At least 21,000 demonstrators, according to police figures, double that according to the organizers. According to our own figures, half of them wore a keffiyeh, the scarf that symbolizes the Palestinian ban, once called the Arafat scarf, after PLO leader Yasser Arafat. One of the slogans was: “we are all Palestinian”.
The demonstration, on the day that Belgium commemorates the ceasefire, demanded an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and was peaceful from start to finish, without a single arrest. A group of about fifty Jews also walked in the mass, who canceled their Sabbath to do so.
“There is a lot of anger, pain and feelings of loss, and everyone wants Hamas to release the hostages, but what is also clear is that the call for a ceasefire is a long-term solution,” said Anya Topolski. De Leuven is the founder of Een Andere Jewish Stem, one of the organizations behind the demonstration, together with NGOs such as Pax Christi, Broederlijk Delen and 11.11.11. Anya Topolski does not wear a keffiyeh, but she does wear a yarmulke on her head and a tallit (a prayer shawl, BST) around her shoulders. She holds up a sign with a reference to the important lesson after the Holocaust: never again.
She says many Jews were afraid to participate today because of rising anti-Semitism. During the demonstration, someone asked to take off the yarmulke, which he found ‘shocking’. It was quickly discussed. “Many people just came to thank us for our support, one was even moved to tears,” says Topolski.
Yet there is no unity within An Other Jewish Voice, not strange for an organization that consistently advocates dialogue. Yael Brakin, who grew up on a kibbutz in Israel, purposefully stayed home today. “From the river to the sea, not with me,” she blurts out on the phone. “That slogan means that Israel has no right to exist. Those kinds of manifestations are not for me.”
A day before the peace event, Samidoun distributed stickers in the capital showing a fighter with a kefiyeh and Kalashnikov and the text “long live the armed struggle of the Palestinian people”. Large flags with the face of Georges Abdallah stood out at the event. That Lebanese member of PFLP is in custody in France after the murder of an American soldier and an Israeli diplomat. The far-left organization Secours Rouge was in Brussels with a large delegation to demand the release of Georges Abdallah.
“Being in solidarity with each other does not mean that we have to agree with each other on all issues,” responds Anya Topolski. “People who know a bit of history know that the slogen does not mean: ‘from the river to the sea without Israelis’.”