Spain and Selling Arms to Israel

We need deeds, not words


Historically, and especially since October 2023, Spain has been a supporter of the Palestinian cause. Already days after 7 October, both the left-wing press and left-wing political forces made statements putting the Hamas attack in context. These classified it as resistance against the occupying power, and even compare it to the Warsaw ghetto uprising. This was unthinkable to see or read in Germany. In Spain, people on the left, from the most radical to the most centrist, support the Palestinian cause without fissures. In fact, after the arrival of democracy in Spain, following the death of the fascist dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, Spain began diplomatic relations with Palestine in 1977.  Only nine years later, in 1986, did Spain establish diplomatic relations with Israel. This support was across the political spectrum. The left supported Palestine because of the struggle against occupation and apartheid. The right because of its deep antisemitism, and not because it believed in the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people. Even Franco, a rabid antisemite, refused to recognise the state of Israel during his almost 40 years of dictatorship, unlike most European governments at the time.

Today, a large part of the Spanish right is still antisemitic but is being dragged along by the latest trend – the Zionist movement. On the weekend of 17-19 May, a congress of the European far right was held with the participation of famous antisemites including Viktor Orbán. It was attended by Amichai Chikli, Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs, who is supposed to fight antisemitism. Chikli was invited as a symbol of the Spanish ultra-right’s support for Israel in its offensive on the Gaza Strip. For those who claim to defend the Jewish people to meet with fascists and neo-Nazis, only undermines the real fight against growing antisemitism.

The current socialist government of Spain is one of the leaders in the European Union in the defense of the Palestinian people in the ongoing genocide. On 22th May 2024, together with Ireland and Norway, Spain recognised Palestine as a country, a welcome decision. But one that leaves a bitter taste of white phosphorus and rivers of Palestinian blood that had to be spilled for the Palestinian people’s rights to finally be recognised.

But this government is playing both sides of the game. While it trumpeted that it had halted sending arms to Israel after 7 October, reports in various newspapers suggest that this is not entirely true. In fact, not only did it continue to send arms worth almost a million Euros, but the defence ministry’s awards of contracts to Israeli companies or their subsidiaries in Spain have not ceased to this day.

According to the information published in the, “bombs, grenades, torpedoes, mines, missiles, cartridges and other ammunition and projectiles, and their parts, including shells, pellets and cartridge cases” were exported for use in “weapons of war”.

The article continues: “The Secretary of State for Trade assured this newspaper that the export “corresponds to licences authorised before 7 October” and maintains that it contains “material for tests or demonstrations, in no case for final use or to be used in the conflict”. The next day they contacted the newspaper again to specify that what was sent was “medium calibre non-explosive ammunition”.

The same article argues that the sale had been authorised prior to 7 October is not a reason to proceed with it. Since the regulation on the control of the arms trade in defence, states these authorisations can be cancelled if there are “reasonable indications” that the material is going to be used in actions “that disturb the peace”. Such is the case of a possible genocide, announced by the Zionist leaders from day one.

And the fact is that Spain, like most of the West, enjoys a fruitful arms trade relationship with Israel. We sell our weapons, Spain is the 7th largest arms exporter in the world. In return we buy from Israel weapons and technology “proven in combat”, namely on Palestinian bodies, paying money with which Israel finances the occupation and apartheid.

As the newspaper El Salto points out, “In a contract signed in November alone (2023), Spain bought Israeli Spike LR2 missiles for 287.5 million euros. According to the Centre Delás Negocios report, in addition to the army, the clients of the Israeli military and security industry include the Ministry of Defence, the CNI, the National Police Corps, the Guardia Civil and the various regional police forces”.

In the Borkum scandal, a German cargo ship rang alarm bells because of leaks that it carried arms from India to Israel. It passed through European ports, including Spain. That highlighted the current government’s apathy in moving from words to deeds. The government was not inclined to inspect the cargo ship once it was in port, not even to silence the alarm bells.

The Spanish government twittered insults on the intelligence and integrity of anyone concerned about the allegations. That included the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Palestine Albanese, the European Legal Support Center (ELSC) team of lawyers, the three parties to the left of the PSOE, Podemos, Sumar and Anticapitalistas, as well as the BDS Spain movement. The tweets branded anyone calling for the inspection of the ship as conspiratorial and transmitting fake news.

In the end, after tense hours and a lot of mud, the Borkum did not stop in Cartagena, but it did stop in the Canary Islands. There the government assured that the papers were in order, despite the fact that according to leaked information the papers were stamped on 31 May 2023 and the cargo codes did not coincide with what the ship had declared. By pure coincidence, the government assured us during those hours that it would not allow the Danish ship Marianne Danica, which was carrying 26.8 tonnes of military equipment bound for Haifa (Israel), to stop over. Since last week, numerous ships have been spotted making similar routes that curiously avoid passing close to Yemen, as Luis Arbide of the Delás centre shows.

It would be useful to have explanations from the Spanish government as to what material passes through our NATO air and sea bases, knowing that the US is Israel’s main arms supplier. For example, we now know that the US ship transporting weapons straight to Gaza, vía the infamous pier “built for aid”, stopped at the military port base of Rota, in southern Spain.

What this incident shows is first that Spain and Spanish companies continue to do business almost as usual with the genocidal state. Secondly that it turns a blind eye to the ships that avoid the route where they can be intercepted by the Huthi. This is not legally or morally correct. That would require at least to inspect them and seize the contents if they are materials to be used in the massacres that we watch helplessly on our screens every day.