The Spanish government has criticised a decision by the Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, to cut the city’s ties with Israel, calling it a ‘unilateral move’ that would not bring ‘anything good’.
In a letter to Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week, Colau said she had taken the step due to Israel’s ‘systemic violation’ of the rights of the Palestinian population.
Colau, a former anti-eviction activist, cited several Israeli policies including its construction of settlements on lands claimed by the Palestinians for a future state.
‘It would be a severe mistake to apply a policy of double standards and turn a blind eye to a violation that has been, for decades, widely verified and documented by international organisations,’ she added.
The largely symbolic measure, which had been requested by dozens of local groups, includes the end of a twinning agreement with Tel Aviv.
An open letter signed by more than 50 cultural figures from around the world, including four Nobel laureates, later praised Colau for her decision to suspend institutional ties with Israel. It was signed by actors such as Susan Sarandon, Viggo Mortensen and Stephen Rea and musicians including Marianne Faithful, Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno.
The four Nobel Prize winners who added their signatures to the letter were the 2022 Nobel laureate for literature Annie Ernaux; Nobel Peace Prize winners Mairead Maguire and Jody Williams, and George P. Smith, who received the chemistry prize.
Members of Barcelona’s Jewish community, however, accused the mayor of ‘sophisticated anti-Semitism’.
Speaking at an event in Barcelona on Friday, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares called the move a ‘unilateral decision, and I understand an almost personal decision, by the mayor’.
‘I believe that Barcelona’s vocation is to be an open city, as Spain is,’ he said. ‘I do not believe that anything good is achieved by suspending, cutting, expelling, nor is a dialogue built between Israel and Palestine,’ he added.