On November 16, 2017, a Spanish Court ruled that a specific BDS-inspired anti-Israel boycott in a Spanish municipality was to be suspended ("Spanish court suspends municipal boycott of Israel", arutzsheva, November 16, 2017). The boycott had been voted upon by a Council of a city called, La Roda de Andalucia. A Spanish court has now issued an interim injunction against this boycott.
While it's always pleasing to see a BDS effort defeated, the real story behind this ruling goes deeper than a simple court-ordered suspension of a single municipality's ruling. It goes to the heart of a serious legal battle unfolding in Spain that pits a series of BDS successes against pro-Israel organizations which have gone to court multiple times against BDS on behalf of Jewish plaintiffs in Spain.
One of those organizations is called, the Lawfare Project-Spain.
The Lawfare Project itself is a think tank based in New York. It describes itself as the “legal arm of the pro-Israel community” (“Pro-Israel legal group touts court’s nixing of Spanish city council’s Israel boycott”, thelawfareproject, December 16, 2016). Lawfare Project- Spain operates, obviously, in Spain. It's already won more than 40 injunctions and decisions against the Spanish BDS boycott campaign (Tamar Zieve, "Spanish court suspends anti-Israel boycott in Seville", jerusalempost, November 15, 2017).
With each court case, Lawfare Project-Spain has successfully argued that Spanish municipal boycott votes against Israel are unconstitutional, and in breach of existing anti-discrimination laws (ibid). Municipal Council members typically come away from these cases saying that "boycotts by public offices are simply illegal" (ibid).
The goal of Lawfare Project-Spain is to reverse Spanish cities' decisions to create a BDS boycott of Israel--and to deter any future pro-BDS municipal decisions (ibid). After more than a year of lawsuits, Spanish cities have begun to get the message: they are rejecting new BDS motions (“City of Lérida, Spain refuses to boycott Israel”, thelawfareproject, May 26, 2017). Cities have also begun on their own to back away from existing BDS positions they have already installed (“Seven New Legal Victories in Spain Over the Israel Boycott Campaign”, thelawfareproject, August 10, 2017).
Lawfare Project-Spain isn't the only anti-BDS actor in Spain. There are others. For example, an Israel-based group, ACOM, has fought in Spanish courts against BDS--and won (Lidar Grave-Lazi, "Spanish courts deal doubler blow to BDS Movement", jerusalempost, January 23, 2017). It's won in Madrid and Barcelona (ibid). There is also the Legal Committee against Discrimination, a group of human rights lawyers who fight discrimination and antisemitism in Spain (Lidar Grave-Lazi, "Spanish courts to try leaders of Matisyahu boycott", jerusalempost, February 12, 2017).
The November, 2017 La Roda de Andalucia boycott case is particularly important. It's important for two reasons. First, Andalucia claims to have been the world's first municipality to join the BDS movement with an official anti-Israel boycott ("Press release--Spanish court suspends anti-Israel boycott in La Roda de Andalucia", thelawfareproject, November 14, 2017). Its mayor has been almost gleeful over his love for BDS. He's gone into the international arena to promote BDS (ibid). But his city's BDS vote has now been termed 'unconstitutional'. Were he to continue to promote BDS, many will indeed wonder if his boycott ideas are legal. They may begin to think twice about following his lead, especially when his own boycott has been ended by court order.
Then, second, this Andalucia ruling is important because it demonstrated that anti-BDS forces can win in court even as BDS uses new, more sophisticated tactics (see below).
You see, BDS didn't sit idly by as Lawfare Project-Spain (and others) went to court against boycotts of Israeli products. BDS monitored these cases, then refined its municipal boycott motions to account for--and blunt--anti-BDS legal complaints.
Most significantly, BDS in Spain introduced new language for its boycott motions based upon EU directives for public procurement ("Seven new legal victories...", ibid). The creators of this new language told everyone this new language would work (ibid). BDS promised that these alterations would make these motions "legally impregnable" to anti-BDS lawsuits ("Seven new legal victories...", ibid). The Andalucia ruling--and a similar ruling in Ayamonte, Spain-- make it doubly clear that BDS advocates were wrong. In court, their new boycott language failed (ibid).
This Andalucia ruling is certainly a major step forward for the campaign to stop BDS in Spain.This ruling is also good news for the entire anti-BDS world. It shows how the law can be used to stop BDS hate.
These rulings in Spain are good victories. But the war against BDS is far from over. There's a long road ahead. BDS won't give up.
We can't give up, either.