peteghem, responsible for customs who carry out inspections, each take action in their respective domains as quickly as possible. Aerts: ‘The Flemish Peace Institute already warned the Flemish government with the report ‘Under the radar’ in 2021 about the risk of illegal transit of weapons in our country. But the Flemish government never considered it a priority to do anything about this. This week it became painfully clear that Jambon has zero insight into what passes through the airports and what the negative consequences are.’
The Greens urge action in three areas: ‘There is an urgent need for a more efficient Flemish permit policy than the bogus policy that exists today. In addition, there must be a much stronger focus on customs checks for all transit to Israel. If the Flemish government simultaneously focuses more on systematic information exchange with the customs services, they can carry out more targeted and better inspections.’