In setback for BDS, Spain awards West Bank school €70,000

Spanish Supreme Court issues landmark ruling against country’s Housing Ministry for illegally excluding Israel’s Ariel University from scientific competition in 2009.

January 6, 2016 22:01
2 minute read.
Ariel University in the West Bank

Ariel University in the West Bank. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


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BERLIN – Spain’s Supreme Court, the Council of State, has issued a landmark ruling against the country’s Housing Ministry for illegally excluding Israel’s Ariel University from a scientific competition in 2009.

The legal victory, which was announced last week but made public by Ariel University on Tuesday, is a significant setback for Spanish BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) activists targeting the Jewish state.

The Council of State added €70,000 to a previous court penalty compensation of €30,000 awarded to the university. The award now totals €100,000.

Ariel University’s chancellor, Yigal Cohen-Orgad, said the decision was “a partial, but necessary, response to the pressure being mounted by the BDS movement around the globe, and proves that efforts to isolate and demonize Israel can and will be thwarted.”

The case dates back to 2009, when Spain blocked Ariel University from participating in a sustainable energy design competition, Solar Decathlon Europe.

“It’s not a simple fight, but we are successfully combating both anti-Semitism and BDS in Spain,” said Angel Mas, president of ACOM, a pro-Israel organization in Spain.

“Every day, in every attempt by BDS [and others] to delegitimize and demonize the only democracy in the Middle East, we make sure they all receive a vigorous response,” he said.

“Social networks have become the new battlefields, and the rejection of BDS by mainstream political parties, which ultimately represent the vast majority of people in Spain, is an essential objective of ours,” he continued. “Ultimately, court rulings such as this evidence BDS’s anti-Semitic objectives and will send BDS discriminatory tactics back to the fringes of our democratic society in Spain and the dustbin of history, where they belong.”

According to a university statement, Ariel received an invitation to participate in the international competition from Spain’s Housing Ministry, the organizer.

The competition was open to universities from around the world.

“In 2008, Ariel University was selected as one of 21 finalist universities,” the statement said. “Ariel University was the only Israeli and Middle Eastern finalist in the competition.”

But the problems began the following year.

According to the university, in 2009, the Spanish government notified it that it had been ousted from the competition because “your institution is located in the occupied territories and since we are bound to respect the position of the European Union in relation to this matter, we are compelled to announce that it will not be possible for your center to continue in this competition.”

“The important legal victory shows that Europe’s treatment of Israeli entities and people in Judea and Samaria is legally baseless, and amounts to arbitrary discrimination,” Eugene Kontorovich , a professor at Northwestern University School of Law in the US and a leading expert on BDS, told The Jerusalem Post.

“Coming just as the EU attempts to enforce much more serious discriminatory labeling requirements, Ariel University’s legal victory highlights the inexplicable reluctance of the State of Israel to actively assert its legal rights in the World Trade Organization and other fora,” Kontorovich continued. “The fact that private lawyers had to press this case exposes both the vulnerability of the EU’s legal position and the fecklessness of the Israel government in resisting Brussels.”

The legal case against the government of Spain was led by Spanish firm Cremades & Calvo-Sotelo on behalf of Ariel University, in coordination with the University’s Anti-BDS Committee, headed by executive committee member and lawyer Marc Zell of Jerusalem.

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