Spain: Ground zero for Europe’s anti-Israel movement
- The proliferating anti-Israel activism, driven by the rise to power of the political far-left, is establishing Spain as the EU member state most hostile towards the Jewish state.
- A Madrid-based organization, Action and Communication on the Middle East (ACOM), which is fighting the anti-Israel BDS movement in Spain, said that Valencia’s motion was antisemitic and an incitement to hatred.
- “The BDS movement in Spain acquired its current virulence with the emergence of Podemos, a ‘Chavist’ far-left party financed by Venezuela and Iran…. As Podemos gained control of the municipal governments in the main Spanish cities, the anti-Israel movement had access to multiple economic, human and organizational resources…. Podemos has driven over 90 such declarations in Spain in jurisdictions covering a population of over eight million people” — Ángel Más, president, ACOM.
Valencia, the third-largest city in Spain, has approved a motion to boycott Israel and slander it by declaring the city an “Israeli apartheid-free zone.” The move comes days after Navarra, one of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities, announced a similar measure. In all, more than 50 Spanish cities and regions have passed motions condemning Israel. The proliferating anti-Israel activism, driven by the rise to power of the political far-left, is establishing Spain as the EU member state most hostile towards the Jewish state.
The Valencian measure, introduced by the far-left party València en Comú, was approved during a plenary session of the city council on May 31. The motion, which commits the city to refrain from engaging in business contacts or cultural events with Israeli authorities or companies, aims at establishing Valencia as “a global reference for solidarity with the Palestinians.” The motion, which libelously describes Israel as an “apartheid regime,” accuses the Jewish state of “colonialism,” “racism,” “ethnic cleansing,” “tyranny,” and “genocide.”
The measure, which claims to reflect the “dignity, solidarity and justness” of the Valencian people, was introduced by Neus Fábregas Santana, a city councilor whose Twitter feed reveals an obsession with demonizing and delegitimizing Israel.
Santana works closely with a group called BDS País Valencia, the local branch of a worldwide movement trying to delegitimize Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.
BDS País Valencia is currently promoting a Spanish documentary about the Gaza Strip called “Gas the Arabs,” a title that alleges, falsely, that the Jews in Israel are doing to the Arabs today what the Nazis in Germany did to the Jews during the Second World War.
An activist with BDS País Valencia, Mireia Biosca, said the motion in Valencia had three objectives:
“The first is the dismantling of the apartheid wall and the return to the borders of 1967. The second is the end of apartheid both in Palestine and in Israel, and the third is the right of return.”
Biosca also said BDS País Valencia would work to prevent the Eurovision song contest from being held in Israel in 2019:
“There is a very clear line: first to ensure that states do not participate in the festival, and obviously a campaign to prevent the festival from being in Jerusalem. For me it is equally boycottable if it is decided that Eurovision will be held in Tel Aviv….”
A Madrid-based organization, Action and Communication on the Middle East (ACOM), which is fighting the anti-Israel BDS movement in Spain, said that Valencia’s motion was antisemitic and an incitement to hatred. It said it was studying whether to take legal action against the City Council of Valencia for violating the Spanish Constitution and promoting discrimination based on religion, ethnicity or national origin:
“The declaration is full of lies, manipulations and libels, whilst it calls for the city to formally adhere to the BDS movement and declare itself ‘free of Israeli apartheid’ (a known euphemism in Spain for Judenrein[free of Jews], where any perceived sympathizer of the Jewish State is demanded to publicly denounce the policies of the only democracy in the Middle East in order to be admitted to social, political, economic or civic activities in the municipality) ….
“We informed the local press of the illegality of the BDS campaign, detailing dozens of judicial cases won by ACOM in the Spanish Courts that proved the unconstitutionality of exclusionary measures.”
ACOM has filed more than twenty lawsuits against provincial and town councils which have enacted boycotts of Israel.
Much of the BDS activity in Spain is being promoted by Podemos (translated in English as “We Can”), a neo-Communist party founded in March 2014 to protest the economic austerity measures put into place after the European debt crisis. Podemos received more than 20% of the vote in the national election held on December 20, 2015 and is now the third-largest party in Parliament.
Podemos head Pablo Iglesias and his deputy, Íñigo Errejón, served as advisors to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, and have been accused of receiving more than €7 million ($8 million) from Chávez to fund their political activities in Spain. Podemos has also been accused of receiving funding from the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Iglesias has a long history of antisemitism: he has downplayed the Holocaust, describing it as “a bureaucratic and administrative decision”; compared the Gaza Strip to the Warsaw ghetto; and described Spanish police who apprehend illegal immigrants as being the same as SS guards.
Iglesias hosts a television program, “Fort Apache,” which is broadcast on HispanTV, a Spanish-language cable television network owned by the Iranian government. He has been accused of using his show to repeat antisemitic conspiracy theories and tropes.
In a June 7 interview on RTVE, a leading state-owned television and radio broadcast network, Iglesias, said that Israel was an “illegal” country: “We need to act more firmly against an illegal state like Israel. Israel’s actions are illegal. The apartheid policies of Israel are illegal.”
València en Comú, the political party which sponsored the BDS motion in Valencia, is a local offshoot of Podemos. The motion was approved with support from Compromís, a coalition of Communist and left-wing nationalist parties, as well as the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), which recently took over the central government in Madrid.
BDS motions have also been approved in: Abrera, Alcoi, Alhaurín de la Torre, Artés, Badalona, Barberà del Vallès, Barcelona, Benlloch, Campillos, Casares (Malaga), Castrillón, Castro del Río, Catarroja, Concentaina, Córdoba, Corvera, El Prat, Gijón, Gran Canaria, La Roda Llangreu, Los Corrales, Madrid, Mairena del Aljarafe, Molins de Rei, Montoro, Muro, Navalafuente, Navarra, Oleiros, Olesa de Montserrat, Onda, Pamplona, Petrer, Ripollet, Rivas-Vaciamadrid, Sabiñánigo, San Fernando, San Roque, Sant Adrià del Besòs, Sant Cebriá de Vallalta, Sant Celoni, Santa Eulària (Ibiza), Sant Boi de Llobregat, Sant Feliu de Llobregat, Sant Pere de Ruidebitlles, Santiago de Compostela, Sant Quirze del Vallès, Seville, Telde, Terrassa, Trebujena, Velvez-Málaga, Viladamat, Viloria del Henar, Xeraco and Zaragoza, among others.
ACOM President Ángel Más explained the dynamics behind the rise of the BDS movement in Spain:
“The BDS is a global phenomenon that is born from the modern antisemites’ acceptance of the improbability of defeating Israel through military confrontation or terrorist attacks. The objective is the same: the annihilation of the Jewish homeland, ‘from the river to the sea.’ But now, BDS tries to push the international community to condemn Israel as a pariah state and ostracize all those that support her: Zionists. Jews.
“The delegitimizers, as old-time bigots, mask their thuggery, presenting themselves as victims and hiding their true intentions. They appeal to public feelings against oppression or abuse and the sympathy for underdogs and suffering minorities.
“The BDS movement in Spain acquired its current virulence with the emergence of Podemos, a ‘Chavist’ far-left party financed by Venezuela and Iran. Podemos won 25% of the votes in Spain’s 2015 local elections. Before those elections, BDS was a marginal confederation of small groups focusing on academic and cultural boycotts of Israel. The core group that formed Podemos had been active in the BDS initiatives for years, and hostility against Israel was a top priority in their political agenda.
“As Podemos gained control of the municipal governments in the main Spanish cities, including Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza and Cadiz, the anti-Israel movement had access to multiple economic, human and organizational resources. When those far-left groups occupied public institutions, they didn’t distinguish between their own sectarian agenda and the government’s agenda.
“Local administrations (provincial and municipal) formally joined the BDS movement and declared their territories ‘free of Israeli apartheid.’ In effect, Judenrein. Stickers were distributed to be exhibited in shops and offices, public companies were instructed not to work with Israeli firms or individuals and Spanish citizens suspected of being associated or sympathetic to the Jewish state were demanded to repudiate it publicly in order not to be excluded from social, political, economic and civic life.
“Podemos has driven over 90 such declarations in Spain in jurisdictions covering a population of over eight million people. Its plan was to create an oil spill of hatred reaching the majority of Spain in 18 months. This was an existential threat, and we had to act….
“No local boycott is too small to go unchallenged. BDS groups carefully manipulate the information reaching political decision makers, spend massive resources on media campaigns and are masters at social media intoxication. In general, pro-Israel groups are lagging behind in the application of analysis and action in those fields.”
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.