Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Spain, with more public expressions and greater acceptance of virulent anti-Jewish attitudes, according to a newly issued report from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
Polluting the Public Square: Anti-Semitic Discourse in Spain examines recent trends in Spain, including anti-Semitic criticism during Israel’s three-week military campaign in Gaza last winter; viciously anti-Semitic cartoons and articles in Spain’s mainstream media; and opinion polls conducted over the last year showing an alarming rise in anti-Semitic attitudes.
“We are deeply concerned about the mainstreaming of anti-Semitism in Spain, with more public expressions and greater public acceptance of classic stereotypes,” said ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman.
“Among the major European countries, only in Spain have we seen viciously anti-Semitic cartoons in the mainstream media, and street protests where Israel is accused of genocide and Jews are vilified and compared to Nazis.”
The report was formally presented by ADL to Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos at a meeting today at the Spanish Mission to the United Nations. Moratinos responded that the government will be conducting additional surveys and research on anti-Semitism in Spain and committed to facilitate meetings for ADL with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Justice, to enable the League to share with them its expertise in combating anti-Semitism, hatred, prejudice and bigotry of all kinds.
The League has regularly raised the issue of anti-Semitic discourse with Moratinos and other officials in the Spanish government.
Anti-Semitic caricature published in 'El Mundo' (from ADL report)
One of the concerns raised in the report is how in Spain, what is presented as legitimate criticism of Israel often crosses the line into anti-Semitism.
“Opinion makers in Spain are crossing the line that separates legitimate criticism of Israeli actions from anti-Semitism, and the results are evident,” said Foxman. “Our polling shows an alarming rise in anti-Semitic attitudes.”
Among the report’s findings:
- Spain’s major newspapers, El País and El Mundo, have published viciously anti-Semitic cartoons, including a Hasidic Jew with barbed-wire sidelocks and Jews manipulating the world with money for nefarious ends. Opinion pieces in the mainstream press have explicitly compared Israel with the Nazi regime, an equation the European Union’s anti-racism organization considers anti-Semitic.
- Since 2002, Spain has been among the countries with the most negative views of Jews. A 2009 ADL poll found that three-quarters of all Spaniards believe Jews have “too much power” in international financial markets; nearly two-thirds believe Jews are not loyal to Spain; and more than half think Jews have “too much power in business.”
- Anti-Semitic placards were commonplace at anti-Israel demonstrations in Spain last January. In addition to open shows of support for the terrorist group Hamas and the burning of Israeli flags, anti-Semitic comparisons of Israel to the Nazi regime were all too common.
- While reports of anti-Semitic acts targeting Jews or Jewish institutions have been rare, the report notes three troubling incidents thus far in 2009: The vandalism of a Chabad House in Barcelona on January 11; a violet attack against an employee of a synagogue in Barcelona on January 30; and the harassment of Israel’s ambassador to Spain, who was verbally assaulted on the street on May 5 by three men who shouted “dirty Jew,” “Jew bastard” and “Jewish dog.”
“While Spain’s Jewish community has rarely come under physical attack in recent years, history tells us that incitement by some and indifference by many can create an atmosphere conducive to violence against Jews. Spain is not immune to this phenomenon,” said Foxman. “Political and civic leaders, including the highest officials of the Spanish government, must act against the mainstreaming of hatred before it leads to the mainstreaming of violence.
“Spain has hate speech laws and the current government has formally committed to combating racism,” he added. “We expect the government to shoulder their responsibilities, and we urge all opinion-makers in Spanish society to ensure that their public statements do not demonize Jews, the State of Israel, or include other expressions of anti-Semitism.”