Bepi Pezzulli
International counsel & foreign policy adviser

Giving a prize on terror: Palestinian recognition

UN General Assembly vote on Resolution 181 (Wikipedia Commons)

The governments of Spain, Ireland, and Norway have announced their intention to formally recognize the State of Palestine, a move that carries significant symbolic and political weight.

Spain had already approved a resolution to recognize Palestine in 2014, but subsequent governments, both under Mariano Rajoy and Pedro Sánchez, maintained that such recognition should only occur alongside other European Union member states. The current socialist government of Sánchez, notably critical of Israeli military actions in Gaza, has now moved forward independently and declared that the recognition would be formalized on May 28.

Likewise, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, of the Labour Party, announced Norway’s recognition, stating that “a lasting solution” to instability in the Middle East can only be “achieved through a two-state solution.” He affirmed the fundamental right of Palestinians to self-determination and the rights of Israelis and Palestinians to “live in peace in their respective states.”

Simultaneously, Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris, of the center-right Fine Gael party, announced Ireland’s recognition of the State of Palestine, describing the dire conditions in Gaza as a “humanitarian catastrophe.”

This move by the three nations has drawn significant criticism. By giving in to Palestinian statehood in the aftermath of Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel, Dublin, Madrid and Oslo effectively reward terrorism, lending diplomatic legitimacy to ongoing violence by Palestinian terrorist groups against Israeli civilians. Recognizing Palestine under these circumstances undermines efforts to combat terrorism and condones violent tactics.

This decision also intersects with the broader context of antisemitism in Europe. Norway, Spain, and Ireland all have histories marked by antisemitism.

Norway’s Dark Chapter: The Quisling Regime and Nazi Collaboration

Norway’s 1814 constitution initially banned Jews. During World War II, Norway cooperated with Nazi Germany, which occupied the country from 1940 to 1945. The most notorious figure of Norwegian collaborationism is Vidkun Quisling, a former army officer and politician. Before the war, Quisling founded the fascist party Nasjonal Samling (National Unity) in 1933, which was modeled after the Nazi Party. When Nazi Germany invaded Norway on April 9, 1940, Quisling staged a coup d’état and declared himself Prime Minister in a radio broadcast. In June 1940, the German authorities officially appointed Quisling as head of the government under the occupation. His name became synonymous with “traitor” or “collaborator.” The Quisling government implemented policies aligning with Nazi ideology, including the persecution of Jews, communists, and other perceived enemies of the Reich. The Quisling regime actively participated in the persecution of Norwegian Jews. In 1942, the government ordered the registration of all Jews in Norway, which facilitated their arrest and deportation. Around 770 Norwegian Jews were deported to concentration camps, with the vast majority perishing in the Holocaust.

From the Alhambra Decree to Franco’s regime: Antisemitism in Spain

Spain’s history of antisemitism is long-standing. The Alhambra Decree, also known as the Edict of Expulsion, was a royal decree issued by Catholic Monarchs King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile on March 31, 1492. The decree ordered the expulsion of Jews from the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon. This event significantly diminished the Jewish population in Spain for centuries. An estimated 200,000 families fled to North Africa, the Ottoman Empire, Italy, the Netherlands, and other parts of Europe, changing the fate of Sephardic Jews for centuries to come. Before and during the early years of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), Francisco Franco and his Nationalist forces exhibited antisemitic tendencies, influenced by the prevalent European fascist ideologies. Anti-Jewish propaganda was used as part of the Nationalist rhetoric, portraying Jews as enemies of Spain, often in connection with communists and Freemasons.

Ireland’s Jewish history and solidarity with Palestine

Jews were largely absent from Ireland from the late Middle Ages until the 17th century. With the restoration of the monarchy in England in the late 17th century, Jews were permitted to settle in Ireland. However, they faced legal and social restrictions, and their numbers remained small. Historically, antisemitism in Ireland was often rooted in religious prejudices, stemming from Catholic teachings and sentiments. Irish political parties and leaders have frequently spoken out against Israeli government policies, particularly regarding the occupation of Palestinian territories, settlement expansion, and the blockade of Gaza. Ireland has called for an end to the occupation and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Irish solidarity with the Palestinian cause led to the establishment of some of the largest solidarity movements in Europe, such as Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) and Palestine Campaign Ireland (PCI), including boycott campaigns against Israeli goods and calls for sanctions against Israel. Recently, a stewardess on the Irish low-cost airline Ryanair caused an uproar on a flight to Tel Aviv, telling passengers they were landing in Palestine. During a flight from Bologna, Italy to Tel Aviv, she repeatedly said over the PA system in both English and Italian that the final destination was “occupied Palestine.” In an official statement, Ryanair airline called the incident an “innocent mistake.”

These historical precedents, along with contemporary incidents, add a troubling layer to their recognition of Palestine. Strong anti-Israel sentiment in these countries has often crossed into antisemitism, complicating the motivations behind their current stances. Moreover, the decision exposes apparent hypocrisy, particularly for Spain. Spain’s severe stance on the Catalonia and Basque independence movements contrasts starkly with its support for Palestinian statehood. While denying self-determination to Catalans and Basques, Spain advocates for Palestinian self-determination, revealing a double standard in its policies.

In response to the announcement, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz ordered the recall of ambassadors, stating, “Israel will not overlook those who question its sovereignty and endanger its security.” He warned that these “reckless decisions” will have “consequences.”

As the three nations take a leap, recognizing Palestine, the question is: Is it solidarity or political high-jump?

About the Author
Giuseppe Levi Pezzulli ("Bepi") is a Solicitor specialised in International financial law and a foreign policy scholar. His research interest is economic statecraft. In 2018, he published "An alternative view of Brexit" (Milano Finanza Books), which investigates the economic and geopolitical implications of Brexit. In 2023, "Brave bucks" (Armando Publishing House), which highlights the role of private capital in the industrial policy mix. Formerly an Editor-in-Chief of La Voce Repubblicana; is a columnist for the Italian daily financial newspaper Milano Finanza; a pundit for the financial TV channel CNBC; and a Middle East analyst for Longitude magazine. He received degrees at Luiss Guido Carli in Rome (LLB), New York University (LLM), and Columbia University (JD).
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