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New Barcelona mayor restores twin cities status with 'apartheid Tel Aviv'

Pro-Palestine activists condemn the decision, months after the former mayor cut ties following a popular public campaign
Pro-Palestine activists present their petition to Barcelona's City Hall demanding the city cut ties with Tel Aviv in February 2023 (Twitter/Social Media)

Barcelona announced on Monday that it was reviving its twin city agreement with Tel Aviv after it was cancelled in February due to Israel's "apartheid policy" towards Palestinians

Mayor Jaume Collboni reversed the decision of his predecessor Ada Colau, who lost the election earlier this year.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai welcomed the announcement: "I am happy that the elected mayor of Barcelona reinstated our Twin City agreement and that he recognises our joint democratic values."

Following the restoration of ties with Tel Aviv, Barcelona's commissioner for international relations said that the move was "not detrimental" to ties with the Palestinian Authority, and that Collboni's first official trip outside Europe would be to Palestine.

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee condemned the decision on the platform X, formerly known as Twitter, by the new Barcelona mayor to restore ties with "apartheid Tel Aviv".

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"It consciously harms Indigenous Palestinians & our struggle for freedom, justice & equality," the statement added. 

Barcelona City Councillor Marc Serra criticised Collboni for deciding to "embrace Israel just when the state is going through its worst democratic crisis: governed by the far right, with a judicial reform that undermines the separation of powers, and an increase in violence against the Palestinian population".

"It should be remembered that the suspension of the twinning was proposed by thousands of citizens, the endorsement of four Nobel Prize winners and 50 intellectuals," Serra added.

Popular support 

The former Barcelona mayor, Colau, earlier this year said that she wrote to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informing him that relations between the Spanish city and Tel Aviv were severed until "Israeli authorities stop the systematic violation of human rights of the Palestinian people".

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She said that more than 100 organisations and over 4,000 citizens demanded the city "defend the human rights of Palestinians".

The decision to cut ties with Tel Aviv followed a campaign by activists and an official petition of more than 4,000 signatures presented to Barcelona's City Hall, which urged the municipality to cut ties with Israel.

Barcelona, Tel Aviv and Gaza City signed a friendship and cooperation agreement in 1998. Pro-Palestine activists called for Barcelona's relationship with Gaza City to continue.

Colau said earlier this year that voters had asked her to "condemn the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people, support Palestinian and Israeli organisations working for peace and break off the twinning agreement between Barcelona and Tel Aviv".

Barcelona also suspended a twinning relationship with the Russian city of St Petersburg last year following the invasion of Ukraine.

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