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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

What’s Spanish for ‘chutzpah’?

A march in support of the Catalan independence referendum in Barcelona, Sept. 28, 2017. (Samuel Aranda/The New York Times)

By Bret Stephens

Last week’s announcements by the governments of Ireland, Norway and Spain that they will recognize a Palestinian state are drawing predictable reactions from predictable quarters. Some see them as useful rebukes to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war strategy in the Gaza Strip that will further isolate Israel. Others, including me, view them as feckless gestures that reward Hamas’ terrorism.

That’s a column for another day. For now, it’s enough to note the Spanish government’s sheer nerve.

Although Spanish public opinion overwhelmingly supports swift recognition of Palestinian statehood, it’s another story when it comes to Spain’s own independence movements. In 2017, the regional government of Catalonia held a referendum, declared illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court, on the question of Catalan independence. Although turnout was low — in part because Spanish police forcibly blocked voting — the Catalan government said nearly 90% of voters favored independence.

The central government in Madrid responded by dismissing the Catalan government, imposing direct rule. Two years later, under the current left-wing government of Pedro Sánchez, Spain sentenced nine Catalan independence leaders to prison on charges of sedition, although they were later pardoned. This year the lower house of the Spanish parliament voted to grant amnesty to those involved in the 2017 campaign as part of a deal to prop up Sánchez’s government, despite a Senate veto. Seventy percent of the Spanish public opposes the amnesty.

Catalans aren’t the only ethnic minority in Spain that has sought independence, only to encounter violent suppression. In the 1980s, the Spanish Interior Ministry under a socialist government responded to the long-running Basque separatist movement with state-sponsored death squads, notoriously responsible for a string of kidnappings, tortures and assassinations. The Spanish government called the separatists terrorists — as indeed some were — although their tactics look tame compared with Hamas’. By the time the conflict ended in 2011, it had claimed more than 1,000 lives.

Spain possesses two cities on the African continent, Ceuta and Melilla, both of which are claimed by Morocco and have been stormed by African migrants seeking entry into the European Union. They are protected by extensive border fences and fortifications strikingly reminiscent of Israel’s breached border fence with Gaza.

There are many other independence movements throughout Europe, from Scotland to Flanders to Corsica and the Balkans. Many of these movements tend to have affinities with Palestinians, for reasons that are obvious. More difficult to explain are governments that suppress independence-seekers at home while applauding those abroad. Some might call it deflection. To others, it looks like hypocrisy.

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May 28

William, Catalans aren't the jews. They are the Palestinians. The difference is that Catalans never bombed Spain, nor murdered or kidnapped one only Spanish. They tried to vote, that's all.


May 28

Many catalans and Basques where extermined during the civil war and the post war for the francoists now their descendants ara in the power but don't kill us because the world are watching them, now prefer steal our economy.


William Rosa
William Rosa
May 28

Mr. Stephens seems to get more desperate to justify the Israeli genocide that it's been inflicted on the Palestinians by the rogue state of Israel. In an outrageous attempt to place the independent movements in Spain (Basques and Catalonians) a la par with the invasion of Gaza by the Jews since 1948, he omits the fact that Catalans as well as Basques didn't come from any country in Europe or any part other of the world as it's the case with the Jews and Palestine.

Better that attempting something that its absurd in the context of the current Palestinian annihilation, he should compare the appropriation of the Argentinian Malvina Islands, called Falkland Island by the United Kingdom with the support…

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