The State of Spain: From Discourse to Action, From Facts to Achievements
This article was written in 2010 as a contribution to a BNC e-magazine commemorating the 5th anniversary of the BDS call in July 9th 2005. Click here to read other articles in the magazine.
Boycott Israel, an argument that gains strength
Currently the campaign to boycott the Israeli state is a main objective for the majority of Palestinian solidarity organizations.
Even though the first mobilizations and protests for the boycott began to be visible in the end of 2004, unfortunately, it took events like the Gaza Strip crisis in the winter of 2008-2009 and the boarding of the Freedom Flotilla on the 31st May 2010 for the boycott to be widely taken on. Now the boycott is clearly present in calls to artists not to perform in Israel, campaigns against the merchandising of Israeli products, titles of publications and slogans of demonstrations, and even in local statements.
The various campaign groups found in the Spanish state have followed the BDS campaign at their own pace, depending on their specific context and possibilities, through various platforms and organizations. In general, they have embraced the different realms of the boycott.
Addressing themselves mainly to civil society, by seeking an ethical complicity in consumption, the movement has urged to boycott Israeli companies and products as well as those companies that collaborate with Israel. Additionally, calls have been made demanding an end to commercial agreements with governmental institutions, whether they are civil or military.
On 2nd January 2009 ten activists chained themselves together in the Ministry of Universities, Business and Innovation of the Catalan government to protest against the agreements between the department and the Israeli Institute of Technology.
In January 2009, in Navarra, Euskal Herria, a grassroots campaign was launched against Veolia, the company responsible for building a new light rail system that will connect Israeli settlements in the West Bank with the city of Jerusalem. In the second quarter of the year, the commonwealth of Navarra decided to rescind the Veolia public transport contract.
In Barcelona, Catalunya, a movement against Veolia began in May 2009.
On 30th March 2010, the day before the international day of action for BDS, different actions were carried out in Euskal Herria. In the town of Gasteiz 100 people took part in a protest that was aimed at various commercial establishments, identifying and denouncing Israeli products.
In April 2010 in Barcelona, Catalunya, demonstrations took place in front of an H&M outlet to protest against the opening of one of their stores in occupied Jerusalem.
In June 2010, the Abacus Cooperative, a chain of stores that specializes in books, stationary and toys, with 34 locations in Catalunya, de-shelved from their establishments the “Rummycub” board-game, which is manufactured by the Israeli company Lemada Light Industries Ltd. One year earlier, after the Gaza attacks of 2008-09, they committed to de-shelving other games made by Israeli companies.
At the beginning of June, School of Nursing of the University of Valladolid employees managed to make the school replace the water vending machines of the university that were owned by the Israeli company Eden.
On 14th June 2010 five hundred activists delayed a conference on Israeli commerce, which had been organized by Red Innova in Madrid, for an hour. They chained themselves to the doors and unfurled banners with boycott slogans.
In January 2009, in Catalunya, over 350 signatures of Catalan academics and researchers were collected to support the statement “End the complicity with the massacre of Palestinians.” Over 400 Catalan associations supported the petition, which demanded an end to arms trade with Israel, the Catalan autonomous government to suspend all commercial relationship with Israel and urged the Catalan citizens not to buy Israeli products.
In September 2009, the Ariel Center University, a university established in a colony in the West Bank, was expelled from the most prestigious sustainable architecture competition in the world- organized by the Ministry of Housing of Spain and the Polytechnic University of Madrid- for infringing international law, which declares colonies to be illegal.
In June 2010, a group of 300 students in support of the Palestinian cause boycotted the conference “Encuentros Hispano-Israeli” in the Autonomous University of Madrid. The conference was finally aborted due to pressure from the protest. The students denounced the politics of genocide by the Israeli state and specifically, the recent massacre of the Freedom Flotilla.
Because of the importance of its ideological content, Palestinian solidarity organizations have concentrated much of their focus on advancing the cultural boycott, following both national and international artists that had concerts planned in Israel. Similarly, they have been following Israeli artists that had concerts planned in the regions of Euskal Herria, Andalucia, Castilla, Catalunya.
In May 2009, the singer Joan Manual Serrat and the band Carrau cancelled their concerts in Israel after demands made through public campaigns.
A campaign, in line of the cultural boycott, mobilized various towns to boycott the Israeli singer Noa. Protests took place at her concerts in Tolosa and Donostia, Euskal Herria in April 2008, in Seville, Andalucía in February 2009, in Barcelona, Catalunya also in February 2009, in Valladolid in September and October 2009.
After the attacks on the fleet which attempted to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza on May 31st 2010, Noa published a statement in her blog, which was sent by email to the organizations which put together boycotts of her performances, that retracted statements she had made supporting the Israeli army during the bombing of Gaza in the winter of 2008-09 and called for the end of the Israeli military occupation of Palestine.
In a more political sense, we should also highlight the cancellation of the invitation of Israeli representatives to the Gay Pride March in Madrid this June 2010.
The basketball team Maccabi from Tel Aviv was at the center of the action regarding the sports boycott. The team was received with protests in the cities of Gasteiz, Euskal Herria in March 2007, in Malaga in October 2009, in Andalucía in January 2009, and in Barcelona in February 2009, where activists succeeded in jumping onto the court and interrupting the game.
Following the most widespread acts of war in the press – the bombing of Gaza and the attacks on the Freedom Flotilla – a series of motions have been presented from municipalities of different regions. A couple of examples are the Municipality of Altsasu, Euskal Herria in January 2009 and Siero, Asturias in June 2010, which endorsed support for the boycott of the state of Israel.
Boicot Preventiu is one of the leading organizations in the BDS campaign in Catalunya. Visit their website at: http://www.boicotpreventiu.org