In November 2016, The Lawfare Project (LP) announced a major victory over BDS in Spain, when LP’s Spanish counsel Ignacio-Wenley Palacios Iglesias convinced a Barcelona court to annul the anti-Israel boycott decision of a metropolitan city council. Since then, in partnership with ACOM (Acción y Comunicación en Oriente Medio), our ongoing legal offensive has yielded four more triumphs. Particularly noteworthy is the holding of the Court in Madrid, which is the first in Spain to state that UN Security Council Resolution 2334 does not support or justify the BDS boycott campaign.
1. Rivas Vaciamadrid (Madrid)
On January 17, 2017, Court nº 4 of Madrid invalidated a boycott resolution passed by the City Council of Rivas Vaciamadrid in May 2016. The Council had adopted a policy of refusing to enter into any political, commercial, agricultural, educational, cultural, sporting, or security agreement or contract with any Israeli entity, or with any non-Israeli entity deemed to be involved in, cooperating with, or otherwise benefiting from alleged Israeli violations of international law and human rights. The Council was then “granted” the BDS-approved seal distinguishing the city as a “free space from Israeli apartheid,” with the condition that it be displayed on the city’s website and in its publications, and that it otherwise encourage residents and local businesses to join the boycott.
Mr. Palacios first secured a judicial decision enjoining the Council from carrying out the boycott in July 2016. Thanks to his innovative arguments, the resolution has now been nullified by the Court, which ruled not only that the Council lacks the power to pass any resolution that interferes with the government’s conducting of foreign affairs, but also that every working section of the resolution was discriminatory and wholly unsupported by international law. The Court even went so far as to address UN Security Council Resolutions 2334 and 1332, finding that neither of them provided any legal foundation to justify boycotting of Israeli institutions, companies, or organizations.
2. Sant Quirze del Vallès (Barcelona)
On January 13, 2017, the Public Court nº 4 of Barcelona abolished the decision of the City Council of Sant Quirze del Vallès to commit itself to the boycott campaign against Israel, which had been passed exactly one year earlier.
The Sant Quirze decision obligated the Council to refrain from contracting with Israeli public bodies, companies, or organizations, as well as those involved in, cooperating with, or benefiting from Israel’s so-called violations of international law and human rights. It also explicitly targeted multinationals like Israel’s Elbit Systems, North America’s Hewlett-Packard and Caterpillar, and the British G4S. As in Rivas, the Sant Quirze Council received the BDS-approved seal, and the city was officially declared to be “free of Israeli apartheid.” Certificates of the boycott resolution were also issued and sent to the Regional Council, Congress, European Parliament, the Embassy of Israel, and the Palestinian Diplomatic Mission in Madrid.
Again, LP counsel Palacios initiated legal proceedings, and an injunction prohibiting enforcement of the boycott boycott was issued in June 2016, on the grounds that it was discriminatory and breached the principle of equality before the law. The Public Court confirmed these conclusions in its final judgment rendered in January 2017. The Council now has 15 days from the date of judgment to appeal to the High Court of Catalonia in Barcelona.
3. Santa Eulària (Ibiza)
On December 23, 2016, the City Council of Santa Eulària revoked its own boycott policies, adopted in July 2016, expressly citing as its reasons the earlier decision of the Court of Palma de Mallorca enjoining the boycott (in a challenge filed by Mr. Palacios), the numerous recent judgments of other courts annulling similar boycotts, and the very arguments presented in Mr. Palacios’s briefs.
Unlike the aforementioned Council decisions, the Santa Eulària boycott petitioned the government of Spain to request that Israel immediately cease so-called “attacks” against the West Bank and Gaza, “repression,” and “illegal” flights over Palestinian airspace. Moreover, it included a commitment to abstain from fostering any economic, official, cultural, or academic exchange with Israel until it complied with UN resolutions and international law, ended its “occupation,” and released political prisoners.
4. Santiago de Compostela (Galicia)
The Public Court nº 1 of Santiago de Compostela vacated the boycott decision of the Santiago City Council on December 20, 2016. Bearing close resemblance to other cities’ boycott measures, this Council also agreed to support the BDS movement in every campaign for trade, cultural, sports, academic, or institutional boycotts of Israel.
In rejecting the Council’s defense argument, the Court embraced the rationale, stressed in Mr. Palacios’s brief, that the actions and statements of public bodies are not merely symbolic and, consequently, are subject to judicial review. The Court further held that the Council had exceeded its competence under applicable law, characterizing the boycott decision as an encroachment into the realm of foreign policy, absent any apparent linkages to public management or the interests of the local community.