Barcelona suspends twinning with Tel Aviv and all institutional relationships with Israel

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network salutes the popular movement and the people of Barcelona on the occasion of the Mayor of Barcelona’s announcement that all institutional relations with Israeli apartheid, including the Catalan capital’s twinning with Tel Aviv, will be suspended. We praise Mayor Ada Colau for taking this important step forward, a step that has come after years of work, organizing and dedicated action by many organizations, coalitions and thousands of residents of the city.

The twinning agreement between Barcelona and Tel Aviv had been in place since 1998. In the official announcement of the suspension of the relationship in a letter to Zionist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Barcelona Mayor stated: “As Mayor of Barcelona, a Mediterranean city and defender of human rights, I cannot be indifferent to the systematic violation of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian population. It would be a severe mistake to apply a policy of double standards and turn a blind eye to a violation that has been, for decades, widely verified and documented by international organisations.”

In the letter, Colau specifically notes that this action comes in response to an official petition by 100 social organizations and thousands of residents under the slogan “Barcelona says NO to Apartheid, Barcelona says YES to human rights.” She emphasized the widespread support by human rights organizations for considering the Israeli regime to be an apartheid state, as well as a June 2022 Catalonian Parliament resolution.

The announcement today is a clear and resounding victory for the supporters of justice in Palestine who have been and continue to mobilize for the international isolation of the Israeli state as a settler-colonial, racist project that has oppressed the Palestinian people and dispossessed them of their land for the past 75 years, with the full complicity of imperialist powers internationally. It is a testament to the tireless work of many and the broad support for the Palestinian people from social movements, anti-racist campaigners, women’s organizations, labour organizations and wide sectors of society, and a strong victory for anti-racist and anti-colonial organizing.

At the same time, a temporary suspension of relations is an important step, but not enough: Barcelona should and must go further to completely sever relations with the illegitimate settler-colonial project.

This important achievement in Barcelona is also a clarion call to municipalities around the world, particularly in Europe and in other countries where “twinning” or “sistership” with Israeli cities have been a common route to promote Zionist propaganda and normalization at the expense of the Palestinian people. “Twinning” relationships of this type are a form of complicity in the Israeli occupation regime, its war crimes, crimes against humanity and the ongoing Nakba against the Palestinian people.

In particular, we note the campaign of the Collectif Palestine Vaincra in Toulouse for an end to the Toulouse-Tel Aviv twinning relationship. The right-wing mayor of Toulouse continues to attempt to suppress Palestine organizing in the city, condemns Amnesty International for reporting on Israeli apartheid and promotes twinning with Tel Aviv.

However, this important news from Barcelona must compel progressive municipal officials, city council members and organizations to take action — in Toulouse and everywhere — and stand for an end to this ongoing municipal complicity with apartheid, settler colonialism and occupation.