Victory Against BDS in Spain, Part of Lawfare Project’s Comprehensive Legal Offensive

The Lawfare Project (LP) is excited to announce a significant victory against the BDS campaign in Spain. On November 30, 2016, the Public Court nº 3 of Barcelona issued a judgment annulling the boycott decision of the City Council of Sant Adrià de Besòs, located in the metropolitan area of Barcelona. The successful action was brought by LP attorney Ignacio-Wenley Palacios Iglesias, as part of a comprehensive legal offensive to counter BDS discrimination in Spain, launched by The Lawfare Project in local partnership with ACOM (Acción y Comunicación en Oriente Medio).

This ruling is particularly important in its broad applicability and capacity to deter future boycott decisions in Barcelona and other capital cities, which the BDS campaign in Spain has been actively pursuing.

The now-defunct boycott decision proclaimed the city a “Free Space from Israel Apartheid,” and committed the Council to refrain from signing any contract, agreement, or covenant with Israeli public bodies, companies, or organizations. Additionally, it targeted entities that might be involved in, cooperate with, or obtain economic benefits from the alleged violations of international law and human rights in the “Palestinian territories” or “occupied Golan.” The Council even went so far as to explicitly agree to cooperate with the BDS movement to ensure proper implementation of the decision, effectively making the BDS activists the arbiter of the Council’s anti-Israel policies.

Relying on a number of Mr. Palacios’s legal arguments, the Public Court determined that the boycott decision constituted an illegal breach of the most fundamental civil liberties. The key points included:

  • Public bodies have a duty of restraint and political neutrality, and are not to be used to further one group’s political interests.
  • BDS boycotts such as this set unconstitutional limits on academic freedom, as they subject every school, college, researcher, teacher, lecturer, or scholar who holds a position on the Arab-Israeli conflict that counters that of the BDS movement to exclusion from any City Council funds or activities.
  • The boycott restricts free speech, and breaches the concepts of cultural, artistic, and technical freedom. Endorsement of anti-Israel measures by a public body seeks to selectively control the free circulation of ideas in the marketplace, and to punish the expression of contrary views.
  • The boycott violates the right to equality under the law — it is no more than sheer discrimination, and unequivocally prohibited by Spanish law on public procurement, the Directives of the European Union, and international agreements on the matter.

Since November 2015, Mr. Palacios has procured a growing number of court judgements against the boycott, the first appellate decision from a High Court, and eleven writs of injunction that halted the boycott across Spain. Meanwhile, his successful actions have deterred numerous other city councils from passing motions that had previously garnered the support of a majority of councillors.

These actions are based on legal arguments that stress the need to protect the liberties and civil rights of the individuals and companies targeted by the boycott campaign. To maximize efficacy, Mr. Palacios crafted his legal strategy and reasoning such that it can be easily replicated across the European Union.

With the help of the LP, over the course of the next year, Mr. Palacios will spearhead a slew of legal actions aimed at conquering the BDS movement. We are excited to be working with him on strategically formulated initiatives, including challenging new varieties of boycott decisions, developing legal arguments against the public funding of NGOs that endorse discrimination, and seeking public sanctions against the enforcement of discriminatory policies.