On Monday evening, the Liège Municipal Council passed a motion introduced by the Belgian Workers' Party (PTB) which calls for a boycott of the Israeli state.
The Socialist Party (PS), as well as smaller local parties, VEGA and Verts Ardents, also voted in favour of the boycott. Liberal and centrists parties MR and Les Engagés voted against it.
The motion introduces "a temporary suspension of all relations with the state of Israel and the institutions that are complicit until the Israeli authorities put an end to the systematic violation of the Palestinian people", Le Soir reports.
"This historic decision in Belgium is inspired by decades of nonviolent resistance by the Palestinian people for freedom, justice and equality," said the Belgian Palestinian Association (ABP) in response. "We hope that the decision of the City of Liège will inspire other municipalities in Belgium, Europe and around the world not to help or assist an apartheid regime."
The Eastern Belgian city has no existing formal links to Israel or its Embassy in Brussels, but the measure prevents the future possibility of such relations. Even so, the gesture is seen as largely symbolic.
The Israeli Embassy to Belgium was quick to condemn the measure. "It is regrettable to see how radical forces have managed, through lies, to influence the Liège Municipal Council so that it takes a decision so detached from reality and harmful to the economic interests of Liège, Israel and Palestinians themselves," Ambassador Idit Rosenzweig-Abu told Le Soir.
Two years ago, Liège passed a text aiming to exclude any businesses with links to the Palestinian occupation from municipal contracts. However, the city has maintained links with companies like the insurer Belfius or the BNP Paribas bank – which are both blacklisted by global boycott efforts, explains Le Soir.
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After Barcelona and Oslo, Liège is the third European city to take boycott measures against Israel, according to the ABP. These measures are part of a larger global movement called "Boycott, Divest, Sanction" (BDS) which aims to pressure the Israeli state to comply with international law.
Recently, in Belgium, the Balkan Traffik Festival, a Balkan music festival taking place in Brussels and Namur, has chosen to renounce the financial support it received from the Israeli Embassy in support of the BDS movement.