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July 6, 2022 3:06 pm
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BDS Should Be Prosecuted as a Hate Crime, President of City of Madrid Tells Visiting US Jewish Delegation

avatar by Ben Cohen

Isabel Díaz Ayuso, president of the Community of Madrid. Photo: Reuters/Atilano Garcia

The head of the city government in the Spanish capital Madrid is urging that the promotion of the boycott campaign against Israel be considered a hate crime, as part of a new initiative to combat antisemitism in the cities and regions of the European Union.

Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the president of the Community of Madrid, told a visiting US Jewish delegation on Tuesday that she had presented three amendments to a comprehensive strategy to combat antisemitism drawn up by the EU and debated last week by its Committee on the Regions — a body that allows regions and cities a voice in the formation of European law and policy.

The Madrid delegation’s key demand was that support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to isolate Israel as a prelude to its replacement with a single Palestinian state, be prosecuted as a hate crime under European law. According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism endorsed by the EU, “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” — a position embraced by the BDS campaign — is an example of antisemitic rhetoric.

Under Ayuso’s proposal, BDS advocates who demand the elimination of the State of Israel as a sovereign entity could face criminal proceedings.

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Ayuso told the visiting American Jewish Committee delegation that during the last school year, the study of the Jewish legacy in Spain had been introduced into the curriculum of the capital’s schools.

“We are a government that has not stopped citing the important links between Spain and the Jewish communities around the world, that has not forgotten ‘Sepharad’ [Spain’s historic Sephardic community] or its legacy,” she declared.

Ayuso’s pro-Israel stance sharply contrasts with the resolution adopted last month by the parliament in Spain’s Catalonia region that denounced Israel as an “apartheid state.” The resolution’s passage led ACOM, a pro-Israel NGO, to call on Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to “invalidate the resolution” and “remove himself from the disgusting culture of hatred that promotes it.”

Ayuso’s call for BDS advocacy to be classified as a hate crime was lambasted by one Spanish columnist, who advised her to study “how to distinguish criticism or opposition to the State of Israel from what is true antisemitism.”

Writing in the Diario 16 news outlet, columnist Jose Antonio Gomez argued that depicting calls to boycott Israel as antisemitic was a position “that Israel’s ultra organizations intend to impose on international organizations to further shield the impunity from crimes against humanity committed by that country.”

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