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Spain: cities rescind BDS support after threats from pro-Israel group

A BDS protest against Israel in Barcelona, Spain, June 2014 [Twitter]

Two municipalities in Spain have rescinded their support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement after a pro-Israel group threatened them with legal action.

The municipalities had declared themselves part of the BDS movement earlier this year, but have since been threatened with legal action by pro-Israel group ACOM if they didn’t reverse their decision. ACOM has used this tactic to scrap, annul or suspend 26 boycott motions by Spanish municipalities in recent years, the Times of Israel (ToI) reported.

Tribunals in Spain, including the Supreme Court, have voided more than a dozen motions passed by municipalities following objections by ACOM and other pro-Israel groups, the Times of Israel added.

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One city council, Villarrobledo, situated 160 kilometres southeast of the Spanish capital Madrid, had passed the motion to join BDS in April. The other, Sagunto, situated near Valencia on Spain’s east coast, passed the motion in June and declared the municipality “a space free of Israeli apartheid.”

Over the past two years, over 60 towns and cities in Spain have joined the BDS movement. In June Valencia, Spain’s third-largest city, also voted to join BDS citing Israeli atrocities committed against Palestinians participating in the Great March of Return in Gaza. The motion was put forward by the local faction of Podemos, a left-wing political party that has performed well in recent Spanish elections. Leader of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias Turrión, said: “We need to act more firmly on a criminal country like Israel.”

Israel has sought to crackdown on Spain’s affiliation with the BDS movement. In July, prominent Spanish activist Ana Sanchez Mera was prevented from entering Israel at the behest of two high-profile Israeli ministers, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who accused her of planning to cause “great damage to Israel”. She is believed to be affiliated with the BDS National Committee (BNC), the Palestinian coordinating body for BDS, and previously backed the decision in Spain’s parliament to defend boycotts of Israel.

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BDS, which calls for a boycott of Israeli economic goods, Israel’s cultural output and academic institutions, draws inspiration from the anti-Apartheid boycott movement against South Africa. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti said that “Israel is trying to cover up its crimes against the Palestinian people by sponsoring art festivals around the world, as if Israel is concerned with literature, art and culture, not a criminal state that commits war crimes.” The movement has recently claimed a number of victories, including persuading Adidas to stop sponsoring the Israel Football Association (IFA) and a South African band to cancel their appearance at Israel’s Meteor Festival earlier in August.

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