By Julia Conley / Common Dreams
Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau on Wednesday announced her city is cutting ties with Israel and ending its symbolic 25-year-old “twin cities” relationship with Tel Aviv over the Israeli government’s violent anti-Palestinian policies.
Colau said at a press conference that the city council came to its decision in response to campaigning by more than 100 rights groups and 4,000 residents, who urged her to cut ties with Israel.
In a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the leftist mayor said her constituents called on her to “condemn the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people, support Palestinian and Israeli organizations working for peace, and break off the twinning agreement between Barcelona and Tel Aviv.”
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She added that she is “temporarily” suspending Barcelona-Israel relations “until the Israeli authorities put an end to the system of violations of the Palestinian people and fully comply with the obligations imposed on them by international law.”
“We cannot be silent,” wrote Colau.
The letter and Colau’s announcement to the press come two weeks after an Israeli military raid on a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank killed at least nine Palestinians, including an elderly woman.
Colau said groups in Barcelona began urging her to cut ties with Israel after an 11-day air assault on Gaza in May 2021.
Groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Israel-based B’Tselem have accused the Israeli government of imposing apartheid policies on Palestinians, including its military occupation of the West Bank and its construction of settlements on Palestinian land.
Michael Lynk, the United Nations special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, also called Israel’s treatment of Palestine “apartheid” last year.
The Sanctions National Committee (BNC), one of the groups that helped push the Barcelona city council to hold Israel accountable, applauded Colau’s move.”Barcelona has become the first city council to suspend ties with apartheid Tel Aviv in solidarity with the Palestinian people, a move that is reminiscent of the historic and courageous city councils that pioneered cutting links with apartheid South Africa,” BNC said in a statement.