Brussels: No to normalization and racism, yes to return and liberation!

The Palestinian people today are facing a multifaceted attack inside and outside occupied Palestine. Palestinians are under siege, confronting daily killings, invasions, home demolitions, bombings of Gaza, land confiscation, mass arrests, settlement building and denial of the right to return for over 75 years. This reality means that it is more critical than ever to organize for justice in Palestine on the basis of clear principles that uphold the right of the Palestinian people to resist, to return, and to liberate their land from the river to the sea.

The blatant fascist rhetoric and actions of Israeli officials like Itamar Ben-Gvir, Bezalel Smotrich and Benjamin Netanyahu has been accompanied by the emergence of “liberal Zionist” protests in Tel Aviv and throughout occupied Palestine ’48, most of which have taken the Israeli flag as their symbol. It appears that multiple Western organizations ostensibly concerned with justice in Palestine have interpreted this moment of crisis as a time to call, rather than for greater clarity on the principles of anti-Zionism and Palestinian liberation, for some sort of “common front” with Zionists opposed to Netanyahu. We want to make clear: now, more than ever, our principles remain – liberation, not normalization!

Here in Belgium, we have most recently witnessed this on Thursday, 2 March, when multiple organizations, including the Association Belgo-Palestinienne (ABP), CNCD 11.11.11, Broederlijk Delen, Intal, Palestina Solidariteit, Viva Salud and others, held an event with a Palestinian speaker and an Israeli speaker, entitled, “Palestine/Israel, are we close to the end game?” While the name of this event is in itself problematic and offensive, as 75 years of colonialism are not a mere game played on the land of occupied Palestine, the problems with the event go far beyond the name. Palestinians, the people of the land struggling for liberation from colonization and ongoing Nakba, are placed in a “dialogue” with Israelis, even critical Israelis, advocating for “two democratic states” – in other words, apartheid as a “solution.”

Rather than ramping up the struggle to expose the racist and illegitimate nature of the Zionist settler colonial occupation of Palestine, this type of event only serves to normalize “Israel” as a state. Once again, the atrocities of colonization are recognized only in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem, while the ongoing Nakba, colonialism and even apartheid remain unrecognized and undiscussed.

One speaker, a former Israeli occupation soldier proposed nothing but colonization with a “human face” by promoting the “two-state” solution, in other words, recognizing as legitimate the ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people since 1948 and the theft of the lands of historic Palestine.  Even the Palestinian speaker who was invited to this event is one who repeatedly publishes work in Zionist publications and publicly critiques the Palestinian resistance. What people who live under occupation and struggle for their right to self-determination could accept such an iniquitous and violent situation? Why do organizations that claim to be left-wing find it legitimate to organize an event with the executioners of the people they say they support? Would we accept these circumstances in anti-racist struggles or struggles against sexism and sexual violence?

During this event, the Palestinians who spoke out about the normalizing framework of the event, criticized the speakers and upheld the Palestinian resistance were told to be quiet. They were lectured to about the difficulties the Israeli speaker has faced due to Zionist harassment. They were treated in a fundamentally racist manner, in which their experiences and analyses as Palestinians were degraded and dismissed. In fact, one organizer demanded the three Palestinians who spoke out leave, when they said that if you want them to leave to call the police, that organizer then said that they would (although no police were called). Another person told the Palestinians speaking out – including Palestinian refugees exiled from their homeland and denied their right to return – that the priority was to “listen to Palestinians in Palestine.”

This racist approach came side by side with the event’s approach to the role of Belgium and the European Union in Palestine. Rather than recognizing the destructive role of European powers in occupied Palestine for over a century, European sponsorship of Zionist colonialism, European persecution of Palestinians and European labeling of Palestinian resistance as “terrorist,” this framework attempts to situate the imperialist European powers as naive forces requiring “education.” The European Union is a partner in the ongoing dispossession, state terror and Nakba directed against the Palestinian people, while officially marketing the illusion of “two states” and the so-called “peace process” of Madrid, Oslo and beyond, which has brought nothing but more war, devastation and colonialism to Palestinians. In its promotion of “peace,” the EU seeks instead the surrender of the Palestinian people. Belgium, like France, Germany and all of the imperialist countries is part of the problem and not part of the solution!  In fact, this approach seeks to use the Palestinian cause as a means to stake out positions in Belgian and European politics – all of which fall far short of what is actually needed for Palestinian liberation today.

It is the Palestinian resistance that continues to provide a path for true justice and liberation for Palestine and the region. This can never be obtained through normalization or an alliance with “liberal Zionism” but through the defeat of the Zionist project in its entirety. Despite all odds, mass imprisonment, executions and violent attacks, the Palestinian people continue to resist. The Palestinian resistance and its armed struggle represent true hope not only for the Palestinian people, but for all who struggle to be free of imperialism and colonialism.

The colonizers have their alliances of racism, imperialism, exploitation and domination. We know that the Palestinian struggle is, as Ghassan Kanafani noted, “not a cause for Palestinians only, but a cause for every revolutionary… as a cause of the exploited and oppressed masses in our era.” We need a revolutionary Palestine solidarity movement that builds an internationalist alliance with all of the peoples of the world resisting colonialism, Zionism and imperialism, upholds the Palestinian resistance, and struggles for a liberated Palestine from the river to the sea.

We can never achieve this through normalization. We will not be silent and speechless in the face of attempts to redefine the Palestinian struggle or push us back to the path of the failed “two-state” project, especially as our people face massacres, home demolitions and settler pogroms with even stronger resistance. As Palestinians in exile and diaspora, Arabs and internationalists in the liberation struggle, we are committed to confronting and defeating normalization as a tool of imperialism and Zionism. We call upon all organizations that seek justice for Palestine to also take a clear position and reject normalization, reject Zionism, and firmly act against all manifestations of racism against Palestinians and Arabs, particularly those expressed by official representatives and/or employees of these institutions.

From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!

Samidoun Brussels