On Wednesday, 8 February, students and activists for justice in Palestine gathered at the Complutense University of Madrid to protest the appearance of the Israeli ambassador to Spain, Rodica Radian-Gordon, at an event organized to “commemorate” the notorious Oslo Accords aiming toward the liquidation of the Palestinian cause. Student organizations and activists for justice in Palestine joined together to issue a call: “Zionists out of the university!” demanding that the university not invite the representative of a state engaged in war crimes and crimes against humanity targeting the Palestinian people.
After the university refused to cancel the invitation, students and Palestine organizations called for a demonstration outside the university. Demonstrators outside the building were kept far away from the entrance to the university and those with tickets who tried to enter found that those with Arab names or people known as political activists had their names marked in red on the attendance sheet and were denied entry.
Organizers noted in particular the dangerous precedent set by this action, as public universities in Spain, like the Complutense, are meant to be open to all without discrimination. The invitation of the Zionist ambassador was accompanied also by an invitation to impose racist, apartheid practices and policies of political censorship on the university and its students. This means that the Complutense University is accepting the racist, apartheid policies of the Zionist state for its own policy, something that is even more troubling given that academic credit was available for students attending the seminar, with a number blocked because of their names and ethnic backgrounds.
The demonstrators decided to enter the university at 10:50 am, when the ambassador was scheduled to speak, where they were beset by police as well as a man — an Israeli security agent — pointing a gun, marked with the standard yellow adhesive strip in the side for Israeli undercover agents, at student protesters before going inside the Assembly Hall, where Spanish police quickly withdrew the Israeli agent.
The Zionist press confirmed all of this: the man with the gun was a Israeli agent, the ambassador’s speech was interrupted during the protest and she was temporarily confined in a safe room.
Riot police and university private security stormed the area, dragging protesters away, including one activist who was carried and dragged through the university, and another who was beaten in the face. They demanded identification from all of the protesters while arresting two women who were involved in the demonstration. The women were accused of resisting police — and their charges later amended to some form of “minor injury” against the heavily armed and shielded cops that arrested them.
Spanish media later reported that university officials justified the presence of the extensive security and riot-geared police to students who complained, because a man had been reported carrying a weapon — that is, the Israeli security agent. However, the police attacked the protesters and forced them from the university, while there is no indication that the Zionist agent was ever detained or even questioned.
The incident has drawn widespread attention and condemnation of the violence displayed against the students and organizers for justice in Palestine, while despite the repression the protesters have made clear that direct action to boycott the occupation works: the Zionist ambassador’s speech was interrupted, and she fled from protest and challenge, while the regime she represents continues its daily assault on the Palestinian people, including extrajudicial killings, mass incarceration, home demolitions, land theft, denial of the right to return and 75 years of ongoing Nakba. Rather than stopping the growing movement for justice in Palestine, the action in Madrid will only inspire further organizing and activity.
In this sense, this direct action has consolidated the anti-fascist, anti-Zionist and anti-imperialist movement at the university and in the streets of Madrid. The university now knows that the next time they want to invite the Zionist ambassador or other imperialist criminals, they will have to deploy much more security and resources, and even with that, they will encounter resistance among the student body.
The Wednesday action marked the second significant blow to the Israeli occupation from the area of the Spanish State on 8 February, as that date also marked the decision of the mayor of Barcelona, Catalonia, to cut relationships with Israel and suspend the “Barcelona-Tel Aviv” twinning relationship.
It was followed by another mobilization on Saturday, 11 Febuary, part of the Days of Rage and Resistance called by the Masar Badil, the Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path Movement. Organized by the Masar Badil, Samidoun Spain, Alkarama Palestinian Women’s Mobilization, Al Yudur Palestinian Youth Mobilization, and Unadikum, demonstrators gathered in a square in Madrid to stand with the Palestinian people and denounce the ongoing massacres and crimes, declaring that the struggle for return and liberation will continue.