A few days ago we came back with Ali from our trip to the Basque country. I still retain the power and deep impressions of this visit. The journey was meaningful not only because of the eventful program, but because of its personal significance.
It all started with an invitation sent by the Sabino Arana Foundation asking a delegation from the Forum to participate. The seminar was to be held in Bilbao and based on the topic: "Positive Peace – a Possible Challenge".
We were very pleased to learn that the Sabino Arana Foundation is not a radical Basque nationalist institution and that it was a most valuable venue for the PCFF messages. Our loyal and well-informed representative in Spain, Federico Zukierman, who understands the nuances of the Spanish culture and politics assured us that the hosting institution was very appropriate to channel our message to the Basque public. He emphasized that the Sabino Arana Foundation is related to the PNV (Nationalist Basque Party): "indeed imbued with nationalist spirit, but strongly rejects ETA's terrorism, and strives to eliminate violence.
The organizers invited two "couples" from abroad: the representatives of the PCFF, Ali and I, and two individuals that represented the reconciliation effort in Northern Ireland – Jo Berry, President of two organizations "Building Bridges for Peace" and the "International Peace Network" and Pat Magee, a former IRA member convicted of the murder of Jo's father among others. Attendees carefully listened to the testimonies of the two couples.
President-elect of the Basque Country, the Lehendakari, Mr. Patxi Lopez, received us in his office where he expressed his sympathy and solidarity with our struggle to resolving the conflict. Mr. Patxi Lopez, the son of an important socialist trade unionist whom I met in the eighties, was excited to hear about his late father's visit to Israel.
PCFF delegation visits the Lehendakari, President of the Basque Country, Patxi Lopez.
There is not enough space in this short summary to describe all the important meetings and discussions we participated in during our visit to Madrid, Bilbao, San Sebastian and Vitoria.
One of the most emotional highlights of our program was the visit to the town of Guernica and its Peace Museum. For many generations the Basque town of Guernica has existed as a quiet spiritual centre and a powerful symbol of Basque identity.
Guernica was chosen as a "test site" for the first air raid on a civilian population by the Fascist and Nazi air forces at the height of the Spanish Civil War. On April 26, 1937, the aircraft descended upon the town and destroyed it. A dramatic journalistic account of the event was published throughout the world and inspired the monumental painting by Pablo Picasso. The work was presented at the opening of the Paris World's Fair in 1938, and became the pre-eminent symbol of the struggle against fascism of the twentieth century. Luis Iriondo A.,one of the men who survived the bombing and still remembers the day with exceptional accuracy, escorted us during our visit and shared his impressions of the event as a 14-year-old eye witness.
PCFF delegation visits Guernica. From the left: Federico, Juan Gutiérrez, Luis Iriondo, Aaron. Pat Magee and Ali.
During our visit to Madrid, we met Senator Ruth Porta Cantoni, Secretary General of the Socialist fraction at the Senat and Socialist Senate Fraction spokeswoman Carmela Silva Rego. We also met Eduardo Guriérrez Sanz, a central figure of the opposition party ( the PP or Popular Party) who may play a pivotal role at the Foreign Ministry if his party wins the election.
Additionally, while in Madrid, we were introduced to the head of the Human Rights Department of the Spanish Foreign Ministry and we have a solid basis to believe that the PCFF will also enjoy significant support for its educational activities.
Other significant meetings in Madrid were the one with the Socialist leader Pedro Zerolo, who's in charge with the contacts with social movements and the meeting with Diego Carcedo who's the International President of the Association of European Journalists. We met also Esteban Ibarra, President of the Movement against Intolerance, a friend and staunch supporter of the PCFF, who was an important factor in enabling our trip to Spain. Of particular meaning for me were meeting an old friend and still active prominent leader an Socialist parliamentarian, Tziki Benegas as well as old and solid friends Manuel Simón and Manuel Bonmati, both of them, International Secretaries of the Socialist trade union central UGT. Simón was the first international secretary of UGT after Franco"s death and Bonmati followed him and is still in this fusnction at the UGT.
By all accounts our journey to Spain was an exciting and most successful. Federico Zukierman's contribution was crucial for this success. I will also take this opportunity to say that due to Federico’s efforts the Friends of the Forum is now legally registered in Spain and formally recognized in Spain, a fact that opens for us new perspectives and opportunities.
Pablo Picasso's Guernica – art heralding a new age
Upper picture: SunRa Lambert