The concept of paradiplomacy, relations between cities, is over a millennium old, and at its foundations are efforts to create greater awareness, understanding and solidarity among the peoples of distant and distinct urban areas.
The Catalan term used for twinning cities is ciutats bessones, which has its roots in the word connect, and bringing together.
With this in mind, the recent unilateral act by Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau to suspend her city’s twinning agreement with Tel Aviv flies in the face of the need to bring people together, to create and learn from each other, and to work toward peace and fraternity.
Ignorant and aggressive attacks on the Jewish people
Her adoption of the terminology of the antisemitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in general, and the accusation of “apartheid” in particular, are ignorant and aggressive attacks on the Jewish people as a whole.
By singling out the one and only Jewish state for opprobrium, she has easily failed multiple tests of prejudice and racism.
She has appropriated language invented in the former Soviet Union and utilized by countries that oppress its women and minorities like Iran, who weaponized real apartheid suffering as another tool to beat Israel with, in its long-hoped-for destruction of the Jewish state.
This is why this terminology has been denounced at the highest levels by world leaders and international decision-makers.
“Categorizing Israel as an apartheid state is just plain antisemitic.”Nicola Beer
“Categorizing Israel as an apartheid state is just plain antisemitic,” said Nicola Beer, vice president of the European Parliament and special envoy on combating religious discrimination including antisemitism, leaving little doubt about the intention of those who use it.
Moreover, its ignorance is astounding.
Tel Aviv-Yafo is a mixed municipality with a significant number of residents from the Arab community. It is lively, progressive and tolerant, and hosts the largest LGBTQ+ Pride event in Asia, with people coming from many nations, ethnicities and religions to join the hundreds of thousands of Israelis in celebrating this unique event.
UNFORTUNATELY, to support her stance, Colau used information from entities that fail to condemn terrorism, and that even provide implicit and tacit support for it.
This merely emboldens violent rejectionism against not only Israelis, but also Jews around the world, as was witnessed in the physical attack on Israel’s Ambassador Dr. Rodica Radian-Gordon, whose only crime was trying to engage students at the University of Madrid.
In addition, Colau’s decision took place at a time when Jews are under attack across the globe, with antisemitism on the ascendancy, and mere days after a Palestinian terrorist went on a bloody and murderous rampage against Jewish worshipers on Shabbat in Jerusalem.
If this crime against humanity was not enough, the celebrations that emanated across the West Bank and Gaza, a place where Colau’s city retains a twinning agreement, should be enough to sicken any decent and moral person.
Yet the mayor saw little reason to express any meaningful solidarity with the victims of these, and a series of other recent deadly attacks in Israel that have seen young Jewish children butchered on the streets.
Instead, while the Tel Aviv agreement is suspended, the agreement with the terrorist entity run by an explicitly genocidal organization – which celebrates the murderers of children as “martyrs” and “heroes” – remains intact
It is in the very same Gaza where its Christian residents are hounded, churches are firebombed, opposition members are thrown off tall buildings, and homosexuality is a crime with a punishment of up to 10 years in prison.
It is sadly ironic that many of these members of the LGBTQ+ community desperately escape the barbarism of Palestinian-controlled areas in order to live free and openly in Tel Aviv.
It is even sadder that many local LGBTQ+ organizations, sitting freely in Barcelona, have been Colau’s biggest supporters, standing against their own brothers and sisters, salient facts and reality.
NEVERTHELESS, we know that the majority of the people of Barcelona and Spain do not support such lies, prejudice and antisemitism. That is why we are gratified by the outpouring of support for Tel Aviv and Israel, including over 15,000 signatures in support of preserving the twin city agreement, and by Madrid Mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida, who has offered to twin his city with Tel Aviv.
We also know, and history has taught us, that the enemies of the Jewish people are also the enemies of progress, engagement and peace.
By continuing to support antisemites and violent rejectionism, Colau is siding with regressive and oppressive forces. We hope that she will end her divisiveness, see the error of her ways, and instead seek ways to unite, by partnering with those who seek peace, fraternity and understanding.
It is not too late.
The writer is the chairman of the Center for Jewish Impact, a member of the Governing Board of the Combat Antisemitism Movement, and a former CEO of the World Jewish Congress.