La Gaceta, October 19

Spain and Jerusalem: Total Confusion


The general outcry against the historical and hysterical misrepresentations that Palestinians and their allies have achieved at UNESCO, should have reached the minister's ears.

2016-10-19 by Rafael Bardají

Spain currently has an acting government – that acts, or rather, that does not act, if it suits its purposes. Acting Minister García Margallo does not stop whining about how bad it is to have an acting government since it makes Spain look like a marginal nation in the international arena. Nonetheless, he approved Spain’s abstention when UNESCO voted to deny the links of the Jewish people to its capital, Jerusalem.

I cannot imagine what our (acting) foreign minister would say if this U.N. organization were to vote that the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela or the El Escorial monastery had nothing to do with history and the Spanish people. Nonetheless, what our delegation has allowed UNESCO to do is, quite simply, an affront to known history as well as an act of political cowardice.

Maybe the minister could adduce ignorance about the October 13 vote or the coming votes next week. But that would have as much credibility as when he backpedaled on his order to open a consulate in the Gaza Strip. UNESCO, unfortunately, has spent months trying to expunge the ancient presence of the Jews in their own land. Yet the general outcry against the historical and hysterical misrepresentations that Palestinians and their allies have achieved at UNESCO, should have reached the minister’s ears.

There is a big lie behind UNESCO’s biased actions: “The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is altering the status quo of the Temple Mount and, therefore, the access to the al-Aqsa Mosque.” It does not matter that Netanyahu has denied it time and time again. It does not matter either that nothing has changed on the ground. In fact, anyone visiting the Old City of Jerusalem is well aware that access to Temple Mount is, in fact, limited to anyone who is not Muslim and that the religious administration is in Jordan’s hands.

But lies, just as bad ideas, have consequences, usually dire consequences. A little over a year ago, just right after the Palestinian Authority denounced the change of status. A wave of terrorist attacks ensued; mostly young men decided to attack any Jew by any method at their disposal, from kitchen knives to car rammings, believing that Israel was occupying and closing access to one of their sacred sites. Never mind it was not true; however, it was enough to inspire a string of attacks. They may have declined in number, but they have not yet ceased to happen.

What are the (acting) minister García Margallo’s expectations if UNESCO decides that the Wailing Wall cannot be called that way anymore and is to be renamed "Burqa Plaza"?

With Prime Minister Felipe González, Spain corrected a historical error and eventually established bilateral diplomatic relations with the State of Israel. Under Prime Minister Aznar, Spain and Israel were closer than ever before, both with labor and conservative prime ministers. Prime Minister Zapatero chose to wear the Palestinian kaffiyeh and Spain stopped being important in the area. The first government of Mariano Rajoy inherited a bad situation that could have been put behind and improved. But he chose not to do it. I guess that it is in part due to Prime Minister Rajoy’s usually relaxed attitude to address all international issues, but it is also because of our foreign minister’s personal philosophy.

Franco used to say that Spain was linked in a very special way to the Arab World. I do not know if García Margallo would go so far as to that claim, although I have heard more than one official in his ministry say that Spain’s Middle-East policy inevitably has all to do with the AVE flagship contract to Mecca. It means that anything that could jeopardize our business relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is expendable. 

However, the Middle East is not something as simple as most tend to think. For example, Spain enthusiastically supported the nuclear deal with Iran – the one that Obama sponsored and negotiated and the great European powers accepted. Nonetheless, Iran’s greatest opponent in the region is none other than Saudi Arabia. Does the (acting) minister forget that Spain’s eager trade with Iran could upset the Saudis? 

I know that reality is never perfect and almost always complex. So much so that when Garcia Margallo heard that Artur Mas, then Prime Minister of the Generalitat, was going to go to Israel on an official visit and planned to hold a meeting with Israel’s prime minister, he threw his hands up in the air and had to ask for the mediation of former Prime Minister Aznar to prevent the meeting from taking place. At least, that is what journalist Ignacio Cembrero has written in a recent article.

Anyway, all this would just be a sorry farce if it were not too serious to deny history. It was recently done in the Europe that Minister García Margallo loves so much: He was still a member of the European Parliament, when our great statesmen eliminated all mention to Europe’s Christian roots in the prologue of the so-called European Constitution. Today we begin by saying that Jerusalem and the Jewish people have no

relation and tomorrow we will hear that al-Andalus has never been Spain. The foreign minister is a person holding history in high regard (at least regarding Gibraltar) and should put a stop to that policy contrary to everything, starting by putting our national interests first. Thus, he should give new instructions to our delegation at UNESCO. He can do it, even if he is just an acting minister.