Middle East Monitor / April 20, 2023
Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, is being sued by an American pro-Israel group over her decision in February to boycott the occupation state over its practice of apartheid. In a move welcomed by Palestinians, Barcelona issued a decree for the “temporary suspension” of relations with Israel as well as all of its institutions, including its twinning with the city of Tel Aviv, in protest against Israel’s apartheid practices.
During the announcement of the policy change, Colau said that the decision was necessary to advance peace, and recalled that the municipality had suspended relations with the Russian city of St. Petersburg following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Mayor also added that the decision is not directed against Jewish citizens, but rather against the policies of the Israeli government that subjects Palestinians to apartheid. Colau cited repeated violations of human rights of the Palestinian population and non-compliance with United Nations resolutions in justifying the decision to boycott Israel.
American non-profit group known as The Lawfare Project has taken steps to sue Colau. The organization describes itself as “the world’s only international pro-Israel litigation fund”, and has launched more than 70 lawsuits and legal actions in 16 jurisdictions across the globe. The Project also funds legal actions and claims to protect free speech and civil rights. However, in this instance, the group does not appear to believe that freedom of expression applies when it comes to Israel.
According to the Jewish News Syndicate, The Lawfare Project is suing Colau on behalf of the local charity, Barcelona Institute for Dialogue with Israel. “Ms. Colau acted beyond the scope of her authority by infringing on the Spanish government’s power to conduct foreign policy and violated applicable legal procedures,” Lawfare is reported as saying.
Brooke Goldstein, Executive Director of the Lawfare Project, said that the boycott “represents a total misuse of the legal process to engage in a bigoted and partisan campaign, rather than a legal decision within the scope of the Mayor of Barcelona’s power”.
Calls for the boycott of Israel has grown in recent years after major human rights groups reached universal consensus that Israel is practicing apartheid. Earlier this week, the prestigious American magazine, Foreign Affairs, widely considered one of most influential foreign policy magazines in shaping Washington’s thinking, added its weight behind the claim that Israel has imposed an apartheid regime that systematically discriminates against non-Jews.
The pro-Israel group claims that calling Israel an apartheid state is anti-Semitic and is campaigning vigorously for the adoption of the highly controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. With seven of the eleven examples of anti-Semitism listed in the so called “international definition”, it opens the door to a tsunami of smears against critics of the occupation state, including major human rights group.