Renewed Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Debate in Charleroi

PTB and PS will each submit their text Monday to the municipal council, the debate is likely to be lively.

Ongoing for 75 years (1948), the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a bag of knots that no one has yet managed to resolve. As a reminder, the region occupied mainly by Muslim Palestinians was ceded by the UN to Jewish Israelis, who settled there. Since then, the conflicts have been incessant: the Israelis regularly report terrorist attacks and killings on the part of Palestinians, who report an aggressive and murderous policy of colonization on the part of Israel. Agreements are sometimes found between the two parties, but nothing that really ensures peace in this region of the world. In recent weeks, the tension has escalated even further. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has warned that the situation in the West Bank “threatens to spiral out of control”: in territories occupied (colonized) illegally by Israel, a “policy of apartheid” is reported by threatened Palestinians and Israeli whistleblowers.

It is in this context that Charleroi will put its finger in the gears once again. On May 31, 2021, Charleroi had already called for a ceasefire and an end to the annexation of Palestinian territories. This Monday, August 28, 2023, elected officials should again propose a motion. This is a sort of open letter, an official commitment from the City of Charleroi – where the question of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is important, particularly with the existence of a Charleroi-Palestine platform – which, if is above all symbolic and obviously will not resolve the crisis, will help to set the tone. Thus, the City of Liège suspended all relations with Israel four months ago, reports RTBF, as Barcelona and Oslo had done before, “as long as this state does not respect international law”.

Two texts in Charleroi, similar but different: the debate is likely to be hot

But the debate is likely to be lively in Charleroi: two texts, both of support and condemnation, will be proposed on Monday. Only one will be voted.

On the one hand, the PTB tabled the same text as the one voted in Liège (see the full text). In summary, the text proposes to affirm Charleroi’s support for the Palestinian people and to condemn the crimes committed by the State of Israel, calling Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right and apartheid regime, urging the federal government to draw up a list of sanctions, while undertaking to sever all ties between Charleroi and the State of Israel. “This is a fight we need to fight in as many places as possible and end all ties with a state that enforces segregation. This is shown by the example of South Africa, where the anti-apartheid movement won the fight against segregation thanks to international support”, explains Pauline Boninsegna (PTB).

On the other side, the PS proposed amendments (“modifications”) to the text of the PTB but no agreement could be found. The Socialists, joined by Challenge, therefore propose their own text (see the full text). The form is much more nuanced, speaking of “annexation of territories” rather than apartheid, despite a recent outing by Paul Magnette, president of the PS and mayor of Charleroi, on social networks who used this term. The text calls for peace, gives its support to the Palestinians but also to the Israelis who are victims of terrorist attacks, and urges the Belgian State to “differentiate itself” from the Israeli colonies by putting in place sanctions, in particular economic ones. But the socialist version also calls for Palestine to be recognized as a state by Belgium and provides for the motion to be sent to the Belgian authorities as well as to the Israeli ambassador.

PTB and PS, irreconcilable?

“Why present the same motion to us as in 2021?” wonders Pauline Boninsegna of the PTB, noting that “the PS carolo refuses to vote (our) text… Paul Magnette himself speaks of apartheid in his communication on the networks. But when it comes to putting it in black and white in a motion, we look elsewhere.”

Asked about the question, the PS – in the voice of its group leader Jean-Philippe Preumont – reports having tried to produce a common text with the PTB, but not being able to subscribe as it stands: “the PTB is much more radical and puts fewer nuances, it is their right of course, but the form, the way the text is written, does not suit the PS. Arriving at a single text was unfeasible, in particular because it concerns positions of political parties at levels of power above the municipal level. This is why we will present our text, amended by Challenge, and the debate will take place during the council. I do not despair that we can reach a compromise, it has already been seen, but we will see on Monday. What was also important to us was not to take shortcuts: the detestable policy of Benjamin Netanyahu is not shared by the entire Israeli population, a part even opposes it.

Debate to follow this Monday, August 28 at Charleroi City Hall (6:30 p.m.), or on the Youtube channel of the City of Charleroi, live or delayed.

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