Over the last few weeks the Spanish campaign Rumbo a Gaza has meetings with officials at their Ministry of Foreign Affairs and international cooperation and with members of parliament who represent their parties in the inter-parliamentary group for Palestine.
On October 1st we had met the general director for North Africa, Mediterranean and Middle East department of the MFA, Eva Felicia Martínez Sánchez; Álvaro Ortega Barón, deputy director for Middle East and Alejandro Fernández-Mazarambroz, manager of consular affairs; they had a chance to hear the description of the attack on the Freedom Flotilla boat Al Awda (The Return) in international waters, close to the coast of Gaza, directly from Lucía Mazarrasa, Rumbo a Gaza representative who was on the boat. She ended up being hijacked along with the rest of the activist and crew aboard and they were all taken against their will to the port of Ashdod by the Israeli navy, put in prison and then expelled.
Rumbo a Gaza asked the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the name of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, to demand that Israel return the items stolen after the attack on its boats in international waters:
– Personal items of the crew and activists on board the boats Al Awda (Norwegian flag) and Freedom (Swedish flag)
– The 114 boxes of medical supplies worth 13,000 € for Gaza hospitals, which are yet to be delivered to its destination
– and the boats themselves
We have also asked that the value of those items be included in the demand of the state of Israel for destruction of installations in Gaza financed by Spanish aid organizations.
Given that the Freedom Flotilla Coalition will continue sailing as a protest against the blockade on the Gaza Strip, while this collective punishment on its population goes on, we request that protection be granted against hijacking of civilians, among them Spanish citizens, in international waters.
Moreover, given the illegality of the blockade, we insist that measures must be taken, including legal ones, to defend the right of the Palestinian population of Gaza to freedom of movement.
Several other issues were brought up during the meeting, including the recognition of Palestine as a state, the prohibition by the Spanish state of trade with the illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the request that Spain will encourage other European Union countries to demand the lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip and not to renew the preferential trade agreements with Israel, while the blockade and the occupation continue and Israel does not respect human rights.
We acknowledged the attention given by the consular services to the Spanish activists on the boats: Lucía Mazarrasa, Francisco Canales and Emilia Nacher, as well as to Zohar Chamberlain an Israeli citizen resident in Spain, and to their families before and after the attack, and thanked them for their work.
Two weeks later, Rumbo a Gaza met with members of parliament who form the inter-parliamentary group for Palestine in the congress. Among them were Soraya Rodríguez, from the socialist party PSOE, Ricardo Sixto from the United Left party IU, Enric Bataller from Compromís, Rosana Pastor from Podemos. Other MPs from Unidos Podemos and Compromís also took part in the meeting.
In this meeting we presented a document listing various petitions and claims: the theft of goods by Israel, the need to recognize the Palestinian state, the prohibition of commerce between Spain and the illegal Israeli settlements and the breaking of military ties with Israel. The MPs with Soraya Rodríguez as the representative of the ruling party listened to our presentation with interest and proposed the possibility of organizing a conference in support of Palestine at the congress during the first half of December. The issue of human rights will be the focus of the conference and different groups involved in pro-Palestinian activism will be invited.
This parliamentary question was presented on August 1st:
TO THE CONGRESS BOARD
The members of Parliament Antón Gómez-Reino Varela, Pablo Bustinduy Amador, Miguel Anxo Fernández Bello, Sergio Pascual Peña, Ricardo Sixto Iglesias, Eva García Sempere, Sonia Farré Fidalgo, Rosa Ana Alonso Clusa y Rosana Pastor Muñoz, belonging to the Confederal Parliamentary Group of Unidos Podemos-En Comú Podem-En Marea, under the protection of the content of Article 185 of the Rules of the House, submit the following questions requesting a written reply in connection with the situation in Palestine.
STATEMENT OF REASONS
As the blockade by Israel on Gaza, a collective punishment strictly forbidden by international law, goes into its twelfth year, the situation has become dramatic and is affecting all aspects of daily life, from economy (65% women unemployment rate and 35% men unemployment rate) to agriculture and fishing very especially, but also health, education, freedom of movement, access to electricity and drinkable water, increase in food insecurity suffered by 70% of the population, increase of the gender inequality gap and the impossibility of reconstruction after the three devastating bombing attacks in 2009, 2012 and 2014 that according to the UN could make Gaza an uninhabitable area by 2020.
The situation in Gaza cannot be separated from the consequences of the Israeli occupation in 1967 of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip itself, which was declared illegal by resolution 242 of the UN, which 51 years later has evolved into an absence of political solutions to create a viable and independent Palestinian estate; a very serious situation of apartheid, segregation and daily violations of human rights; destruction of homes and infrastructure, arrests and imprisonments, particularly of girls and boys in clear infringement of the Convention of Children’s Rights; violence and deaths.
Because of all of this we ask the
FOLLOWING QUESTIONS DEMANDING A WRITTEN RESPONSE
- What measures is the Spanish Government planning to take in order to contribute to the peace in the Middle East, with special reference to the occupation and colonization of Palestine, the situation of refugees, the blockade on Gaza, the violation of human rights by Israel, and obstracles to freedom of movement and transport in the area?
- What measures in particular, of those stated in international and Spanish law, is the Spanish government planning to take in order to respect and make others respect the traditional Spanish and UN position about Palestine and Israel regarding the suspension of the sale of arms and military exchange before the assassination of peaceful marchers in Gaza, against the increasing colonization of Palestinian land, for an end to the blockade, an end to trade with Israeli settlements, for the right to a Palestinian state of their own and against apartheid, which lately has been constitutionalized in the so-called law of the Jewish Nation-State?
- What measures is the government planning to adopt regarding the boarding of ships on humanitarian missions like the one of the Ship to Gaza Flotilla? What actions has the Spanish Government taken against the Government of Israel concerning these facts?
- Does the government intend to declare itself to be in favour of the right to free navigation in international waters, the freedom of movement of people and goods to and from Gaza, demanding that special attention be paid to the lives and integrity of flotilla participants?
- What consular protection has been dispensed to the three Spaniards, Lucía Mazarrosa, Emilia Nacher and Francisco Canales travelling in the flotilla who, together with Zohar Chamberlain Regev, an Israeli citizen resident in Spain, representatives of Ship to Gaza in the international flotilla?
And here is the written response by the Spanish government:
(184) WRITTEN QUESTION CONGRESS
AUTHOR/ESS: BUSTINDUY AMADOR, Pablo (GCUP-ECP-EM); FERNÁNDEZ BELLO, Miguel Anxo Elías (GCUP-ECP-EM); FARRÉ FIDALGO, SOnia (GCUP-ECP-EM); GARCÍA SEMPERE, Eva (GCUP-ECP-EM); PASTOR MUÑOZ, Rosana (GCUP-ECP-EM); PASCUAL PEÑA, Sergio (GCUP-ECP-EM); SIXTO IGLESIAS, Ricardo (GCUP-ECP-EM); ALONSO CLUSA, Rosa Ana (GCUP-ECP-EM); GÓMEZ-REINO VARELA, Antonio (GCUP-ECP-EM)
Regarding the matter in question we inform that Spain keeps a constant interlocution with the parties at the highest level, as it became clear with the successive visits of the Presidents of Israel and Palestine-UNOS (observer state of the UN) last November, which allows us to put forward in a direct way the Spanish position about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and which is well-known, permanent and in line with the frame of the different UN resolutions.
It is a firm position in favour of a solution of two states, Israel and Palestine UNOS, living together in peace and security within internationally recognized frontiers, and with Jerusalem as a capital shared by both states. This position is reflected in the vote of Spain in the international organizations where the question is dealt with.
Spain considers that the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are illegal according to international Law, as resolution 2334 of the UN Security Council reminds us, in favour of which Spain voted as a non-permanent member on 23rd December 2016.
Spain, like the European Union (EU) and its member-states, draws “a distinction, in its relevant relationships, between the territory of the State of Israel and the occupied territories since 1967” as it happens in particular in the field of commercial policy, common policy of the UN run by the European Commission. Indeed, this commerce does not enter within the scope of the Agreement of Association UN-Israel, and the Commission published an explanatory note in 2015 intended to solve the doubts about trade legislation applicable to the products of the areas occupied by Israel since 1967.
As for Gaza, the Spanish Government is very seriously concerned about the humanitarian situation in the Strip. In order to change it for the better, Spain is in favour of the lifting of the blockade and the end of the restrictions imposed on the Strip, preserving the appropriate guarantees for the legitimate security of their neighbours. This appeal is contained in the different conclusions of the Council of Foreign Affairs of the UN and in the resolutions of the United Nations. Thus, last 13th June, the General Assembly adopted a resolution about the protection of the Palestinian civil population which Spain voted to support.
Likewise, Spain follows closely the situation and development of Human Rights in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, consistent with our values, principles and international commitments. Spain makes good use of the tools that we have at our disposal in order to monitor this process both through our bilateral relationships and through the European Union and the multilateral mechanisms for the protection of human rights, in particular of the United Nations.
In each and every session of the Council of Human Rights, Spain refers to the Human Rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, in its national speech on the occasion of the general debate about the different situations of human rights which require the attention of the Council.
As for the violent incidents in Gaza, Spain voted in favour of the establishment of an international investigation in the special session of the Council of Human Rights convened on the 18th May with the Spanish support. Likewise, on the 13th June Spain voted in favour of the resolution approved by the General Assembly which calls upon the Secretary General of the United Nations to study mechanisms to protect the civil Palestinian population.
In connection with the boarding of ships on their way to Gaza last 24th July, the Office of Diplomatic Information informed about the steps taken with preventive character by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation before the Israeli authorities, both in Madrid and in Israel, in order to publicly reiterate the Spanish position against the blockade of Gaza, as well as the defence of the principle of free navigation. Likewise, an appeal was made to the Israeli authorities for a maximum restraint on their part in any kind of actuation.
As the Ministry had the opportunity to transmit to the persons concerned, the consular recommendation was crystal clear in advising any Spanish citizen against trying to access Gaza by sea in view of the risks involved.
The attention and monitoring of the events on the side of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, the Embassy in Tel Aviv and the General Consulate in Jerusalem was total and permanent, including the timely and constant consular protection towards the citizens affected by the deportation order. The consular protection was exercised first in a preventive way, assuring optimal coordination among the different actors, and later in an effective way, watching over the welfare of the Spanish detainees and informing their families and those closest to them about their situation.
Before the arrival of the flotilla ships, members of the Spanish Embassy in Israel met with representatives of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to reiterate the need of assuring the security of the crew members in an eventual assault to the ships, avoiding the unnecessary use of force. Similarly, before and after the assault, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation kept in permanent touch with the Spanish organizers of the flotilla, and the Spanish Embassy in Israel with the embassies of the countries of the other participants and with the Israeli diplomatic, migratory and penitentiary authorities.
Once the ships had been boarded (Al Awda on the 29th July and Freedom on the 3rd August), the crew members and passengers were taken to the port of Ashdod and, after being checked by the military authorities, they were put at the disposal of the Israeli migratory authorities and sent to a detention centre for foreigners near the airport. The Israeli citizens were set free. During the process the Spanish Embassy was in touch with the liaison personnel of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who assured that the two Spanish women in the first ship and the two Spanish men in the second were fine.
On 30th July the Spanish consul went to visit Mrs. Lucía Mazarrasa and Mrs. Emilia Nacher in the detention centre, and on 5th August to Mr. Francisco Canales and Mr. Ian Agustín Díez Young, a British-Spanish dual citizen, though he was only in possession of British passport. The consul visited Mr. Canales again on the 7th August. In these visits the consul showed his interest in the health and welfare of the Spanish detainees. Likewise, after receiving authorization from the detainees, the consul informed their families of their situation and of the deportation flights in which the three Spaniards returned to Spain and the dual citizen to the United Kingdom.
Between detention and deportation, the Embassy was in touch with the Israeli authorities in order to make sure that the Spaniards were fine and also to avoid unnecessary delays. The deportations took place on August 1st (Mrs. Mazarrasa), August 2nd (Mrs. Nacher), August 5th (Mr. Díez Young) and August 8th (Mr. Canales).
Finally, the Spanish Embassy in Israel is taking steps to recover those personal objects belonging to the Spanish citizens which have not yet been returned by the Israeli authorities.
Madrid, 15th October 2018