Barcelona takes a step forward in becoming a city free of apartheid

The Barcelona City Council on Wednesday voted to condemn Israel’s occupation, call to end complicity in Israel’s violations of international law, and affirmation of the legitimacy of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian human rights.

In response, the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) in a statement said that “Recognizing how similar measures have contributed to ending apartheid in South Africa, Palestinian civil society salutes the Barcelona City Council for its historic decision to end complicity in Israel’s occupation and human rights violations by voting to:

 “Condemn the Israeli occupation and policies of colonization of Palestinian territories and the plunder, exploitation, destruction and depletion of Palestinian natural resources and wealth, including land and water.”

The council also voted to ensure that its public procurement policies incorporate clauses guaranteeing respect for human rights in order to “prevent the Barcelona City Council from having any kind of complicity with this occupation, violation of human rights and plundering of resources.”

The motion encourages local authorities and municipalities to introduce human rights clauses within all public procurement contracts, which  would rightly exclude from public tenders corporations profiting from Israel’s illegal settlements and abuses of Palestinian human rights.

In an unmistakable reference to the right to advocate for Palestinian rights through BDS tactics, the Barcelona City Council recognized the legitimacy of  “nonviolent campaigns promoted by Palestinian and international civil society for defending international and human rights law in Palestine.”

Rafeef Ziadah, member of the International Secretariat of the BNC said:

We warmly welcome this victory for human rights and salute the Barcelona City Council for taking this significant step forward to uphold Palestinian rights under international law. After 50 years of Israel’s military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and decades of its regime of apartheid and settler-colonialism, it is heartening to see people of conscience adopting the logic of nonviolent pressure promoted by the fast-growing BDS movement.

Following similar positions by the European Union and the governments of Sweden, Ireland and Netherlands, the Barcelona City Council’s recognition of the right to advocate for Palestinian rights through BDS campaigns is a triumph for free speech and democratic rights in Europe. It gives further recognition to BDS as an inclusive, inspiring, anti-racist movement rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that upholds the basic principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity.

At a time of  shrinking democratic space for citizens and civil society across Europe, it is empowering to witness how citizens and elected officials are recognizing that ending their institutions’ involvement in Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights intersects with domestic agendas that promote gender, social, economic and environmental justice.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) is the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society. It leads and supports the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.