In Catalonia yesterday, nearly one thousand people were injured as Spanish riot police bashed the young and the elderly alike for trying to exercise their democratic right and vote in a referendum that concluded with 90 percent of Catalans electing to declare independence. Take a moment to watch the video below, posted to Facebook and showing black-clad Spanish officers dragging citizen by the hair and clubbing them simply for showing up and demanding that their voices be heard:
Invited by Catalan officials to observe the polls, Ksenia Svetlova, a Member of Knesset for the Zionist Union, recounted with horror the police’s use of rubber bullets against peaceful protestors. “We did expect a normal democratic process,” she said. “We knew that a lot of police were here but still, you know, there should be a respect for the will of the people to vote regardless of what you think of the referendum.”
Like Kurdistan, struggling to free itself from the violence of Arab and Persian imperialism, Catalonia now wishes to realize its national destiny and banish the long shadow of General Francisco Franco’s Spain—a fascist Catholic state that tried to Hispanicize the Catalans and Basques by eliminating their national languages, cultures, and legal rights. Franco’s ostensibly democratic successors in Madrid have hardly been kinder to the Catalan and Basque nations, and have repeatedly repressed their legitimate aspirations for statehood through brute force. The resulting cycle of violence, which has continued for decades, has badly undermined Spain’s own claim to democratic legitimacy.
Historically instrument used to unite the Iberian peninsula—once a “golden land” where Basques and Catalans dwelt peacefully side by side, as did Catholics, Muslims and Jews—was, of course, the Spanish Inquisition. It’s hard to see how an idea of Spanish “unity,” founded in the mass murder and cultural genocide of the peninsula’s Muslims and Jews, is worth preserving as a political idea in the 21st century, especially at the expense of innocent Catalan women, children, and elderly people who are savagely beaten in the streets on the orders of grasping politicians in Madrid. Surely the EU can understand the threat that repressing Catalan nationalism in such an ugly way in front of the entire world poses to its own project of cleansing Europe of the horrors of racism, colonialism, and the Holocaust.
Those of us who are proud Zionists know intimately the hardships of wrestling with colonial forces for independence, and understand just how valiant the struggle of indigenous people can be when they resolve to exercise their natural and historical rights and form a sovereign nation on their ancient homeland. That the European Union stands idly by as Spain violently suppresses these rights is a shame.
In his classic Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell captured the bravery of the local men and women who resisted the Nazi-backed Fascists in Madrid, aided by throngs of Jewish volunteers who came to fight on the side of liberty. “If you had asked me why I had joined the militia,” Orwell wrote, “I should have answered: ‘To fight against Fascism,’ and if you had asked me what I was fighting for, I should have answered: ‘Common decency.’” Those of us who believe in common decency should share the outrage and the wild hopes of the Catalans. If you believe that applying pressure on oppressive and imperialist regimes until they break is the right tactic, begin by boycotting and divesting from Spain.