Spanish Anti-Semitism is Alive and Well
Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip is drawing attention, once again, to the persistent scourge of anti-Semitism in Spain.
As in many other European countries, Spanish media coverage of the conflict has been decidedly biased against Israel. Print and broadcast media from across the political spectrum have portrayed Israel as the aggressor, and have made scant effort to report that the current conflict was prompted by rocket attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza that escalated even before Hamas-affiliated militants kidnapped and murdered three Jewish teenagers in June.
Beyond the biased reporting, which is actually nothing new, some of the anti-Israel rhetoric in Spain has become so virulent that it has plainly crossed the line into unabashed anti-Semitism, observers say.
A glaring example involves the center-right El Mundo, the second-largest circulation newspaper in Spain, which on June 24 published a blatantly anti-Semitic op-ed article that decries the war in Gaza and seeks to justify the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries on the basis that they "were not made to coexist with others."
The article—entitled, "The Chosen Ones?"—was written by Antonio Gala, an award-winning octogenarian novelist and playwright whose deep-seated disdain for Israel and the Jewish people is self-evident. Gala writes:
This is not the first time El Mundo—a newspaper close to the ruling center-right Popular Party—has published one of Gala's anti-Semitic screeds.
In a column published by El Mundo in December 2012, Gala accused Israel of "making a living out of post-World War II guilt." In another column published in June 2012, Gala said the Jews have no one to blame but themselves for the persecution they suffered in medieval Spain.
In a column published by El Mundo in September 2011, Gala wrote that Israelis are "bloodthirsty" and are themselves to blame for the "antipathy that the Jew awakens in the non-Jew." In another column published in February 2009, Gala wrote that "Jewish greed" is the reason why Jews have been persecuted throughout history. He added:
It remains unclear why El Mundo continues to publish Gala's anti-Semitic rants. Presumably, the newspaper's editors believe that anti-Semitism is good for business.
The Jewish Community of Madrid has now said enough is enough. On July 29 it filed a lawsuit against Gala for violating a Spanish law prohibiting anti-Semitic hate speech.
To be sure, the newspaper's anti-Israel bias has not been limited to the op-ed pages. On July 21, for example, El Mundo published an essay entitled, "From the Nazi to the Zionist Holocaust," in which Najib Abu-Warda, a Palestinian professor of international relations at the Complutense University of Madrid, accuses Israel of "committing crimes of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, aggression and state-sponsored terrorism."
The article, which El Mundo describes as an "analysis," is laced with Palestinian historical revisionism that repeatedly denies the legitimacy of the State of Israel. In a barefaced lie, for example, Abu-Warda asserts that a Palestinian state was actually in existence 100 years ago, before it was occupied by the British after World War I, and later partitioned by the United Nations in order to create a Jewish state "on top of part of Palestine."
In fact, Palestine has never existed as an autonomous state, nor has there ever been a distinct "Palestinian" culture or language. In 1977, the Dutch newspaper Trouw published an interview with Palestine Liberation Organization official Zuheir Mohsen, who admitted:
Abu-Warda ends his article with a threat against Israel:
To its discredit, El Mundo has made no effort to refute Abu-Warda's falsehoods by pointing out that Hamas has deliberately been using its own citizens as human shields, placing rockets and explosives in or near schools and mosques, and using a hospital as a command center.
Meanwhile, Spanish actor Javier Bardem accused Israel of committing "genocide" against the Palestinian people. In an open letter that was published by El Mundo on July 25, Bardem wrote:
Bardem denied that he was anti-Semitic by noting that he has many Jewish friends and that his child was born at a Jewish hospital in Los Angeles.
A subsequent open letter signed by more than 100 Spanish actors who represent the vanguard of Spain's ideological left, condemned Israeli "genocide" against the "civilian population of Palestine."
According to Spanish analyst Ángel Mas, the frivolous accusations of Israeli genocide are a reflection of the Spanish left's deep-seated anti-Semitism disguised as legitimate criticism of Israel. In an op-ed article entitled, "The Delegitimizers of Israel," Mas writes:
Elsewhere in Spain, a Roman Catholic religious festival in honor of the Apostle James in the Spanish city of Ceuta on July 25 was hijacked by activists protesting the "extermination of the Palestinian people." A video of the demonstration, which was held in front of the only synagogue in Ceuta, and was attended by dozens of local officials, shows a local Muslim politician shouting into a megaphone:
On July 24, SOS Gaza, a coalition of more than 40 Spanish pro-Palestinian NGOs, organized a protest in front of the Israeli embassy in Madrid. Protestors held banners condemning Israeli "genocide," "war crimes," and "super terror." One banner read: "You are making Hitler look like a saint." A protest organizer told Spanish media that Israel is once again committing war crimes, which "has always been linked to the history of Israel since the creation of their state."
On July 23, the United Left (IU), a coalition of far left political parties, called on the Spanish government to expel the Israeli ambassador to Spain and to suspend diplomatic relations with Israel.
Also on July 23, a coalition of Spanish feminist organizations called on the Spanish government to isolate the "Zionist government" through an economic boycott because of the "planned genocide that Israel has been carrying out for more than sixty years against the Palestinian people."
The statement added: "We cannot remain indifferent and silent, as if such events did not concern Spanish women, feminists and any other honorable association."
On July 16, pro-Palestinian activists called on the organizers of the Vitoria Jazz Festival, an annual jazz festival held in the Basque Country, to prevent the Israeli singer Noa from performing at the event. Her performance went ahead as planned, but was interrupted by shouts of "Israeli genocide" and "Free Palestine."
Spanish activists often claim that they are not anti-Semitic, just critical of Israeli policies. In practice, however, they are obsessed with Israel and the Jews, especially if one considers that there has been virtually no public outcry whatsoever in Spain over the deaths of more than 160,000 people during three years of fighting in Syria; the decimation of ancient Christian communities at the hands of Islamists in Iraq; the kidnapping of 300 girls by Islamists in Nigeria; or the downing of a civilian passenger plane in Ukraine.
In an essay in the Basque newspaper Diario Vasco, commentator Alberto Moyano reflects on Spanish society's "perplexing moral inconsistency" when it comes to Israel:
The depth of anti-Semitism in Spanish society was brought to the fore in May 2014, after nearly 18,000 people posted comments on Twitter using profane and anti-Semitic hashtags after Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Real Madrid in the final of Europe's main basketball tournament.
Spanish police specializing in hate crimes launched a formal investigation but said they were able to identify only five Twitter users (the rest were apparently anonymous). Some of the more hateful tweets included:
Maccabi Tel Aviv said that while it had dealt with anti-Semitism while playing in Spain in the past, "nothing like this has ever been experienced."
Meanwhile, opinion polls consistently show that Spain is one of the most anti-Semitic countries in Europe.
A May 2014 survey by the Anti-Defamation League places Spain as the third most anti-Semitic country in Europe, behind Greece and France. Separately, the latest "Report on Anti-Semitism in Spain," published in May 2013, shows a steep jump in anti-Semitic attacks in Spain.
The document records anti-Semitic attacks on persons and on property, anti-Semitism in the Spanish media and on the Internet, efforts to trivialize the Jewish Holocaust, dissemination of anti-Semitic literature, as well as anti-Semitism in public institutions.
According to a poll commissioned by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 58.4% of Spaniards believe that "the Jews are powerful because they control the economy and the mass media." This number reaches 62.2% among university students and 70.5% among those who are "interested in politics." More than 60% of Spanish university students say they do not want Jewish classmates. "These numbers are as surprising as they are worrying: the most anti-Semitic people are supposedly the most educated and well-informed," the report says.
The poll also shows that more than one-third (34.6%) of Spanish people have an unfavorable or completely unfavorable opinion of Jewish people. But as in other European countries, anti-Semitism is more prevalent on the political left than it is on the political right. For example, 34% of those on the far right say they are hostile to Jews, while 37.7% of those on the center-left are hostile to Jews. And sympathy for Jews among the extreme right (4.9 on a scale of 1-10) is above the average for the population as a whole (4.6).
Among those who recognize themselves as having "antipathy for the Jewish people," only 17% says this is due to the "conflict in the Middle East." Nearly 30% of those surveyed say their dislike of Jews has to do with "their religion," "their customs," and "their way of life." Nearly 20% of Spaniards say they dislike Jews although they do not know why.
The survey data on Spanish anti-Semitism raises many questions, including one that seems never to have been asked: How many Spaniards have actually ever met a Jew? Not very many, it would appear. In fact, Spain today has one of the smallest Jewish communities in Europe; the country has only around 40,000 Jews out of a total Spanish population of 47 million, which works out to less than 0.08 percent.
Reflecting on the sad state of affairs in contemporary Spain, the Spanish Jewish author Jacobo Israel Garzón, writes:
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.
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