Why nobody should toast Belgium’s stance on Gaza

Petra De Sutter, Belgium’s deputy prime minister, has opposed Israel’s war against Gaza. (Via Twitter)

Just a few weeks into 2024, we already have a strong contender for the “worst party of the year” award. It should go to the dreary celebrations marking how Belgium has assumed the European Union’s rotating presidency.

Plucky little Belgium will only deserve to be toasted in the coming months if its leaders match their words with action.

Petra De Sutter, the deputy prime minister, has been outspoken against Israel’s war on Gaza.

She has proposed that Belgium should support the case taken by South Africa – charging Israel with violating the Genocide Convention – at the International Court of Justice. Earlier, she called for the “association agreement” – which underpins the EU’s relations with Israel – to be suspended.

While De Sutter’s stance is certainly better than that of many others in the West’s ruling elite, she must be pushed to go much farther.

It is noteworthy that her comments over the past few months do not directly address the investments by Israel’s arms industry in Belgium.

De Sutter was born in Oudenaarde, an area near the Flemish city of Ghent.

The same Oudenaarde plays host to OIP, a firm owned by the Israeli weapons maker Elbit Systems.

That truth is frequently concealed.

OIP poses as an important contributor to the local economy, giving the impression that it has sprung out of the Flemish soil as if it were an endive or a cabbage. During last year’s Paris Air Show – a major weapons fair – it had a stand in the Belgian pavilion rather than the Israeli one, where its parent Elbit was represented.

Freddy Versluys, the head of OIP, has long claimed that his Oudenaarde plant does not make material for Israel. It is impossible, he said back in 2013, to get the required export permits from the Flemish authorities.

His claims are contradicted by the official reports from Flanders, the region in which OIP operates.

The latest available report states that Flanders issued 10 licenses for weapons exports to Israel during 2022.

The total value of those permits exceeded $2 million.

OIP was bought by Elbit more than two decades ago. It has undoubtedly helped the parent firm expand its international activities and find new opportunities to export weapons tested on Palestinians.

Friendly to merchants of death

Among other things, OIP makes equipment which allows snipers’ rifles to be used under the cover of darkness and specialized cameras for various military vehicles and naval vessels.

It also produces night-vision goggles for the pilots of military helicopters. Night-vision goggles are included in the items which Flanders has approved for export to Israel.

The complaints by Petra De Sutter over the past few months do not offset Belgium’s general friendliness toward Israel and its merchants of death.

Philippe Busquin was one politician who was especially accommodating. He was Belgium’s member of the European Commission (the EU’s executive) from 1999 to 2004.

In that capacity, he facilitated the greater participation of Israel in the EU’s scientific research program. Weapons makers like the aforementioned Elbit Systems benefited handsomely from EU grants as a result.

Busquin rejected appeals for Israel to be excluded from the program over the injustices it inflicts on Palestinians. Through a recent freedom of information request, I learned that the Technion – an Israeli university – applauded Busquin for doing so.

In a 2002 letter – see below – the Technion thanked Busquin for his “continuous support and favorable attitude towards Israeli science.”

The Technion assists Israel’s weapons industry in developing new tools for killing and maiming Palestinians. That was the kind of cooperation to which Busquin displayed a “favorable attitude.”

Plucky little Belgium has never really stood in solidarity with the Palestinians. Until the country stops trading with Israel’s weapons industry, it will remain on the side of their oppressor.




"... that despite the political situation, the Israeli scientific community should preserve as much as possible the cooperation with our Palestinian colleagues (and our Arab colleagues in general)." ??? What Palestinian colleagues was that? Target subjects??

Clearly, Technion "anonymous" person is depraved. Perfect for his/her's position.


As a leadership activist it is always painful to hear or read how easily people in "high" office, or in positions of authority, or with titles, are called leaders or referred to as such.
Leadership is a function of what someone does, which is essentially to change things for the better.
So, the president of a country, the CEO of a business, or any other person is NOT a leader because of such office or title. They might be leaders if they exhibit certain behaviours and produce certain outcomes, but this has nothing to do with who they are, or what they are.
Let's not promote people to "leaders' when they are actually mis-leaders.
As a South African who went through the darkness of Apartheid, I am super conscious of what leadership is, and not.
A case in point is the USA (through its politicians and culture) that refers to itself as the 'leader of the free world'. These are words that are as meaningful as wrngth*8lp#auq.
If words have no meaning then we can just make them as as we go along, like Humpty Dumpty argued.


The palestinian problem is that Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Turkey, are more interested in their own Wall Street/Weapons Industry side deals and Glamor rather than espousing for Palestinian peace.
They are completely coopted. Egypt too (in a different way). The colonies remain colonies. ANd erdwan is a psyche path.

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