Demonstrators fill the streets of Brussels in the March for Return and Liberation for Palestine

Thousands of Palestinians, Arabs and internationals marched through the streets of Brussels, Belgium — the capital of the European Union — on Saturday, 29 October in the March for Liberation and Return. Organized by the Masar Badil (Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path Movement), the march demanded the implementation of return for Palestinian refugees expelled from their homes and homeland since the Nakba, the total liberation of all of Palestine from the river to the sea, stood in firm support of the Palestinian people and their Resistance, called for the freedom of the prisoners and the defeat of Zionism, imperialism and the forces collaborating with them.

Over 100 organizations endorsed the protest, which wound its way to the European Parliament as participants highlighted the martyrs, the prisoners and the founders of the Palestinian revolutionary movement.

The rally enjoyed strong participation from a range of organizations, including a mass bloc organized by CAPJPO-EuroPalestine to demand an end to the siege on Gaza, as well as Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network chapters and affiliates in Germany, Netherlands, Spain, France, Sweden and elsewhere, Collectif Palestine Vaincra, Plate-forme Charleroi-Palestine, Secours Rouge, Classe Contre Classe, the Anti-Imperialist Front, Revolutionary Youth of Zurich, Lotta, Dar al Janub, AFPS Lille and 63, Collectif Boycott Apartheid Israel and many more. Participants came from throughout Belgium as well as the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and elsewhere to participate in the mass demonstration.

A wide range of Belgian groups participated, including Classe Contre Classe, Secours Rouge Belgique, Plate-forme Charleroi-Palestine, Raj’een Dabkeh Group, Black Panthers Bruxelles, Mouvement Citoyen pour la Paix, Comité BDS-ULB, Comité Verviers Palestine, LEF-FGE (Links Ecologisch Forum – Forum Gauche Ecologie), Eritrea Tours for Friendship, la Ligue Haïtienne Anti-Impérialiste (LHAI), the Belgian Communist Party and the Coordination Namuroise Belgo-Palestinienne (CNB-P).

Posters and images of George Habash, the founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; Shadia Abu Ghazaleh, a leader in Palestinian women’s resistance through armed struggle; and Houcine Benyahia, a Moroccan revolutionary martyr who fought for Palestinian liberation, were raised high alongside those of Palestinian prisoners struggling for liberation, including Ahmad Sa’adat, French-Palestinian lawyer Salah Hammouri, and Georges Abdallah, jailed for over 38 years in French prisons. The Brussels march came one week after the mass march outside Lannemezan prison to demand Abdallah’s liberation; the Collectif Palestine Vaincra delegation traveled to Brussels only days after organizing that march.

Marchers remembered the Palestinian and Arab leaders who had been targeted for assassination, particularly in Europe, for their leadership in the liberation struggle, from Mahmoud Hamshari and Basil al-Kubeisi to Fathi Shiqaqi, the founder of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement, assassinated in Malta on 26 October 1995. Participants also received a message from Bechir Ben Barka, the son of Moroccan revolutionary Mehdi Ben Barka, who was forcibly disappeared in Paris on 29 October 1965.

Participants saluted the Palestinian resistance, including Mohammed Deif, leader of the Palestinian armed resistance in Gaza, and the resistance movements in Nablus, Jenin and throughout occupied Palestine, emphasizing the legitimacy and leadership of the Palestinian resistance, especially in contrast with the so-called “Palestinian Authority,” which engages in security coordination with and acts as an agent of the occupation against the Palestinian people.

The colorful, enthusiastic march, with a strong participation of Palestinian, Arab and internationalist youth, wound through the streets of Brussels, waving Palestinian flags and banners of the organizations and movements participating in the mass demonstration.

A strong spirit of solidarity prevailed as the crowd filled the Place du Luxembourg in front of the European Parliament. Mohammed Khatib, Samidoun coordinator in Europe and the coordinator of the March, delivered the main message in Arabic and English on behalf of the Masar Badil, with a strong statement of support for Palestinian resistance, who continue to uphold and fight for liberation for the Palestinian people and for all who struggle against imperialism and colonialism.

Participants strongly denounced the role of European states in Palestine, from their colonization of the Arab homeland to their persistent support for Zionism. They demanded an end to the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which gives preferential treatment to occupation goods and institutions, as well as the ongoing military and security coordination with the occupation. They highlighted European gas deals with Israel based on the exploitation of Palestinian natural resources as well as the criminalization of Palestinian resistance organizations as “terrorist,” demanding accountability for European crimes in occupied Palestine. They demanded the liberation of Georges Abdallah and  further denounced the deportation of Khaled Barakat, Palestinian writer and co-founder of the Masar, and Charlotte Kates, international coordinator of Samidoun, to prevent them from attending the March.

Speakers from organizations included representatives of Alkarama Palestinian Women’s Mobilization, Samidoun internationally, the Masar Badil, Classe Contre Classe, Secours Rouge, Dar al Janub, the Neturei Karta Jewish anti-Zionist group, the Anti-Imperialist Front, Plate-forme Charleroi-Palestine and others.

The EuroPalestine bloc emphasized the call to break the siege on Gaza after over 15 years of brutal siege, and speakers highlighted this demand, accompanied by two group songs, Mawtini and Unadikum, joined by the crowd.

The strong focus on Gaza at the demonstration was met in Gaza by a demonstration at the colonially imposed “borders” echoing the call for the breaking of the siege, where participants carried signs reading “One land, one people, one cause” and “From Gaza to Brussels, the March for Return and Liberation continues.”

Demonstrations and solidarity actions also took place in Vancouver, Vienna and other cities, including a lecture event in Beirut, while the images and speeches at the Brussels march were widely shared on social media.

The march was the capstone of the Week for Liberation and Return, a week of activities organized by the Masar Badil, Classe Contre Classe, Secours Rouge and Samidoun throughout Brussels, including lectures, meetings and events that highlighted various aspects of the Palestinian struggle. These included book events, an event with 200 people with European and international strugglers who had participated historically in the Palestinian struggle, a presentation on Fathi Shiqaqi and revolutionary thought by Palestinian writer Khaled Barakat, an evening forum on political prisoners with Samidoun and a briefing at the European Parliament on Palestinian refugees.