President of the Community of Madrid Isabel Diaz Ayuso, Dec. 12, 2022. Credit: Populares de Madrid via Wikimedia Commons.
President of the Community of Madrid Isabel Diaz Ayuso, Dec. 12, 2022. Credit: Populares de Madrid via Wikimedia Commons.
featureBoycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS)

‘We cannot put a question mark on Israel’

Community of Madrid President Isabel Díaz Ayuso talks about how Israel is perceived in her country, and says the effort by some in the Barcelona municipality to boycott Israel does not represent Catalonia or Spain.

“Israel is a democracy that uses democratic tools to discuss its internal affairs,” said Community of Madrid President Isabel Díaz Ayuso in a recent interview. The judicial reform the Israeli government is spearheading is an internal matter, she stressed. “To me, it seems natural and normal that there are debates on these matters. What I saw was people freely discussing ways to improve their democracy,” she said.

Díaz Ayuso is a rising star in Spanish politics, and is expected to launch a bid for the premiership in two years. In contrast to many public figures in her country, she is openly and unequivocally pro-Israel and philosemitic.

“We have always loved Israel, and I have always felt close to it and to the Jewish community, in Madrid and Spain in general, and we wanted to convey this message to the State of Israel and strengthen our bond,” she said.

She visited Israel on Sunday, where she met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, National Security Council head Tzachi Hanegbi, Economy Minister Nir Barkat, technology entrepreneurs, businesspeople and senior officials in the medical field, among others.

There was an air of tension during the visit, stemming from Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau’s decision to end the Twin Cities agreement with Tel Aviv and sever ties with the Israeli government. Barcelona’s move followed an initiative by BDS activists and left-wing parties accusing Israel of “crimes against the Palestinian people.”

“We did not like this decision at all. It represents neither Catalonia nor Spain,” said Díaz Ayuso. “We wanted to clarify this by visiting. I do not think this is the time to sever ties with a country with which we have so much in common. I do not understand what message she wanted to convey. We think that placing a question mark on Israel is not logical, and the consequences for doing so will only be negative.”

Asked what she felt had led to Colau’s decision, Díaz Ayuso said, “The problem begins with people not knowing [Israel’s] history. In general terms, Spain is not a country of discrimination. We have no conflicts and do not know the reality in Israel well enough.

“Coming to Israel, or speaking with Israelis, is vital in understanding the reality here. Otherwise, what you get is a narrative of violence, which leads to violence, and this is now the only thing you know about Israel. This is not something I will contribute to because it is simply not the truth.”

She added, “For me, Israel is a way of looking at life and freedom.”

She went on to share her affinity with the country.

“The fact that you need to think about your existence, as a nation that deals with much hate … instead of being a place of sadness, Israel is one of the most creative countries in the world. It has technology, agriculture, the ability to overcome obstacles and imagination. I would hope that other countries in the world have many of these qualities,” she said.

True to her words, Díaz Ayuso has strengthened the Community of Madrid’s ties with the Jewish community, and passed a series of resolutions against the boycott of Israel. On her visit to Israel, she was accompanied by dozens of businesspeople, who agreed to cooperate with Israeli colleagues in technology and health.

In addition, Díaz Ayuso promoted the establishment of a Hispanic-Jewish Museum that will portray the relations between the Jewish people and the world’s Spanish speakers. She received her inspiration from her tour of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and expressed her hope that “this museum will have an exhibition about the Righteous Among the Nations.”

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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