Catalunya: Solidarity with Palestine! Stop complicity!

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In Catalunya, as in Europe and across the world, the movement in solidarity with the Palestinian people is growing. Tens of thousands of people in Barcelona and cities and towns across the Autonomous Community have taken part in protests and actions since the latest slaughter in Gaza began. The strength of the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is also increasing, demanding an immediate end to collaboration between the governments of both Catalunya and the Spanish state with the Zionist regime. However, the BDS movement is also exposing the role of the Zionist regime in repression within Europe itself. Solidarity with Palestine must be central to the social movements fighting austerity at home. JOEY SIMONS reports from Barcelona.

On the streets

As Israeli Defence Force (IDF) ground troops entered Gaza after ten days of bombardment, up to 10,000 people took to the streets of Barcelona on 17 July. Filled with fighting spirit and with a strong presence from the city’s Arab community, the march moved through central Barcelona to the seat of the Catalan parliament in Plaza Jaume under the slogans ‘Boycott Israel’ and ‘Stop complicity’. As march organiser, Aitor Carr, told La Directa: ‘Last week we had 500 people, today there are 10,000’. Speeches made clear that ‘the situation has only one culprit – the Zionist project.’ In a powerful symbolic act, people left their shoes in the square along with more than a hundred cards with the names, age and place of death of Palestinians killed. In the morning, 80 activists blockaded the headquarters of the CIU – Catalunya’s ruling coalition of conservative nationalists, which, as one activist stated, ‘has done everything possible to strengthen relations with the state of Israel.’  Thousands marched once more on 25 July and again on 31 July, including representatives from the city’s Palestinian community, the hands of protesters daubed in red paint to symbolise the blood of the Palestinian people. Earlier, 15 activists occupied the Ministry of the Economy to demand an immediate end to Catalan complicity with the Zionist regime. The action ended with the Cabinet Minister agreeing to a meeting with BDS activists within 48 hours to discuss agreements in place with Israel.

FRFI spoke to one participant on the 31 July march, originally from Honduras, who was forced to leave after the US-backed coup in 2009. ‘For me, the presence of a US-flag here, covered in blood, is very important. In the time of Che, in the 1980s and then with the coup again, the United States destroyed our country. They are doing the same in Palestine.’

A model for Catalunya?

At the end of last year, the BDS Catalunya movement, alongside a dozen other organisations, issued a clear statement: ‘Israel is not a reference: occupation, colonisation and apartheid are not our model for Catalunya.’ This was prompted by the visit to Israel of a delegation of Catalan officials, including President Artur Mas, in November 2012. A range of research, scientific and academic agreements were signed, confirming ongoing collaboration with the zionist regime. The deals also included a £700 million investment by Iberpotash, a subsidiary of ICL, the huge Israeli chemical company. The Catalan government recently backed Iberpotash in judicial proceedings currently underway against the company for environmental damage caused by its mines. The deals were concluded principally with Finance Minister Yair Lapid, number two in Netanyahu’s fascist coalition government and an explicit supporter of illegal West Bank settlement expansion.

Speaking at the University of Tel Aviv, Artur Mas commented that Catalunya had chosen Israel as a ‘model’ and ‘a partner for innovation’. The University of Tel Aviv has recently confirmed its explicit role in continuing the brutal oppression of the Palestinian people, releasing a statement on 24 July that it ‘embraces and supports all the security forces who are working to restore quiet and security to Israel.’ As reported on Electronic Intifada, the context for the statement is an ongoing witch-hunt against Palestinian students critical of the murderous attack on Gaza.

In May of this year, timed to coincide with annual Nakba day demonstrations, more than 60 activists occupied the offices of the Secretariat for Universities and Research in Catalunya to protest against a raft of new academic collaboration agreements with Israel. The action forced officials to agree to examine deals which may benefit institutions and companies participating in the occupation of Palestine. More than 350 academics and university staff in Catalunya have backed the academic boycott of Israel, as well as the principal student and trade unions. ‘We will not be complicit in the policies of colonisation and apartheid to which Israel subjects the Palestinian people,’ explained Laura Hauri, a professor at the Polytechnic University of Catalunya in Barcelona.

As Catalunya moves towards holding a referendum on 9 November on self-determination, declared illegal by the Spanish government, the question of what ‘model’ is to be assumed for Catalan independence takes on ever more urgency. In allying itself explicitly with the genocidal Zionist regime, the ruling CIU coalition, headed by Artur Mas, has chosen to seek support for his ‘process’ amongst the most reactionary forces. Another ‘model’ exists, however, on the streets of Barcelona and across Catalunya: on the side of the Palestinian people, and all those dispossessed by the dominant elites unleashing violence at home and abroad.

Israel: exporting repression

In a very concrete sense, solidarity with the Palestinian struggle is central to the struggle of the working class in Catalunya and across Europe. In a period of intensifying social crisis and class struggle, Israel is assuming the role of a world leader in repression, exporting its expertise internationally. Technology exports account for 60% of Israel’s GDP, with security its most important sector. Over 350 Israeli security companies export their products across the world, with an annual turnover of $4 billion. 

A crucial new report – Defence, security and occupation as a business: military, armaments and security relations between Spain and Israel – has exposed in exhaustive detail how this process is unfolding. In his foreword, the Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions writes: ‘In a global context, the occupied territories of Palestine begin to resemble a laboratory for testing weapons and tactics, especially counterinsurgency, which can then be exported to Spain.’ The exported military equipment is advertised as representing ‘combat tested’ cutting-edge technology, previously used in military operations against the Palestinian people. Some products have even increased in sales after military assaults on the Gaza ‘testing ground’.

The Government of Catalunya is one of the hundreds of governments which buy arms and security equipment from Israel. Members of the notorious Catalan riot police – the Mossos d’Esquadra – have received training courses from the Israeli firm Guardian Homeland Security, based in Madrid and formed by ‘former members of the special security services’. Police officer union members receive financial support to undergo 4,000 euro courses in Israel. The bulletproof vests and IMI holsters for guns used by the Catalan police are also stamped ‘made in Israel’.

The Mayor of Barcelona, Xavier Trias, was one of the delegation which visited Israel alongside Artur Mas in 2012. Meeting with his opposite number in Tel Aviv, a 3-year co-operation agreement was signed to exchange experience ‘in the field of new technologies and smart cities’ and to improve public policies such as ‘urban development’ and ‘youth’. Earlier this year, Mayor Trias was responsible for unleashing the worst crisis in Barcelona’s recent history by evicting the Can Vies social centre in Sants. Despite mass police repression and violence, including the shooting of high-velocity foam bullets and deployment of sound cannons, five nights of urban rioting and street fighting ended in victory for Can Vies.

The lesson is clear: the struggle of the Palestinian people against the Zionist regime is being waged on behalf of the peoples of the whole world. We must stand with them.

Boycott Israel! Stop complicity!