Touring Israel, they see joint partnerships between Israelis and Arabs at work—and even witness firsthand the need to run for shelter as Hamas rockets fall.
By: Josh Hasten/JNS
The ongoing barrage of Hamas rockets on Sunday and into Monday didn’t stop a group of 10 Spanish lawmakers, policy-shapers and journalists currently in Israel from continuing their fact-finding mission about the threats that the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions) movement poses to both to Israelis and Palestinians alike.
The trip, sponsored by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Jordan Valley Regional Council, allowed the influential Spaniards to visit businesses, farms, factories and educational institutions throughout Judea and Samaria, and the Jordan Valley in order to witness workplace coexistence between Jews and Arabs firsthand.
The invitation to the group was extended at a time when certain high-profile elements within Spanish society have become BDS leaders in Europe.
Dan Diker, director of the Project on Political Warfare and BDS at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, addressed the group, telling JNS that “the far-left Podemos Spanish political party has been leading the BDS charge for several years.”
He said that thanks to an Iranian financial backer who is supporting their BDS efforts, “Podemos—a major political party—represents the intersection of BDS, and its true goal: the destruction of the State of Israel.”
In addition to a meeting with Diker, the itinerary included stops at factories producing dates and peppers in the Jordan Valley, a region that employs 6,000 Palestinians a day; a residential and occupational communal village serving young adults with various disabilities in Gush Etzion; various factories in the Barkan Industrial Zone, where 60 percent of the 8,000 employees in the park are Palestinians working side by side with Jews (it was also the site of two brutal killings of Jews last month by a Palestinian gunman); and more.
‘The New Face of Anti-Semitism’
Juan Carlos Girauta, a member of the centrist Ciudadanos (“Citizens”) political party in the Spanish Parliament from Barcelona and a contributor to the online newspaper El Español, told JNS that while he has been to Israel several times before, he had never toured areas over the Green Line until now.
He explained that the trip had given him “the whole picture of what is going on in the territories in terms of economic growth, innovation and coexistence between communities. It has been very interesting.”
In fact, he said he was “positively surprised” by what he learned so far.
“It is clear that there is a common daily life here between every community,” noted Girauta, adding that the Palestinians “are integrated, and you can see the shared interests they have working in these companies and businesses because it’s really important to them.”
It was more than just working together with Israelis, he said, there is a partnership: “You are on the same kind of life projects.”
In terms of BDS, the Spaniard said he was always against the movement, but this trip reinforced his beliefs that boycotts are bad. “I am convinced even more that those who would be especially harmed if a boycott succeeded would be the Palestinian workers in the territories.”
He believes that “BDS is the new face of anti-Semitism.”
“It’s the same phenomenon affecting Europeans for centuries,” stated Girauta. “It’s the same prejudice that led to the expulsion of Jews from Spain at the end of the 15th century, the pogroms in Russia and the Holocaust.”
Girauta was emphatic in stating that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are really two sides of the same coin.
“The Europeans have a preconceived notion that life in the territories is dangerous, and there is a daily conflict here, but I am finding that it is not at all uncomfortable,” he said. “I see all those involved [Jews and Arabs] living together.”
He added that while the media in Europe and in the West often put Israel under a magnifying glass, “other countries are carrying out human-rights violations on a daily basis, and they aren’t given any attention. It’s a double standard against Israel.”
‘Take Our Story to the Halls of Government’
During a meeting with Jordan Valley Regional Council head David Elhayani at the same time as the Code Red sirens indicated additional Hamas rockets were being shot into Israel, Girauta commented, “Hamas missiles don’t differentiate between Israelis, and neither should Europe. Boycotts of Israeli goods are anti-Semitic and detrimental to any efforts to achieve lasting peace in the region. When Europeans boycott Israel, they are actually boycotting peace, as Israeli industry brings together Israeli and Palestinians, bettering the lives of both.”
Elhayani agreed. He said “our produce speaks for itself, penetrating all borders and geographies. The Jordan Valley is Israel, just like Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Those who attempt to boycott us will ultimately fail because there will always be a demand for our quality products worldwide.”
“We welcome our friends from Spain at this difficult time,” he said, “and know that they will take our story to the highest halls of government in Europe. The Jewish people have returned to our land after 2,000 years, and we are here to stay. Nobody from Hamas to BDS will uproot us.”
Elhayani told JNS that the visit by the VIP group from Spain was invaluable, as they were given the opportunity to see the reality of life in Israel, such as the standardized and daily interaction between Jews and Arabs. “We gave the group the opportunity to see how life is normal here and to see the dynamic in our businesses and schools. You wouldn’t even know there is a conflict here.”
Except, that is, for the rockets launched from Gaza.
In a written statement to the group, Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan reiterated the connection between terror and BDS stating: “The relationship between terrorist organizations and the BDS movement has never been closer, ideologically and operationally. Having seen the reality with your own eyes, you understand that the libels against us are false, and the only true victims of BDS are coexistence and progress.”
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