Shame of Spanish football's anti-Israel boycotters

Many in Europe should take note of the eerie parallels with the Jewish experience of boycotts in Europe during the 1930s and the even older history of persecution of Jews in Spain in the Middle Ages

Spanish football is better than this
The Commentator
On 23 September 2012 08:34

Last week, European football fans were treated to the spectacle of Israel boycotters shamelessly using a sporting event to advance their own sordid agenda.

The Spanish club Athletic Bilbao was playing the Israeli team Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona.

Athletic Bilbao "fans" displayed large banners with the words "Free Palestine". Many were also holding signs of the "boycott Israel" campaign.

Cultural and sporting boycotts are the worst kind of politicking by an increasingly disreputable campaign, and the latest episode is part of a disturbing trend that has been seen in Spain over the past several years. In 2011, controversy arose over an advertisement that appeared on PA TV, the mouthpiece of the Palestinian Authority. The advert called for a boycott of Israeli goods and ended with the announcement that it was sponsored by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In 2009, Spain disqualified Israeli academics from entering a solar power design competition because their university was located in the West Bank. With a disproportionate number of groups in Spain as compared to other European countries involved in the campaign to boycott Israeli goods -- at least 21, compared with just over a dozen in the UK -- the actions on the terraces by Athletic Bilbao fans maybe symptomatic of something much wider going on in Spain.

With active movements in Spain for separatism such as Catalan separatism and Basque nationalism, it is perhaps not surprising that some on the Spanish peninsula have sympathy with perceived elements of the Palestinian "cause".

However, there is a world of difference between debating different ideas and solutions to the Middle East conflict and calling for the boycott of all things Israeli while attempting to ban an open dialogue in science and technology between academics just because of where they happen to live and study.

Many in Europe should take note of the eerie parallels with the Jewish experience of boycotts in Europe during the 1930s and the even older history of the persecution of the Jews in Spain during the Middle Ages.

Trade is a vital part of keeping good relations between different communities. A campaign to actively halt the trade of goods between people is a campaign specifically intended to provoke, hurt and bully those who are being campaigned against.

The great French economist and classical liberal thinker Frederic Bastiat wrote, "when goods don’t cross borders, armies will".

Displays such as those we saw last week are unlikely to lead to major armed conflict. But they can still breed a destructive attitude, detrimental to the prospects for peace and reconciliation.

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