Madrid offers partnership after Barcelona ends relationship with Tel Aviv

The Royal Palace of Madrid. Photo by Menachem Wecker.

(JNS) — Call it the Spanish Reacquisition.

What one Spanish city taketh away, another one giveth.

On Feb. 8, Barcelona’s mayor announced she was leading her city down a BDS path, opting to “suspend institutional relations with the State of Israel due to the repeated violations of human rights of the Palestinian population and noncompliance with United Nations resolutions.”

The next day, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, the mayor of Madrid, offered his city as a replacement for Tel Aviv in the “twinning” agreement. The mayor of the capital called his Barcelona counterpart antisemitic and offered Tel Aviv’s Mayor Ron Huldai “Madrid’s commitment to democracy and freedom,” ABC reported.

“It would be an honor to be twinned with Tel Aviv,” the mayor said.

Madrid has a population of about 6.8 million while Barcelona’s population is about 5.7 million.

“Bravo,” the European Jewish Congress tweeted. “We need to build bridges between peoples, not destroy them.”

Barcelona’s mayor Ada Colau notified Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that she is suspending all of the Spanish city’s ties with Israel.

“At the request of more than 100 entities and thousands of Barcelona neighbors, I have just communicated to Netanyahu that we suspend institutional relations with the State of Israel,” she wrote on Facebook in Spanish, and on Instagram.

The city will maintain relations with “Israeli and Palestinian entities that continue to work for peace and against apartheid.”

Lior Haiat, spokesman for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called the decision “unfortunate” and “in complete contrast to the position of the majority of the residents of Barcelona and their representatives in the city council.”

“The decision gives support to extremists, terrorist organizations and antisemitism, and impairs the interests of the residents of Barcelona,” he added. “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.”

“We’re saddened and outraged by the announcement of the mayor of Barcelona to temporarily suspend relations between the Catalan capital and Israel, including the twinning agreement with Tel Aviv,” the European Jewish Congress tweeted. “The act is no doubt motivated by deep-seated anti-Israel bias.”

The official Twitter account of the Palestinian BDS National Committee hailed the decision. “We call on institutions worldwide to follow suit and end ties with apartheid Israel!” it posted.

“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,” the group posted on its website. “We call on institutions worldwide to follow in Barcelona’s footsteps and end their own involvement in sustaining Israeli crimes against humanity.”

When it called the Israeli government the most far-right ever, the group did not comment on the history of violence and hatred in Spain, including more than 350 years during which the Spanish Inquisition operated. There was an Inquisition tribunal in Barcelona.