By AGUSTIN VELLOSO
1. The 1st anniversary of the Israeli war against Gaza
Almost one year ago, Israel started yet another "war until the end" against the Palestinians, as it was presented by its minister of defence, Ehud Barak, at the end of December 2008. Although the wild bombing over Gaza ended in mid January 2009, the war is not over. It has several fronts and not all combatants shoot from a tank rolling through the Strip. Thousands of kilometres away, some people close ranks with Israel , some with the Palestinians.
The recently published Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, widely known by the name of its leader, Richard Goldstone, devotes almost six hundred pages to the crimes committed by Israel during the war. It also deals with human rights in Palestine .
The table of contents shows the enormity of the crimes committed by Israel and explains worldwide popular demand about taking those responsible to a criminal court: indiscriminate attacks, deliberate attacks against the civilian population, use of certain weapons, destruction of industrial infrastructure, food production, water installations, use of civilians as human shields, use of excessive or lethal force, Palestinians prisoners in Israel jails (1)
2. The other soldiers in the war against the Palestinians: the friends of Israel
It is no secret that Israel has realised that the usually sleepy world public opinion has woke up alarmed by the barbarism that took place in Gaza against a largely unarmed and exhausted population after months of a merciless blockade.
Accordingly, the Israeli government quickly launched a large damage control operation to restore the –once again- tarnished image of its army, in order to try and justify the savage deeds by its soldiers, who followed the orders of their military commanders, who in turn followed the orders of the two highest civilian commanders, the ministry of defence and the prime minister.
In mid October, the Spanish prime minister, Rodríguez Zapatero paid a visit to his Israeli counterpart, Netanyahu, and had the chance to meet with the president, Shimon Peres. On October 15, the Spanish paper of record El País wrote: "Peres thanked [Zapatero] for the legal reform launched by his government in order to prevent the National Court to deal with crimes allegedly committed by the Israeli Army. These words contradict the Spanish government version, which states that the reform of the criminal law dealing with universal jurisdiction simply aimed to increase its effectiveness" (2).
However, gratitude does not come easy from Israel . It is a standard procedure amongst its leaders and ambassadors to regularly demand proof of loyalty from the leaders of "friendly" countries. The same prime minister who is welcome these days in Israel , was reprimanded some days earlier by the Zionist ambassador in Madrid : " Israel will convey to Zapatero its discomfort for the increase of anti-Semitism in Spain ".
Zapatero’s government was also reprimanded some months before for the same sin and, "according to the [Israeli] ambassador’s opinion, the government has taken important steps to combat it, such as the establishment of the Casa Sefarad (Sefarad House), but still a bigger effort is required." (3)
In this amazing occasion, July 20, 2006, "during a breakfast organised by the Foro Nueva Economía (New Economy Forum), with Moratinos as the guest speaker, [the Jewish entrepeneur] Hatchwell expressed 'the indignation’ felt by Spanish Jews because of some statements made by Zapatero on the eve of the breakfast. ´These are anti-Israeli and anti-Semite statements and we can not accept them’".
Questioned about this by the Spanish press, the Israeli ambassador reminded the Spanish government that "the relationship [between Spain and Israel ], although we are celebrating its twentieth anniversary, it is not at its best. There is a very strong criticism, very unjust against Israel , this is contrary to the European Union consensus". (4)
Israel knows how to make a friendly president even friendlier. At a time when even some Jewish people criticise Israel for its war against Gaza, and millions of people from all walks of life ask for international action to end the siege of Gaza, the incoming president of the European Union, Zapatero, will welcome Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak in Madrid on November 4th.
Now that Barak can visit Spain without fear of being prosecuted for his role in the Gaza war, he will take advantage of the law amendment to sign a new and upgraded military cooperation agreement with Zapatero. Spain will somehow become a partner in the next Israeli aggression against Palestinians.
What about president Abu Mazen? He has made clear that Spain is a friend of the Palestinians. No problem. Zapatero will soon send him some money and security personnel to train Palestinian policemen, and later on some trucks with band aids, crutches, tents and canned food just in case.
3. Popular reaction against the pro-Zionist role of the Spanish government: BDS
Despite the efforts made by the Israeli embassy in Madrid through its propaganda agents, in order to try and change Spaniards’ opinion about the Palestinian conflict, which is contrary to its government position, people resist –as it happens all over the world.
With that aim, Israeli agents attend political, social and cultural acts, participate in TV shows, lectures and conferences, write in newspapers and establish educational, social and economic links with Spanish civil servants, journalists and businessmen.
Casa Sefarad-Israel is the flagship. The house is "a public institution established by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Madrid Autonomous Government and Madrid Townhall." (5)
In other words, several Spanish authorities collect citizens’ money via taxes and the Israeli government takes some it to try and convince these that in Israel "coexists dozens of nationalities, languages, religions and races", according to the house information. (6)
Not everything is lost. With this enormous Hasbara effort, Israel is also clearly saying that it has not only failed in its military campaign against Gaza, but that it has also failed to convince people that it was a defensive war and that Israel is acting in favour of international law, peace with its neighbours, and the human rights of people living in Palestine.
The answer of the Spaniards who question Israeli actions, indeed its place in the international community, is increasingly to join the international boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign –BDS- and make it grow in Spain . This is the best way to show both support for the Palestinian cause and contempt for its oppressors.