Spain: Barcelona suspend ties with Israel – Politics
It’s about the “systematic violation of fundamental rights of the Palestinian population”: the city Barcelona has suspended official relations with the State of Israel, including its twinning with Tel Aviv. Mayor Ada Colau justified the step in one Open letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week, among other things, with the violence that the Palestinian people must suffer. The town twinning has existed since 1998.
The city administration emphasizes that the move is only about institutional relations with the State of Israel, not about the Jewish population and Jewish culture. Nevertheless, the decision has led to some fierce criticism – both inside and outside of Spain.
Jewish communities are worried
Lior Haiat, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, spoke on Twitter of an “unfortunate decision” that gave tailwind to extremists, terrorist organizations and anti-Semitism. Jewish organizations also sharply criticized it. From the Israelite community in Barcelona is it[calledthe decision does not represent the residents of the city or what makes Barcelona what it is.
The Federación de Comunidades Judías de España explains that one is concerned about the step taken by the city administration Union of Jewish Communities in Spain an open letter to Ada Colau the association appeals to the city to “build bridges of harmony and to deal sensitively with all minorities.”
Parts of the city’s political squad also criticize the decision. Laia Bonet, Barcelona’s third mayorspeaks on Twitter of a “very serious mistake”. Xavier Trias, liberal-conservative candidate for the local elections in May 2023 and former mayor, writes that Barcelona must avoid confrontation and rely on dialogue and understanding. The situation between Israel and Palestine is extremely tense at the moment. Again and again there is violence on both sides.
German cities are sticking to the partnerships
Tel Aviv’s German partner cities do not want to comment on Barcelona’s decision, but rule out such a measure for themselves. The city of Bonn announced that Germany still bears a historical responsibility: “The partnership between the then federal capital Bonn and Tel Aviv was and is also in the light of reconciliation with the victims of the Holocaust.” At the same time, however, they also have contacts in the Palestinian autonomous areas: they consider it important to be in contact with both sides and to support people – “especially those who are interested in reconciliation between the two sides.”
It is said of the city of Freiburg im Breisgau that care has always been taken to separate state and municipal action: “As a partner city, we don’t want to get involved in domestic political discussions.”
The city of Cologne writes on request that human rights must of course be included as a guideline for city partnerships. At the same time, however, town twinning could prove to be a useful instrument to promote dialogue between people – “despite and especially in the case of existing foreign policy differences.” Frankfurt am Main and Essen also report that there are no plans to suspend the town twinning.
Now Madrid is offering the city of Tel Aviv a partnership
In the open letter, Mayor Colau justified the alliance Barcelona En Comu belongs and is considered to be politically left-wing, the decision, among other things, with the occupation of areas by the Israeli state. It is said that this violates international law. There is talk of a process of persecution and expropriation that “has been going on for more than 70 years”. Referring to organizations like Human Rights Watch, which accuse Israeli authorities of “apartheid,” among other things, Colau writes: “History has shown us that we citizens must fly the flag and take an active role in building peace and defending human rights.”
Colau’s decision was preceded by the petition of several pro-Palestinian groups, which had collected signatures under the motto “Barcelona with apartheid NO, Barcelona with human rights, yes'”. Colau made the decision by decree, i.e. without a vote.
However, the Social Democratic PSC in City Hall now wants to table a proposal in the City Council later this month to resume relations with Israel and the town twinning with Tel Aviv.
Meanwhile, there is also an approach from another side. According to Spanish media reports, Madrid has now offered the city of Tel Aviv a partnership. This is a “wonderful opportunity,” quotes the Spanish newspaper El Mundo Mayor José Luis Martínez Almeida by the conservative People’s Party, to show Tel Aviv and the entire State of Israel that Madrid “is clear about which side is the right one” and also “that we need to strengthen our ties with a democracy and a rule of law like Israel “.