People hold banners during a protest against Israel's military action in Gaza, at La Constitucion square in Malaga, Spain [File].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
While a growing number of cities across Spain have passed declarations in favor of BDS over the past year, Angel Mas, a pro-Israel activist, is leading the fight to stop them.
Mas is the chairman of ACOM, an Israel lobby group working to combat BDS in Spain, including by filing lawsuits in city courts against such measures. Just last week, a Spanish court ruled against a citywide boycott of Israel, declaring it null and void.
“For the first time in a court decision, the court said the BDS declaration in the city was discriminatory, anti-Semitic, broke human rights and needed to be canceled,” Mas told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
In January, the City Council of Langreo, a city of 43,000 in northern Spain’s province of the Principality of Asturias, passed a declaration boycotting both Israel and any person or company that might support the Jewish state.
“This is as far as you get in the 21st century to a ‘Judenfrei’ area,” Mas said, equating the boycott tactic with that in pre-WWII Nazi Germany.
ACOM filed a lawsuit against the city council’s actions and the court accepted the merits of its case, that the boycott brings discrimination and is tantamount to incitement to hate crimes.
Like many towns in impoverished northern Spain, Langreo’s council is run by Izquierda Unida, the Communist Party and the extreme left-wing party Podemos, a rising political party in the country, explained Mas. Langreo is just one of many municipalities in Spain that have in the past year issued a declaration in favor of BDS.
“Historically we have encountered the same BDS as the rest of the world with calls for academic boycotts and the like,” Mas said. “Over the last year and a half there was a tectonic movement in Spain as the far Left gained access to public institutions and local government.”
According to Mas, Podemos has been under scrutiny in the media after Spanish police revealed the party is financed by the Venezuelan and the Iranian regimes.
“This context is important because it shows how central the hostility to the State of Israel is to them,” he said. “We saw a sudden increase in the intention and the quality and ambitions of BDS activities in Spain.”
Mas said this external funding has allowed the Podemos party to rise to power gaining control over some 40 localities, including Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia, Spain’s three largest cities.
“This means access to even more public resources and at that point what we noticed was that the strategy of the BDS campaign changed and stepped up,” he said. “This is something we haven’t seen anywhere else. It is a deliberate and well planned campaign for cities to create an area with ‘Israel Free Apartheid.’” ACOM has responded aggressively by presenting lawsuits against every single city council or public institution that has declared a boycott against Israel.
“We have won a number of cases already,” he said explaining that a number of city council legal teams have already called to reverse the declaration.
“Around 35-36 cases have been presented so far and we have won five or six,” he added.
Mass said despite the victories, the threat of BDS still remains very real.
“In the June elections, Podemos can either win the elections or become the main opposition party. We consider this an existential threat to the Jewish community in Spain,” he said. “We are a small group of activists without much funding in the battle over a big country of Spain – and it is not an easy war.”