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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Spain: From Inquisition to Terrorist State

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Edited by: Fern Sidman

Spain’s recent decision to recognize a Palestinian state is not only controversial but also hypocritical, considering its own history with terrorism and separatist movements. This recognition, particularly in the context of ongoing terrorism against Israel, sends a contradictory message to the international community and undermines the principles of combating terrorism and maintaining territorial integrity. To fully understand this hypocrisy, we must examine Spain’s history with the Basque conflict and its ongoing issues with Catalonia.

The Basque conflict, one of the most significant internal security challenges Spain has faced, provides a pertinent backdrop to understanding Spain’s current stance.

The Basque separatist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), founded in 1959, aimed to establish an independent Basque state. The group utilized terrorism as a means to achieve political ends, carrying out bombings, assassinations, and kidnappings. During the 1970s and 1980s, ETA intensified its campaign of violence. High-profile attacks included the 1973 assassination of Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco and the 1987 Hipercor bombing in Barcelona, which killed 21 people. ETA’s activities caused immense suffering and fear, destabilizing Spain and challenging its government.

The international community, including European nations and the United States, supported Spain in its fight against ETA. There was no pressure on Spain to recognize Basque statehood in response to terrorism. Instead, Spain was encouraged to pursue justice and security, with counter-terrorism cooperation becoming a cornerstone of its international relations.

Even after Spain’s transition to democracy in the late 1970s, ETA continued its violent campaign. The Spanish government, through a combination of law enforcement efforts, legal measures, and limited negotiations, sought to dismantle ETA and bring peace to the Basque region.

ETA declared a permanent ceasefire in 2011, formally ending its violent activities in 2018. Spain’s approach, characterized by firm counter-terrorism measures and eventual dialogue, emphasized the importance of state sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Spain’s issue with Catalonia further highlights its stance on separatism and self-determination.

Catalonia, a wealthy and culturally distinct region, has long harbored aspirations for greater autonomy or independence. Tensions escalated significantly in the 2010s, culminating in an independence referendum in October 2017.

The Catalan government held an independence referendum, which Spain’s Constitutional Court declared illegal. The Spanish government responded by imposing direct rule on Catalonia, arresting separatist leaders, and dissolving the regional parliament.


The international community largely supported Spain’s position, emphasizing the importance of constitutional order and territorial integrity. There was no significant international push for recognizing Catalan independence in response to the referendum.

While tensions have eased somewhat, the issue of Catalan independence remains unresolved, with ongoing political and social divisions within Spain.

Against this backdrop, Spain’s recognition of Palestinian statehood is starkly hypocritical.

Moreover, Pedro Sánchez, the President of Spain, is a prominent figure in European politics known for his steadfast socialist principles and controversial stance on Israel. As the leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), Sánchez has consistently championed progressive policies at home while fostering a contentious relationship with Israel abroad.

In 2014, Sánchez was elected Secretary-General of PSOE, marking a significant turning point in his career. His leadership style emphasized inclusivity, transparency, and a return to the party’s socialist roots. Sánchez sought to rejuvenate PSOE by addressing issues such as income inequality, labor rights, and social welfare.

While Sánchez’s domestic policies have earned him praise from progressive circles, his foreign policy, particularly towards Israel, has been a source of controversy. Sánchez has often been critical of Israeli policies, aligning with the broader European left’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Under his leadership, Spain has pushed for a two-state solution, often criticizing Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria. He also called for greater international pressure to be placed on Israel.

In December 2014, the Spanish Parliament passed a non-binding resolution recognizing Palestine as a state, a move supported by Sánchez. This resolution was part of a broader trend in European parliaments.

Critics argue that his stance disproportionately blames Israel for the lack of progress in the peace process while downplaying Palestinian responsibilities. This abundantly clear bias has strained Spain’s relations with Israel, leading to diplomatic tensions.

In addition, Sánchez’s policies have also influenced Spain’s relationships with other Middle Eastern countries. By advocating for Palestinian rights, Sánchez has strengthened Spain’s ties with Arab nations, positioning Spain as a key player in the European Union’s Middle East policy.

Sánchez’s stance on Israel has also sparked debates within Spain, with some accusing him of neglecting the complexities of the conflict and others praising his commitment to international justice.

In a bold and strategic move, Member of Knesset Sharren Haskel has called on the Israeli government to lead the international community by recognizing the independence of the Basque Country and Catalonia. This proposition not only highlights Spain’s hypocrisy in advocating for Palestinian independence while suppressing similar aspirations within its own borders but also calls attention to Israel’s unique position as a beacon of justice and self-determination.

Israel stands as a unique example of a people returning to their ancestral homeland, reviving their culture, and establishing a sovereign state. This historical journey gives Israel a distinctive moral authority to champion the cause of self-determination for oppressed and marginalized groups worldwide.

Haskel’s critique of Spain is sharp and unambiguous. She accused the Spanish government of double standards.”It’s time for Israel to support nations striving for their freedom and independence,” Haskel stated, highlighting the inconsistency in Spain’s position.

This sentiment was further elaborated in a letter she sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Israel Katz. In the letter, Haskel contends that if the recognition of Palestinian statehood is predicated on a minority’s desire for independence, then the same principle should first be applied to Spain’s Basque and Catalan regions.

Haskel’s appeal extended to a direct challenge to the representatives of Catalonia and the Basque Country in the Spanish Parliament. She urged these representatives to resign immediately, accusing them of betraying their constituents by prioritizing international issues over local independence movements. “It is utterly unacceptable that instead of advocating for the independence of their own people, they are focusing on the independence of others in distant regions,” she asserted.

Sharren Haskel’s call for Israel to support Basque and Catalan independence is grounded in the principle of consistency. If Spain and other countries advocate for Palestinian statehood based on the Palestinians’ expressed desire for independence, then they must also recognize the legitimate aspirations of the Basque and Catalan peoples.

By taking a principled stand in favor of Basque and Catalan independence, Israel can reinforce its position as a nation committed to justice, freedom, and self-determination. This move would not only highlight the hypocrisy of nations like Spain but also align with Israel’s broader strategic and diplomatic goals.

By recognizing Palestinian statehood amidst ongoing terrorism against Israel, Spain effectively rewards and legitimizes violent tactics. This is in direct contradiction to Spain’s own history, where it sought and received international support to combat terrorism and maintain territorial integrity during the Basque conflict.

Spain demands that Israel accept what it would never have accepted itself: the legitimization of a separatist entity through violent means. This double standard undermines Spain’s credibility in advocating for international norms and justice.

Israel faces existential threats from terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, much like Spain faced from ETA. Recognizing Palestinian statehood in this context ignores the complexities of Israeli security concerns and the necessity of a negotiated, peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Spain’s stance also highlights a broader international hypocrisy, where the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity are applied inconsistently, often influenced by political and ideological biases.

By expecting Israel to accept what it would never have accepted, Spain undermines its own history and principles. This contradictory stance not only damages Spain’s credibility but also complicates efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. True peace requires consistent application of international norms, respect for sovereignty, and a firm stance against terrorism.



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