Spain’s Podemos again condemns Israel amid diplomatic tensions

By Fernando Heller
Oct 18, 2023

Leader of the left-wing Podemos party Ione Belarra reiterated her condemnation of Israel for its military reprisals in Gaza on Thursday, just hours after the Israeli embassy in Madrid issued a statement accusing some Spanish government members of making “immoral statements” against Tel Aviv.

On Tuesday, Belarra, who is also deputy minister for social rights, called for a “change of narrative” on the Middle East conflict and denounced Israel’s “will to annihilate” the Palestinian people, exacerbating recent friction between the Spanish government and Israel, with which Spain has historical ties.

Since Spain and Israel established diplomatic relations in 1986, the two countries have built up a solid network of political, business, cultural and scientific ties, which Spain has fostered while strengthening cooperation and support for the Palestinian people.

However, Belarra, along with the leader of progressive platform Sumar, incumbent Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz, and incumbent Consumer Minister Alberto Garzón of the Izquierda Unida party, were the targets of criticism from the Israeli embassy in Madrid, which on Monday night indirectly accused them of making “absolutely immoral” statements by speaking of Israel’s “genocide” against the Palestinians.

Since the latest Hamas attack, Sumar and Unidas Podemos and other left-wing parties in the EU have harshly criticised Israel’s retaliatory operation and accused the European Commission and the EU of using “double standards”, allegedly siding with Tel Aviv.

“There is no room for equidistance. At this moment, we have to say clearly that Israel is an occupying state”, Belarra said on Tuesday in an interview aired by Catalunya Ràdio.

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Gaza: ‘An open-air prison’

Far from dropping her accusations against Israel, the Podemos leader insisted that “nobody denies the pain of the deaths of Israeli civilians” but added that “Israel ignores the pain of the Palestinians, ignores the more than 1,600 Palestinians killed, bombed, in Gaza in recent weeks”.

Nor did she back down from her view of Israel’s military operation in Gaza: “We have to raise our voices to stop this genocide once and for all,” she insisted.

In the interview, Belarra insisted on her proposal to the acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez (PSOE/S&D): that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “be brought before the International Criminal Court for war crimes”.

“I speak on behalf of the Spanish government and behalf of my party, as I am entitled to do by the position I hold”, stressed Belarra in a clear message to the Israeli embassy in Spain and Tel Aviv.

‘War of communiqués’

In a rather unusual reaction far from the usual diplomatic canon of neutrality, the Israeli embassy in Madrid issued a communiqué on Monday evening criticising, without naming names, “some elements” of the Spanish government for “endangering the security of the Jewish communities in Spain”.

The Israeli embassy called on acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to “unequivocally denounce and condemn these shameful statements” in an indirect reference to Belarra, Díaz and Garzón.

A few minutes later, Madrid reacted harshly.

“The Government of Spain categorically rejects the falsehoods expressed in the Israeli Embassy’s communiqué about some of its members and does not accept unfounded insinuations about them. Any political official can freely express positions as a representative of a political party in a full democracy such as Spain,” an official communiqué said.

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On Tuesday, however, Spain’s Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said it was a “one-off incident” in relations between Spain and Israel, following the “unfriendly gesture” of the Israeli embassy’s statement, and did not want to attach any more importance to it, EFE reported.

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