Amid legal fight, BDS motions pass in 4 Spanish cities, fail in 4 others


(JTA) — Amid a legal fight over the legality of the campaign to boycott Israel in Spain, motions supporting the boycott failed in four municipalities and passed in four.

The council of the eastern city of Santa Coloma de Gramenet near Barcelona on Monday voted down a proposed motion to boycott Israel, according to ACOM, a pro-Israel group based in Madrid that attempts to counter the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment, or BDS, movement in Spain.

Introduced by the far-left Podemos movement, the vote in Santa Coloma, which has a population of about 120,000, closely followed the April 14 failure of a similar motion in Leganes, a city of 200,000 in central Spain. The previous month, a BDS motion failed in a City Council vote in Zamora, in northern Spain, after the municipal secretary warned aldermen that its language was illegal. Later that month, a Spanish court ordered another Spanish city, Langreo, to walk back its vote on BDS, citing discriminatory elements.

Separately, a motion by Podemos to have Spain’s Congress lift its conditions for supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state failed at a poll held on April 13 by the Congress’ exterior affairs commission.

Unlike the parliaments of Britain, France and other European countries that in 2014 pledged unconditional support for Palestinian statehood, Spain’s Congress that year passed a nonbinding motion in which it said it would only support a Palestinian state if it reached a peace agreement through talks with Israel – language that was hailed as a diplomatic victory for Israel and its supporters.

However, last month four municipalities with a combined population of 72,000 residents — Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, Sant Adrià de Besòs, Sant Quirze del Vallès and Buñol — passed motions supporting the BDS movement, joining about a dozen other municipalities that earlier subscribed to the movement’s goals.

ACOM, whose discrimination lawsuit against the northern city of Aviles in February forced municipal officials to scrap a pro-BDS motion passed the previous month, said in a statement that it is taking legal action against the three eastern municipalities.

ACOM described the March 10 ruling on Langreo by an Oviedo administrative court as precedent setting, saying it would force other institutions supportive of BDS to scrap the endorsement. The court issued an injunction reversing the Jan. 28 vote by the City Council of Langreo, a coal-mine city of 42,000, citing “risks of significant damage” to contractors doing business with Israel.

BDS is illegal in neighboring France, where dozens of pro-boycott activists have been convicted of inciting to discrimination or hate speech. Britain’s ruling party is formulating similar legislation, officials said earlier this year.

Long seen as a hub of anti-Israeli lobbying in Europe, Spain has recently taken actions that angered BDS promoters, including offering in January $107,000 in compensation for damages caused to a West Bank Israeli university by its exclusion from a scientific competition for political reasons.

Last week, Spanish BDS supporters circulated a petition titled “Stop criminalizing BDS,” addressed to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Citing the legislation and court rulings, the petition reads: “All over the world, activists of non-violent struggle [against Israel] are under threat.”

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