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February 9, 2023 3:30 pm

Protesting ‘Stench of Antisemitism,’ Spanish Capital Madrid Draws Closer to Israel After Barcelona Severs Ties

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José Luis Martínez-Almeida, the mayor of Madrid, announces a proposed partnership agreement with the city of Tel Aviv. Photo: Screenshot

As Jewish and pro-Israel organizations in Spain denounced the decision on Thursday by the mayor of the city of Barcelona to sever ties with Israel after she cited its alleged “apartheid” policies, the mayor of the nation’s capital, Madrid, quickly announced that he was stepping into the breach.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday morning, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, Madrid’s mayor, condemned his counterpart in Barcelona, Ada Colau, for telling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a letter that her city was “temporarily suspending” its twinning agreement with Tel Aviv, along with all other connections with Israel, in protest at what she called the “systematic violation of the people of Palestine’s human rights.”

Colau informed Netanyahu that the suspension would remain in place “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.”

“We cannot be silent,” she underlined, explaining that the Barcelona council’s decision had been made after 100 pro-Palestinian groups and more than 4,000 residents  of the city had signed a petition urging break in relations with Israel.

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However, the decision has split the coalition of left-wing parties governing Barcelona, with Laia Bonet, the leader of the Catalan Socialist party, calling for the ties with Tel Aviv to be restored. “We should reinforce, not weaken, the role of Barcelona in the world,” she said.

Making clear that he did “not share these decisions,” Madrid mayor Almeida said that the Barcelona council’s move carried the “stench of antisemitism,” the El Pais news outlet reported.

“We know who the right side is,” Almeida said. “Madrid is ready to immediately sign a partnership agreement.” He added that he was immediately sending a message to Ron Huldai, the mayor of Tel Aviv, proposing the agreement.

Almeida’s colleague Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the president of the Community of Madrid, will meanwhile travel to Israel this weekend for meetings with President Isaac Herzog and other political and business leaders.

Jewish organizations in Spain vociferously condemned Colau, with one group announcing that it would pursue legal action against Barcelona’s municipal government for “antisemitic discrimination.”

“The Barcelona City Council has reached a new low by pushing Barcelona to the maximum expression of sectarianism and discrimination, becoming the most openly antisemitic city in Europe,” ACOM — a pro-Israel organization — declared in a statement.

ACOM confirmed that it was launching a “legal action against Ada Colau and the Barcelona City Council for their antisemitic discrimination.” The group additionally pointed out that it had protested an earlier decision in December to pass an anti-Israel resolution at the behest of a collection of organizations styling themselves the “Enough Complicity with Israel Coalition.”

Separately, the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain accused Colau of promoting “sophisticated antisemitism.” It bemoaned the fact that Colau’s decision was reached “with the sole support of 4,000 signatures, by decree and without debate,” the Catalan news outlet Radio Catala reported.

Israel also condemned the decision. “The friendship between Israel and Barcelona is long-standing, and is based on shared culture and values,” Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson Lior Haiat stated on Twitter. “Even this unfortunate decision will not damage this friendship.”










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