Caption: On Al Mayadeen pan-Arabist satellite news channel being interviewed about the march in Brussels (Left to right): Mohammed Khatib, Europe coordinator of the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network; Jaldia Abubakra, a member of the Follow-Up Committee of the Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path Movement (Masar Badil); Khaled Barakat, one of the founders of Al Masar
I had the privilege to be in Brussels to participate in the historic march for Palestinian return and liberation that demanded of the European Parliament an end to the EU-Israel Association Agreement and the liberation of all Palestinian prisoners (29 Oct 2099). The march was a powerful experience that dramatized popular international support for the Palestinian people and our determination to return and liberate ourselves from the settler-colonial Zionist Jewish regime in Palestine (from the river to the sea), which the EU shamelessly and unconscionably embraces.
The likelihood that you have not heard of this march or the week of activities surrounding it, including a well-attended seminar organized by Secours Rouge on Palestine, internationalism and anti-imperialism (Oct 28), is high, because mainstream media has been completely silent about it. The Israeli ambassador in Brussels is said to have expressed strong disapproval of the march to the Dutch government and even pressured for its suppression and the Dutch military, at the behest of the German government, detained, interrogated and then deported Khaled Barakat and Charlotte Kates, prominent figures in the Palestinian diaspora resistance movement, after they landed in Amsterdam from Canada to organize for the march.
Poster being raised at the Brussels march of return and liberation depicting Samidoun’s international Coordinator, Charlotte Kates, and one of the founders of the Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path Movement, Khaled Barakat
I heard from Khaled Barakat on WhatsApp that he and Charlotte Kates were being detained in Amsterdam while I was myself packing to leave for Brussels. Though the news was not totally unexpected given Barakat’s history with the German government that had banned him from organizing in Germany and had pressured the Dutch government to do the same in Belgium, it nevertheless shocked me that Charlotte Kates, a Canadian citizen, should also be deported on the basis of her association with Barakat (they are married to each other) and for her political beliefs and organizing for Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network. I suppose I still had lingering vestiges of faith in Western commitment to democratic values.
Caption: Rima Najjar (right) on 27 October, 2022 at a special forum on Palestinian refugees and the right to return in the European Parliament building, where members of the Masar Badil, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, the Collectif Palestine Vaincra and other organizations addressed European parliamentarians on the need to implement Palestinians’ right to return and put an end to European colonial complicity in Zionist colonialism in Palestine.
But I had no anxiety that this disgraceful and pathetic action by the Dutch government would succeed in dampening the ardor and commitment of the mostly-young supporters of Palestine grouping themselves in Brussels from all over Europe (“Palestinians, Arabs and Internationalists”) and beyond to call for liberation by all means possible and to pay tribute to Palestinian martyrs in the struggle. The Dutch government could not possibly deport them all.
I wish I had the words to describe adequately the inspirational young men and women converging on Sacco-Vanzetti, Classe Contre Classe and Secours Rouge to conduct activities, attend meetings (sometimes with Barakat and Kates on Zoom) and prep for the march — their courage, their principled, revolutionary and disciplined commitment, their hope and faith in a free Palestine. Watching them and trying to capture them on camera for posts on Facebook, I was often moved to tears with love, respect and admiration. What a phenomenal movie about them and about this historic event is bound to emerge! I am keeping all the video clips I took that week for future researchers and historians.
Video clip: — Rima Najjar Chants of international solidarity with Palestinian resistance outside Sacco-Vanzetti, 54 chaussée de Forest, 1060 Brussels, where La Grue collective organized a presentation by two young activists about their experiences in Palestine
Their message to the EU Parliament and the world was clear and bold and, as one of their chants said, they were demonstrating beliefs routinely criminalized by Zionist forces, على المكشوف “out in the open.” Fortified by the endorsement of over 100 organizations, they chanted for the Jenin Brigade, the Lion’s Den and the Palestinian resistance in all its forms, for Nablus, for Ramallah, for Jerusalem and for “Haifa before Ramallah.” They chanted for the liquidation of the so-called “two-state solution,” insisting that revolution was the only solution. They condemned the traitorous complicity of Mahmoud Abbas. They displayed t-shirts and head-bands that affirmed the legitimacy of armed resistance against the Israeli occupation and, through huge posters, called out the names of some of their many comrades whom Israel felled down but who are not forgotten. They accurately described the EU as a colonial and imperialist institution that supports Zionism and Israeli apartheid.
Caption: Members of the Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path Movement (Masar Badil) leading the march for return and liberation in Brussels, 29 Oct 2022
Caption: Mohammed Khatib, Europe coordinator of the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network (right), Thomas Hofland and Yasmin Ahmed of Samidoun Netherlands waiting for posters to be printed for the march of return and liberation: from the River to the Sea, in Brussels, 29 Oct 2022
As Khaled Barakat wrote, “The Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path Movement realizes that confronting the Zionist entity and its allies in the world, in an effective manner, is not possible without the Palestinian people in exile and diaspora reclaiming their confiscated role and liberating their voice, with real participation in building institutions and organizations that respond to the needs of the struggle for national and social liberation.”
Caption: The Arabic on this banner that led the Masar Badil march of liberation and return in Brussels says, “You besiege a shadow that besieges you.”
Stay tuned! The Palestinian people in exile and the diaspora are alive and well. The BDS movement cannot be an alternative project to the movement for revolutionary change and the project of return and liberation, but must align itself with it.
I salute the courage and hopefulness of everyone who marched in Brussels. They will no doubt inspire solidarity and resistance elsewhere — with all liberation struggles — from the Philippines to Colombia and from Turtle Island to South Africa.
Note: First published on Medium
Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem and whose mother’s side of the family is from Ijzim, south of Haifa. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank.