Barcelona mayor calls Israel an apartheid state, cuts ties
Barcelona will no longer be twinned with Tel Aviv after the Spanish city said it would end its relationship with Israel due to its “apartheid policy."
Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona, wrote to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, informing him that the city will halt relations until Israel stops its "systematic violation" of the human rights of Palestinians and follows international law.
Colau said voters had asked her to “condemn the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people, support Palestinian and Israeli organisations working for peace and break off the twinning agreement between Barcelona and Tel Aviv."
The move ends a 25-year-old twinning agreement with Tel Aviv.
She said over 100 organisations and 4,000 citizens called for the city to “defend the human rights of Palestinians.”
The decision to break ties with Israel came after a successful campaign by activists who organised an official petition through Barcelona City Hall and gathered over 4,000 signatures.
A spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lior Haiat, criticised the city council's decision as “against the wishes of Barcelona residents.”
Last year, Amnesty International was the latest in a long line of rights organisations to call Israel an apartheid state and urged the international community to act and hold Israeli authorities to account.
"Violations of the Palestinian people"
In the letter, Colau said: “I have decided to temporarily suspend relations with the state of Israel and with the official institutions of that state – including the twinning agreements with the Tel Aviv City Council – until the Israeli authorities put an end to the system of violations of the Palestinian people and fully comply with the obligations imposed on them by international law and the various United Nations resolutions.”
She cited several Israeli policies as the reason for the decision, including the country's 55-year military occupation of the West Bank, its annexation of East Jerusalem, and its construction of settlements on Palestinian land.
The city council's decision was welcomed by campaigners and groups supporting the cause of Palestinians.
The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), which aims for Palestinian freedom, justice, and equality, praised Mayor Colau and the grassroots organisations that helped “end institutional links with apartheid Israel.”
It said: “Barcelona has become the first city council to suspend ties with apartheid Tel Aviv in solidarity with the Palestinian people, a move that is reminiscent of the historic and courageous city councils that pioneered cutting links with apartheid South Africa.
“With the current Israeli government, the most far-right, racist, sexist and homophobic ever, accountability is more needed than ever to end its impunity and #DismantleApartheid. We call on institutions worldwide to follow in Barcelona’s footsteps and end their own involvement in sustaining Israeli crimes against humanity.”
Meanwhile, pro-Israeli groups, such as the Spanish pro-Israel group Action and Communication on the Middle East, condemned the decision and announced their intention to take legal action against Mayor Colau.