Barcelona cuts ties with twin city Tel Aviv over Israeli ‘apartheid’

Pro-Palestine advocates ‘salute’ the decision while Israel supporters call it ‘antisemitic’

Pro-Palestinian activists presenting their petition to Barcelona's City Hall demanding the city cut ties with Tel Aviv (Twitter/Social Media)

Pro-Palestinian activists presenting their petition to Barcelona’s City Hall demanding the city cut ties with Tel Aviv (Twitter/Social Media)


MEE staff

Published date: 9 February 2023

Barcelona will no longer be twinned with Tel Aviv due to Israel‘s “apartheid policy” towards Palestinians, the city’s mayor announced on Wednesday.

Ada Colau said in a press conference that she wrote to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informing him relations between the Spanish city and Israel are severed until “Israeli authorities stop the systematic violation of human rights of the Palestinian people”.

She said more than 100 organisations and over 4,000 citizens demanded the city “defends the human rights of Palestinians”. 

The decision followed a campaign by activists, resulting in an official petition run via Barcelona city hall which gathered more than 4,000 signatures urging the municipality to cut ties with Israel.

Last month, hundreds of pro-Palestine protesters gathered in front of Barcelona City Hall, urging politicians to suspend the twin city agreement with Tel Aviv.

Barcelona, Tel Aviv and Gaza City signed a friendship and cooperation agreement in 1998. Pro-Palestinian activists called for Barcelona’s relationship with Gaza City to continue.

In her letter to Netanyahu, Colau said that 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.”

Barcelona suspended a twinning relationship with the Russian city of St Petersburg last year following the invasion of Ukraine.

Mixed reactions

The decision was welcomed by pro-Palestine campaigners and condemned by Israel supporters and Jewish groups. 

The Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) said it “salutes” Colau and the grassroots groups who helped push the move. 

“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,” BNC said in a statement.

‘[The] move is reminiscent of the historic and courageous city councils that pioneered cutting links with apartheid South Africa’

– Boycott Divestment and Sanctions National Committee

The Spanish pro-Israel group Action and Communication on the Middle East, ACOM, called the decision antisemitic and said it will take legal action against Colau. 

“The Barcelona City Council has reached a new low by pushing Barcelona to the maximum expression of sectarianism and discrimination, becoming the most openly anti-semitic city in Europe,” the group said in a statement.

Lior Haiat, a spokesperson of the Israeli foreign ministry, said on Twitter the the decision gives “support to extremists, terrorist organizations and anti-semitism”.

The Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain echoed echoed similar criticism.

“It so happens that Israel is the only Jewish country in the world. Therefore, in our opinion, this decision has nothing to do with politics, human rights or peace. This has a name and is called ‘Sophisticated anti-Semitism,'” the federation said.

Multiple leading rights groups – Palestinain, Israeli and international – have accused Israel of apartheid in recent years. 

Apartheid is a legal term defined by international law that refers to systematic oppression by one racial group over another.

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