While political support for Israel was still broad after the bloody attacks by Hamas a month ago, it has clearly been eroding in recent days. On Monday, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Open VLD) condemned the many Israeli bombings in Gaza. At least 10,000 people have already died, including more than 4,000 children. “If an entire refugee camp is bombed to eliminate one terrorist, I don’t think that is proportionate anymore,” De Croo said. ‘Something like that is a bridge too far.’
Last weekend, Minister of Development Cooperation Caroline Gennez (Vooruit) announced that she would investigate countermeasures, including regarding Israeli products and visas for high-ranking people.
The CD&V government party has also had enough. On Tuesday, Flemish minister Benjamin Dalle (CD&V) expressed his support for the Israeli bombings in an opinion piece in The standard. “The far too unconditional support for Israel gnaws at our international credibility and makes us complicit,” Dalle said. ‘Let the deaths of innocent victims stop. Advocate for a ceasefire and work on solutions. If Israel does not comply, all options must be considered, including proceedings at the International Criminal Court and strict sanctions.”
Number 729 on barcode
The party is now pushing ahead with a bill that will be submitted to Parliament on Tuesday. This makes it possible to impose a ban in our country on the trade in products that are closely related to serious violations of international law and human rights. The proposal does not list specific products, but in supermarkets it may affect vegetables, citrus fruits and cosmetics, among others. The first three numbers on the barcode indicate the country of origin. For Israel this is 729. Belgium is the fourth largest importer of Israeli goods in the European Union, mainly due to the diamond trade.
“We cannot remain blind to the terrible and inhuman scenes that are currently taking place in the Gaza Strip,” says Els Van Hoof, Member of Parliament for CD&V and submitter of the proposal. ‘Of course a terrorist organization like Hamas stands in the way of a long-term solution in the Middle East, but building illegal settlements and the occupation of Palestinian territory are equally an obstacle to a sustainable solution. A trade ban on all products coming from occupied areas could help,” Van Hoof continues.
Also in other countries
The proposal, which is substantiated in detail, covers all situations that arise in this area worldwide, but its submission is of course inseparable from events in the Middle East. Professors from the universities UGent, VUB, UCL, ULB and Columbia University contributed to the text, as did the Middle East Platformwhich unites 23 organizations, including trade unions and NGOs such as 11.11.11 and Broederlijk Delen.
Similar bills are currently being discussed in several other European Member States, such as Ireland, Portugal, Finland and France. Van Hoof acts as the first submitter of the bill and hopes to be co-sponsors with the other majority parties for her proposal to find.