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Belgian city of Liege cuts ties with Israel over apartheid

Liege is the third European city to boycott the country over its abuse of Palestinians, following Oslo and Barcelona
A demonstrator displays a sign reading "Boycott Israel, racist state" outside the Belgian foreign affairs building during a protest in Brussels in 2010 (Reuters)
A demonstrator displays a sign reading "boycott Israel, racist state" outside the Belgian foreign affairs building during a protest in Brussels in 2010 (Reuters)

The Belgian city of Liege has become the third European city to pass measures to sever ties with Israel over its abuse of Palestinians.

The motion, which was introduced by the Belgian Workers' Party (PTB) and approved by city officials, accused the Israeli government of running a regime of "apartheid, colonisation, and military occupation" in Palestine.

The PTB called for the suspension of all ties with Israel until the country takes action to end what it described as "systematic violations" of the rights of the Palestinian people.

In particular, the motion referenced the Nakba, when 700,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes in 1948, and their right to return to those ancestral homes, and listed numerous examples of Israeli violations of international law.

The decision is largely symbolic as the Belgian city has no formal links to Israel.

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European-wide boycott

In addition to calling for a national boycott of Israeli goods and services produced in the occupied Palestinian territories, the motion urged other cities around the world to follow in the footsteps of Barcelona, Oslo, and Liege. 

The Norwegian capital Oslo also announced this week that it will halt trade in goods and services coming from areas under Israeli occupation. The Scandinavian city has altered its procurement policy to exclude companies that contribute to Israeli settlement expansion, which is considered a war crime under international law.

In February, Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau said in a news conference that she wrote to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informing him relations between the Spanish city and Israel are severed until "Israeli authorities stop the systematic violation of human rights of the Palestinian people".

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The decision followed a campaign by activists, resulting in an official petition run via Barcelona city hall that gathered more than 4,000 signatures urging the municipality to cut ties with Israel.

In 2015, Amsterdam dropped proposals to become a sister city to Tel Aviv over concerns about the human rights situation in Israel.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) praised the decision and called on other cities to support the Palestinian struggle to "dismantle apartheid".

In January 2021, Israeli human rights group B'Tselem labelled the country an "apartheid" state, saying Israel has adopted a policy to “divide, separate and rule” the Palestinians, who have rights that are “inferior” to those afforded to its Jewish citizens.

The same year, Human Rights Watch released a report that also labeled Israel as an apartheid state, accusations that Amnesty International repeated the following year. 

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