Former Belgian prime minister Elio Di Rupo of the Walloon Socialist party

Belgian trade mission to Israel and Palestine has been cancelled

The mission, which would have taken place between the 8th and 11th of December, will not continue. A lot of criticism was raised from the political opposition and several activist organizations against the mission, leading to its discontinuation.

Ordinarily, the delegation would have consisted of representatives from the Walloon and Brussels governments, which are separate political entities in Belgium, and numerous companies from the respective regions. The Walloon government had already withdrawn from the delegation in an earlier stage, but now the Brussels government has done the same, effectively leaving the rest of the mission without political representation.

In the last couple of weeks, the general criticism towards the trade mission grew. Specifically Israel’s tendency to disregard international agreements concerning the blockade of the Gaza Strip sparked the opposition’s distaste for the mission. “We’re talking about participating in the Israeli colonization policy,” said Stéphanie Koplowicz, member of the Flemish left-wing PVDA-party. “The UN Human Rights Comittee has complained that over 200 companies do business in these illegal settlements. Does the government want to encourage Brussels’ companies to participate in this?”

Violations of the Geneva Convention

Former Belgian prime minister Elio Di Rupo of the Walloon socialist Party stated that the reason for the Walloon government’s withdrawal from the trade mission was “the lack of progress in the peace process, the lack of progress on the ground and the violations of important parts of the Geneva Convention by Israel”. The Brussels government is now following this line of reasoning.

Joel Rubinfeld, a former leader of Belgian Jewry and president of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, said the move was discriminatory in light of Belgium’s trade relations with nations accused of major human rights violations, including Iran and China.

Companies who were going to partake in the mission can still travel to the Middle-East on their own watch. They will, however, have to cover their own expenses.