Barcelona – Declaring that Israeli “apartheid is intolerable,” Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau on Wednesday announced that her city would no longer maintain any links to the Jewish state and that it was “temporarily” terminating its longstanding twinning agreement with Tel Aviv.
The move comes only months after Spain’s top court ruled that the movement to boycott Israel represents “discrimination” that “infringes on basic rights.”
Explaining her decision in a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Colau explained that she had made her decision after her constituents requested that she “condemn the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people, support Palestinian and Israeli organizations working for peace and break off the twinning agreement between Barcelona and Tel Aviv.”
Barcelona and Tel Aviv entered the relationship in 1998 — when both cities jointly signed a “twin city” agreement with Gaza City. Colau’s decision comes less than a year after Barcelona launched two linked campaigns to appeal to Jewish and Israeli tourists interested in exploring their heritage.
While the new policy was praised by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, it was condemned both by Colau’s political opponents and the local Jewish community, which denounced it as antisemitic.
Tel Aviv is a “city of coexistence,” the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, the country’s main Jewish representative body, said in a statement arguing that Barcelona was unfairly singling out Israel.
“It so happens that Israel is the only Jewish country in the world. Therefore, in our opinion, this decision has nothing to do with politics, human rights or peace. This has a name and is called ‘Sophisticated anti-Semitism.’”
According to ACOM, a Spanish pro-Israel nonprofit that has sued numerous entities for discrimination against Israel, Colau “abused her position, exceeded her powers, and used institutions to promote her hateful agenda and sickly obsession with Jews and their state, seriously affecting the well-being of Spanish Jews and Israelis in that city.”
“The Barcelona City Council completes its drift and leads Barcelona to the maximum expression of sectarianism and discrimination, becoming the most openly anti-Semitic city in Europe,” it said, adding that “Colau and her accomplices have a problem and that problem is called anti-Semitism.”
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The Socialists’ Party of Catalonia will push a bill through the city council to preserve the twinning agreement “as soon as possible,” a representative of the party wrote in El Pais following the decision, asserting that “we are convinced that the majority of councilors of the Consistory will not support the decision made by the mayor.”
The anger spread beyond Spain as well, with the European Jewish Congress slammed the twinning decision as “motivated by deep-seated anti-Israel bias” and Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lior Haiat denouncing it as giving “support to extremists, terrorist organizations and anti-Semitism.”
“The friendship between Israel and Barcelona is long-standing, and is based on shared culture and values. Even this unfortunate decision will not damage this friendship,” Haiat said.
Catalonia accused Israel of “apartheid” for the first time in the history of the European Union in June. In Barcelona, far-left politicians adopted a resolution they had submitted months earlier. A majority of the 30 lawmakers on the committee voted in favor of the resolution. Other members abstained, resulting in the resolution’s passage, which was welcomed by the Palestinian Foreign Ministry.