Spain emerged as one of the most anti-Semitic countries in the European Union in 2010, and the Spanish government has done nothing about it, according to the authors of an annual report that tracks anti-Semitic violence on the Iberian Peninsula. The "dangerous" and "extraordinary" rise in anti-Semitism comes at a time when Spain is mired in the worst economic recession in its modern history, and the authors of the report conclude that Jews are increasingly becoming a scapegoat for the economic and social problems facing Spain.
The document titled "Report on Anti-Semitism in Spain in 2010" was jointly produced by the Observatory on Anti-Semitism in Spain, an arm of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain (FCJE), and a non-governmental organization called the Movement against Intolerance. The report was made public at a well attended press conference in Madrid on March 30.
The report, which says there were around 400 anti-Semitic incidents in Spain during 2010, 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.
The report also provides data derived from opinion polls. For example, 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.
In other polling data, 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 new findings corroborate earlier research. For example, according to a September 2008 study published by the Washington, DC-based Pew Research Center, nearly half of all Spaniards have negative views of Jews, a statistic that marks Spain as one of the most anti-Semitic countries in Europe. According to Pew, 46% of Spaniards hold negative opinions of Jews, up more than double from the 21% of Spaniards with such views in 2005.
Spain is also the only country in Europe where negative views of Jews outweigh positive views; only 37% of Spaniards think favorably about Jews. By comparison, 36% of Poles have negative views of Jews while 50% have positive views; in Germany, 25% negative versus 64% positive; in France, 20% negative versus 79% positive; and in Britain, 9% negative versus 73% positive. (By way of comparison, according to Pew, 77% of Americans have favorable views toward Jews, compared to 7% unfavorable.)
Another report about European anti-Semitism published by the New York-based Anti-Defamation League says that 54% of Spaniards believe that "Jews have too much power in international markets." And 51% of Spaniards believe that "Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country."
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.
By contrast, in France -- which with 500,000 Jews has the third largest Jewish population in the world (after Israel and the United States) -- attitudes towards Jews are relatively positive when compared to those in Spain. (Of course, it is entirely possible that Spaniards are just being more honest than other Europeans about their true feelings towards Jews, thereby skewing the statistics and masking the true extent of the problem on other parts of the continent. After all, there are good reasons why more than one quarter of French Jewry wants to leave France.)
What explains the dramatic increase in Spanish anti-Semitism since 2005, especially considering that the only exposure most Spaniards have ever had to Jews is through television?
Pew, in a politically correct sleight-of-hand, says the blame lies with "those who place themselves near the right end of the political spectrum." But most professional observers of contemporary Spanish politics lay the blame squarely with Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who took office in 2004, and since then has managed to drive Spanish-Israeli relations to their worst point since bilateral diplomatic ties were established in 1986.
Zapatero, who makes no secret of his postmodern dislike of Zionism, is well known in Spain for his anti-Israel and anti-Jewish outbursts. At a dinner party in the Moncloa Palace (the Spanish White House) in 2005, for example, Zapatero addressed his guests by launching into a tirade of anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist rhetoric that ended with the phrase: "It is understandable that someone might justify the Holocaust."
Zapatero has also sought to restore Spain's traditionally strong ties with the Arab world by ingratiating himself with Israel's enemies. During the 2006 Lebanon War, for example, Zapatero participated in an anti-Israel rally where he wrapped himself in a Palestinian kaffiyeh (scarf) and gratuitously accused Israel of using "abusive force that does not protect innocent human beings." Zapatero then dispatched his foreign minister to Syria, a move the Israeli foreign ministry said proved that the Spanish government was "closer to Hezbollah terrorists than to the Israeli government."
Zapatero, who refuses to visit Israel (even though the two countries commemorated 20 years of diplomatic ties in 2006), also refers to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a "cancer" that is metastasizing into all the other conflicts in the region. As a disciple of postmodern moral equivalency, Zapatero naturally believes the "cancer" is Israel, not Islamic terrorism.
Spanish anti-Semitism is also being stoked by the non-stop anti-Israel rhetoric of Spain's leftwing intellectual and media elites, most of whom are enthusiastic sycophants of Zapatero and his pro-Arab, pro-Islam worldview. Indeed, Spanish radio, television and print media, much of which is directly or indirectly controlled by the Socialist government, is notoriously biased against Israel. As most Spaniards do not speak foreign languages, they have little or no access to alternative sources of information, which goes a long way toward explaining Spanish attitudes towards Jews, especially of the Israeli variety.
Add to this the Spanish media's bizarre obsession with neo-conservatism, which in Spain has become a pejorative term denoting a conspiracy to promote Jewish domination of the world. Many ordinary Spaniards, who otherwise show little interest in foreign affairs, seem to have deep-seated opinions about those Jews Frum, Kristol, Pearle, Podhertz and Wolfowitz, et al.
Zapatero and his cabinet ministers have also played the neo-con card to explain to the Spanish public why the Spanish economy is tottering on the edge of catastrophe. Although analysts had warned for many years that the Spanish housing bubble was unsustainable, Zapatero ignored them, saying those fears were overblown. But now that the bubble has burst, Spain's unemployment rate has skyrocketed to more than 20%, the highest level in the industrialized world. Some 4.7 million Spaniards are now without work and looking for someone to blame.
Zapatero says Spain's problems are due to "the neo-conservative model based on capitalism without borders nor limits nor ethics." That's postmodern Zapatero-speak for "the Jews are to blame." More recently, Zapatero ordered Spain's official intelligence agency, the National Intelligence Center (CNI), to investigate whether the "Anglo-Saxon media" (aka the English-language press dominated by Jews) is conspiring to undermine the Spanish economy.
The official anti-Semitic rhetoric in Spain has reached such a fever pitch that members of the U.S. Congress recently sent a letter to Zapatero in which they expressed their concerns about growing anti-Semitism in Spain. The ADL has also published a special report titled "Polluting the Public Square: Anti-Semitic Discourse In Spain." The report says: "ADL is deeply concerned about the mainstreaming of anti-Semitism in Spain, with more public expressions and greater public acceptance. Opinion makers in the media and in politics are crossing the line that separates legitimate criticism of Israeli actions from anti-Semitism and the results are evident."
But just as Spaniards get smug about their self-perceived racial superiority, along comes a study which says that many Spanish anti-Semites actually have Jewish blood. An examination of the genetic signatures of the Spanish population shows that 20% of contemporary Spaniards have Jewish origins. As it turns out, far fewer Jews than previously thought complied with the Edict of Expulsion in 1492, by which the estimated 800,000 Jews in Spain were ordered to leave the country. Many of them simply converted to Roman Catholicism instead.
Many of those so-called conversos tried to blend in by adopting surnames that indicated trades or professions. One such Sephardic name is Zapatero, which means shoemaker.