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Ione Belarra and Alberto Garzón. SUR
War of words
Opinion

War of words

The Israeli embassy in Madrid said that "certain elements within the Spanish government have chosen to align themselves with [...] Isis-style terrorism". Without naming Belarra and Garzón specifically, it said that their remarks were "absolutely immoral"

Friday, 20 October 2023, 16:07

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Both Israel and Spain abandoned the ordinarily neutral language of diplomacy this week, in an exchange that highlights just how divided the latter's acting government really is. The statements from Podemos leader Ione Belarra and acting consumer affairs minister Alberto Garzón, a member of Izquierda Unida, also presented a misleading characterisation of the Hamas-Israel conflict and highlighted - yet again - the Spanish left's unwillingness or inability to condemn the attacks of 7 October.

Belarra and Garzón haven't gone quite as far as Jeremy Corbyn, who once referred to Hamas as 'friends' (although he later said that he regretted using that word). In fact, they've had nothing to say about Hamas at all. Instead, Israel is the sole focus of their moral outrage. Belarra claimed that Israel is planning "genocide" against the population of the Gaza Strip, while Garzón described Jerusalem's response to the Hamas attacks as "a violent and indiscriminate attack on a civilian population".

The Israeli embassy in Madrid dispensed with the usual niceties in its response, saying that "certain elements within the Spanish government have chosen to align themselves with [...] Isis-style terrorism". Without naming Belarra and Garzón specifically, it said that their remarks were "absolutely immoral".

No defence or justification of Israel's retaliation could rest on a denial that it has resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians. But we need to look carefully at what Belarra and Garzón are really saying - namely, that the intended target, the sole target, of the Israeli strikes is the population of Gaza, and that the IDS is specifically out to kill as many Palestinians as possible, because they are Palestinians. That is a recklessly misleading claim to make. There was also no mention in either of their statements of the enemy and neighbour with which Israel has been forced to violently engage (again), and which is the real, intended target of its retaliation: a terrorist group with zero regard for human life.

"A violent and indiscriminate attack on a civilian population" and "genocide" both apply with much greater force and accuracy to the attacks of 7 October, perpetrated as they were by jihadist terrorists intent on exterminating Jews. Yet Podemos, and the far left in general (not just in Spain, but in the UK, too, for example), is having an absurdly hard time condemning Hamas for the same atrocities with which it so confidently charges Israel.

There are two key problems with Belarra's and Garzón's statements, then: first, their skewed characterisation of the Israeli response over the last two weeks; and secondly, their apparent refusal to admit that Israel is at war with an anti-semitic, fundamentalist Islamic terrorist cell. Both right and left can condemn Hamas as such, without thereby taking sides against the Palestinian people - or, for that matter, with Israel.

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