Samidoun Brussels statement: Attack on the demonstration on 21 January

On Sunday 21 January, at the mass demonstration that brought tens of thousands of people to the streets in Brussels to express their support and solidarity for the Palestinian people resisting genocide in Gaza, the Popular Committee for Palestine (PCP) block was suddenly and severely physically assaulted by security personnel assigned to their task by the organizing committee of the demonstration. Stewards wearing fluorescent vests stole Samidoun flags and attempted to confiscate those calling for freedom for Georges Abdallah, the Lebanese Arab struggler for Palestine imprisoned in France for 39 years, physically assaulting several people in the block (including women, one of whose glasses were broken by the attackers.)

We strongly denounce this attack, which is unfortunately not the first of its kind: since the demonstration on 11 October in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we have been systematically subjected to physical and verbal attacks and attempts to prevent us from expressing our membership of the Samidoun Network or our support for Georges Abdallah. The pretext for the ban was that “the Palestinian community” (although the Palestinian Community organisation was not a co-organizer of the demo and there is no basis to declare individuals representatives of the Palestinian diaspora in Belgium) had expressed the wish that only the Palestinian flag should be flown.

While this was used as an excuse, it is clearly untrue: At this demonstration and since the demonstration on October 11, organizations like Intal, Viva Salud, PTB, FGTB, LDH, Amnesty International and others routinely bring flags and banners with their logos and names, and they are not attacked and their flags are not removed. In addition, our banners, including banners featuring Ghassan Kanafani and demanding the freedom of Palestinian prisoners, have also been attacked forcibly by these security personnel, despite the presence of a large number of diverse banners representing other organizations in the marches.

See above, examples of organisational flags at the demonstration that were not interfered with.

Although we are systematically attacked at national demonstrations (and our applications for demonstrations are refused by the police and public authorities), the coalition, which has been informed of these attacks, has not reacted in any way or taken any action to stop them.

This attack is all the more reprehensible because it deliberately targeted the block, the majority of which was made up of young Palestinians and Arabs, with the presence of families, children and elderly people. Rather than being the source of unity, such actions aim to divide the Palestinian community and people in Belgium and set them against one another, as well as to isolate activists who are facing state repression.

In addition to our rejection of the physical violence against people who had come to demonstrate their support for Palestine, it should be stressed that this attack has taken place simultaneously with a very public propaganda campaign by the Zionist regime: the Israeli colonial regime has decided to classify the Samidoun network as a terrorist organisation and is putting pressure on Western countries to do the same. The far right and its supporters have joined this initiative, and the Israeli ambassador in Belgium was tweeting to attack the PCP block and Samidoun at the same time that the organizers’ security personnel physically assaulted us in the demonstration. In Germany, the government has declared a political ban on Samidoun (without legal proceedings, it is a political ban, not a legal one).

The FGTB, a union claiming to be left-wing, went so far as to withdraw its signature from the call for the first rally, citing the presence of Samidoun, which it described as a “pro-Hamas organisation” supporting terrorism. This withdrawal comes at exactly the time when Zionist propaganda is intensifying and is the only response of the trade union organisation, instead of intensifying its demands in favour of the rights and freedom of the Palestinian people.

France seems intent on following Germany’s lead in its fascist drift, and Belgium is not far behind, since the NVA, known for its position on the far right of the Belgian political spectrum, has launched hostile attacks against Samidoun Brussels in parliament, openly calling on the Belgian government to respond to pressure from the extreme right-wing Israeli government and repress freedom of expression and association on Palestine in Belgium.

The fact that these Zionist and fascist attacks are followed by physical aggression and attempts to politically isolate Samidoun activists by organisations claiming to be motivated solely by solidarity with Palestine raises questions, particularly about the internal policing activities undertaken by the coalition organising the national demonstrations. Apart from the fact that these assaults are legally (theft, assault and battery) and politically (censorship) reprehensible, it is important to emphasise that they are an expression of the prevailing paternalism and racism: the predominantly white petty bourgeoisie silencing the voices of undocumented refugees and attempting to exploit and/or create contradictions within the Palestinian population in Belgium, at a time when the government is locking Palestinians up in closed centres, failing to meet its obligations in terms of reception and leaving them destitute on the streets, and continuing to send arms to the Palestinian Authority in order for it to engage in “security coordination” with the Israeli occupation and to repress the Palestinian resistance in the West Bank.

ABP, Intal, CNCD and company, we see you: you will not silence us with violence.