According to Ada Colau, who spoke at a press conference, she wrote to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to inform him that until “Israeli authorities stop the systematic violation of human rights of the Palestinian people,” there will be no diplomatic ties between the Spanish city and Israel.
More than 4,000 residents and more than 100 organizations, according to her, requested that the city “support the human rights of Palestinians.”
The choice was made as a result of an activist movement that produced an official petition distributed through Barcelona city hall that accumulated more than 4,000 signatures pleading with the municipality to sever ties with Israel.
Last month, hundreds of pro-Palestine protesters gathered in front of Barcelona City Hall, urging politicians to suspend the twin city agreement with Tel Aviv.
Barcelona, Tel Aviv and Gaza City signed a friendship and cooperation agreement in 1998. Pro-Palestinian activists called for Barcelona’s relationship with Gaza City to continue.
In her letter to Netanyahu, Colau said that voters had asked her to “condemn the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people, support Palestinian and Israeli organisations working for peace and break off the twinning agreement between Barcelona and Tel Aviv.”
Barcelona suspended a twinning relationship with the Russian city of St Petersburg last year following the invasion of Ukraine.
The decision was welcomed by pro-Palestine campaigners and condemned by Israel supporters and Jewish groups.
The Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) said it “salutes” Colau and the grassroots groups who helped push the move.
“Barcelona has become the first city council to suspend ties with apartheid Tel Aviv in solidarity with the Palestinian people, a move that is reminiscent of the historic and courageous city councils that pioneered cutting links with apartheid South Africa,” BNC said in a statement.
The Spanish pro-Israel group Action and Communication on the Middle East, ACOM, called the decision antisemitic and said it will take legal action against Colau.
“The Barcelona City Council has reached a new low by pushing Barcelona to the maximum expression of sectarianism and discrimination, becoming the most openly anti-semitic city in Europe,” the group said in a statement.
Lior Haiat, a spokesperson of the Israeli foreign ministry, said on Twitter the the decision gives “support to extremists, terrorist organizations and anti-semitism”.
The Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain echoed echoed similar criticism.
“It so happens that Israel is the only Jewish country in the world. Therefore, in our opinion, this decision has nothing to do with politics, human rights or peace. This has a name and is called ‘Sophisticated anti-Semitism,'” the federation said.
Multiple leading rights groups Palestinain, Israeli and international have accused Israel of apartheid in recent years.
Apartheid is a legal term defined by international law that refers to systematic oppression by one racial group over another.