Barcelona mayor severs ties with twin city of Tel Aviv, citing Israeli ‘apartheid’


(JTA) — Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau has announced that the city is no longer twinned with Tel Aviv, citing claims that Israel is guilty of “apartheid,” as well as “flagrant and systematic violation of human rights.” 

Barcelona and Tel Aviv entered the relationship in 1998 — when both cities jointly signed a “twin city” agreement with Gaza City. Colau’s decision comes less than a year after Barcelona launched two linked campaigns — “Shalom Barcelona” and “Barcelona Connects Israel” to appeal to Jewish and Israeli tourists interested in exploring their heritage. Last summer, the city opened up the world’s first Michelin-starred kosher restaurant.   .

The decision also comes less than a year after Barcelona suspended a twinning relationship with St. Petersburg in protest of to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“More than 100 organizations and over 4,000 citizens have demanded that we defend the human rights of Palestinians and for this reason, as mayor, I have written to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to inform him that I have suspended temporarily the institutional relationship between Barcelona and Tel Aviv,” Colau, a left-wing politician who has been mayor of Barcelona since 2015, said at a press conference on Wednesday.

The Federation of the Jewish Communities of Spain condemned the decision, which it called “sophisticated antisemitism.”

In her letter to Netanyahu, dated Wednesday, Colau wrote that the petition from her constituents requested that her office “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.”

The proposal to end the twinning relationship was brought to the mayor’s office and the Barcelona City Council by a group called End Complicity with Israel, which has allied itself with also aligns with other social organizations focused on anti-racism, LGBTQ rights, and feminist advocacy. The proposal was initially on the agenda for a Jan. 27 plenary meeting of the council, but was postponed because the debate coincided with International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The debate was rescheduled for Feb. 24, but groups supporting the proposal demanded a quicker response from the mayor’s office.

The Federation of the Jewish Communities of Spain, the official representative of the Spanish Jewish community, had spoken out recently against the decision.

“We are concerned about the boycott campaign you are leading under the slogan ‘Barcelona says no to apartheid,’” the group said in a statement directed at the mayor. “Barcelona and Tel Aviv are open and welcoming societies, leading cities that attract startup investments and tourism. We call on the city council to allow Barcelona to continue to build bridges of harmony and avoid promoting a discourse of rejection and isolation.”