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Israeli minister tells Spain to 'study al-Andalus' as he targets Jerusalem consulate

Israel Katz stops Spanish diplomats providing services to Palestinians following state recognition and "river to the sea" comment
Israel's Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz delivers a speech at the Bayerischer Hof Hotel in Munich, southern Germany on 16 February 2024 (AFP/Tobias Schwarz)
Israel's Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz delivers a speech at the Bayerischer Hof Hotel in Munich, southern Germany on 16 February 2024 (AFP/Tobias Schwarz)

Israel's foreign minister has said Spain's consulate in Jerusalem will no longer be able to provide services to Palestinians and called on its government to "study the 700 years of Islamic rule in al-Andalus", in response to Madrid recognising a Palestinian state. 

Spain, along with Norway and Ireland, announced their recognition of Palestine on Wednesday, joining over 140 other full UN members that already do the same. 

Explaining the move in a video on social media, Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Diaz said that within the government, her party would fight to "defend human rights and put an end to the genocide of the Palestinian people". 

Diaz, who is the leader of the government's junior coalition partner, ended the video with: "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free."

The comments angered Israeli officials, including Foreign Minister Israel Katz.

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On Friday morning, Katz wrote on X that in response to Spain's recognition of a Palestinian state and Diaz's comments, "I have decided to sever the connection between Spain's representation in Israel and the Palestinians, and to prohibit the Spanish consulate in Jerusalem from providing services to Palestinians from the West Bank". 

The Spanish consulate for Palestinians, led by consul-general Alfonso Lucini Mateo, is located in Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem.

While some pro-Israeli voices claim that the slogan "from the river to the sea" calls for the destruction of Israel, pro-Palestinian activists have long maintained that it refers to an end to Israeli human rights abuses and occupation throughout the lands that made up historic Palestine. 

However, similar terminology is also used by Israelis who believe all the land of historic Palestine should be part of Israel. On Wednesday, the Israeli energy minister responded to the move by Spain, Ireland, and Norway by saying: "From the river to the sea, there will be one state: The state of Israel."

'She should study Al-Andalus'

On Friday, Katz took aim at the Spanish government by highlighting the period of medieval history when the Iberian peninsula was under Islamic rule.

"If this ignorant, hate-filled individual wants to understand what radical Islam truly seeks, she should study the 700 years of Islamic rule in Al-Andalus - today's Spain," he said.

His comments have been widely criticised and ridiculed on social media, with many people noting its historical inaccuracy.

In 711 CE, Umayyad commander Tariq ibn Ziyad crossed the Strait of Gibraltar with 7,000 soldiers, beginning eight centuries of Muslim rule over varying parts of Spain. 

Muslim Spain, known as al-Andalus, became a centre for architecture, mathematics, commerce, and literature, with Cordoba, at the time one of the most populated cities in Europe, home to the likes of Muslim polymath Ibn Rushd and Jewish philosopher Maimonedes

Contrary to Katz's description of "radical Islam", Muslim thinkers from al-Andalus such as Ibn Rushd were seen as a bridge between Islamic and western thought, translating and preserving Greek philosophy and influencing the European Renaissance and Enlightenment.

Christians and Jews lived in Muslim-ruled Spain, with many of them rising up the ranks in the royal courts and intellectual circles. 

It was seen as a relatively safe place for Jews, compared to other parts of Europe during parts of that period.

In England, Jews were thrown out of the country in 1290 and not allowed back for another 366 years.

When the last Muslim city in Spain, Granada, fell in 1492, Muslims and Jews were forced to convert to Christianity by the Spanish Inquisition or flee the country. 

Most of the Jews who fled ended up in Morocco and in parts of Islamic north Africa and the Arab world that were then under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. 

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