Catalonia vs Spain: Democracy tested (Opinion – The Jerusalem Post)
Article by Ksenia Svetlova, Israeli politician, journalist, associate professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and policy fellow at the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies. She serves as a member of Knesset for the Zionist Union
Anyone who wants to understand the essence of last week’s dramatic events in Catalonia, to acknowledge what the referendum on independence was really about, should come to see the Eternal Flame in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona.
The Fossar de los Moreres is a memorial square, situated close to the Maria del Mar basilica. The monument was built after a communal grave of the defenders of the city, slaughtered following the Siege of Barcelona at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714, was discovered. 300 years later the memory is still alive, and fresh flowers are laid there every day.
Two days prior to the referendum, a huge rally took place at Montjuïc. Many thousands of Catalans, Spaniards and Europeans were there to support the referendum and each other, singing hymns of Catalonia and patriotic songs. Many of these songs had connotations of the Frankist period, when the Catalonian language was forbidden and those who tried to spread knowledge about Catalonian history and heritage were persecuted. The grandfather of a friend who lives in Barcelona was fined for speaking Catalonian on the phone sometime during the sixties.
The historical memory of injustice and persecution runs deep in Catalonians, regardless of their support for or objection to separation from Spain. The brutal force that was used by Spanish police against the voters who came to the polling stations was just another link in this historical chain.
On Sunday morning, October 1, I found myself in the midst of a violent and bloody event that felt much more like something that would happen in the Middle East than in Europe. As a part of an international parliamentary delegation of observers on the referendum, I visited a few polling stations in Barcelona, Terragona, Valls and other Catalonian cities.
By 10 a.m. we had already witnessed the Guarida Civil – the national police force – confiscating ballot boxes and other voting equipment, dispersing voters by force, shuttering schools doors and windows.
Then the shooting begun and rubber bullets started to fly. Later these bullets were picked up by plainclothes policeman.
One minute prior to the shooting the young people holding hands and sitting together on the ground were singing beautifully, the next moment they were screaming in pain and horror. Older people around us said that it brought up bad memories from Spain’s recent authoritarian past; the young ones, who grew up believing that human rights and freedom of expression are sacred, were speechless.
Over 850 Spanish citizens were wounded during the day of the referendum, when placards with words “Mes Democracia” decorate the exquisite buildings of Barcelona. Those who beat and shot them were Spanish citizens, too. Blood was spilled in the heart of Europe with very few voices inside the EU condemning the excessive use of violence.
Original article: http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Catalonia-vs-Spain-democracy-tested-506676