The worldwide movement for ‘BDS’– Boycott, divestment, and sanctions directed toward Israel in response to its misdeeds and crimes in the occupied territories– scored a significant, though still partial, victory in Belgium last June that got little notice in the U.S.
The victory concerned Dexia, a Belgian-French financial group that specializes in providing financing to municipalities and other public authorities. In June Dexia announced that its subsidiary Dexia Israel would no longer provide financing for public authorities in the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Previously, between 2003 and 2007, Dexia Israel had granted loans to seven settlements and three regional authorities in the West Bank.
Though Dexia (Belgium) made that announcement in June, apparently the Israeli media only noticed it a few days ago. And that disclosure provoked MK Uri Ariel from the hard-line pro-settler “National Union” party to demand that the finance minister take stern action against Dexia because of the “discrimination” it was exercising toward local authorities in “Judea and Samaria.”
Martijn Lauwens wrote on the International Solidarity Movement’s website (here), last June, that over the preceding year the discovery of Dexia Israel’s investments in the settlements had provoked
the start of a fast growing campaign in Belgium. United under the slogan ‘Israel colonises, Dexia finances’, the campaign [knew] its first successes. In the following months petitions [were] being launched, MP’s [were] being questioned and local actions [were] being started up. Very important [was] the support of local Belgian authorities such as municipalities and provinces, as they hold a vast amount of shares in Dexia Group.
Today the action platform consists of 61 Belgian organisations, gathered over 4000 signatures and got 29 local authorities to sign a resolution. They all demand that Dexia breaks off its relations with the settlements and stops financing the occupation immediately.
Lauwens, reported that,
Jean-Luc Dehaene, chairman of the board of Dexia and former Belgian prime minister, admitted that the bank has been extending loans to Israeli colonies. He stresses however that, since September 2008, there has been no additional financing of these or other colonies.
Dehaene declared no new loans will be granted to the settlements. He added that the credits and loans to the settlements which are granted before are in runoff and will not be prolonged any longer; neither will they be replaced by similar loans.
Dehaene: “In the past, Dexia Israel granted 5 million Euros of loans to the settlements, this was only 1% of the total budget of Dexia Israel. The loans to the Jerusalem municipality are not included in this amount, as Dexia Group feels that Jerusalem is not contested territory.”
This last statement from Dehaene is incredible, and shows that the campaign to end Dexia Israel’s support for all settlement projects needs to continue.
Further information about the joint action undertaken between Palestinian and Belgian rights activists that resulted in the partial Dexia victory is here.
Obviously, those of us the U.S. who are eager to end the collusion that many U.S. institutions have in Israel’s ongoing and quite illegal settlement project could learn a lot from those activists.