The Spanish state of Navarre voted to endorse the BDS movement against Israel, calling on the European Union to impose sanctions on Israel, while slamming the United States’ decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to “occupied Jerusalem.”
More than 50 Spanish cities and regions have passed motions condemning Israel. Driven by the rise of the political far-left in Spain, this proliferation of anti-Israel activism is establishing the kingdom as the most anti-Israel member state in the E.U., reports the Gatestone Institute.
If Spain truly cared about Israel’s “occupation,” why does the kingdom continue to preserve its own colonialist legacy? Since 1815, Spain has occupied the Portuguese town of Olivenza, despite signing a treaty agreeing to return control to Portugal.
Spain has also refused to acquiesce to demands of Basque separatists seeking to create an independent homeland in northern Spain, while also maintaining control over the plazas de soberanía, and the cities of Ceuta and Melilla, despite being claimed by Morocco as their sovereign land.
But Spain’s most flagrant violation of its neighbors’ sovereignty came last year, when it refused to respect the autonomy of Catalonia and its desire to secede from Spain. In a referendum in late 2017, an overwhelming 90 percent of Catalans voted in favor of independence. The Spanish government responded by arresting Catalan independence leader Jordi Sànchez, imprisoning him for the past eight months on charges of sedition.
Ironically, Catalans often compare their situation to the Jewish people. As an oppressed nation, Jews survived for centuries without an independent state and fulfilled their national aspirations with the rebirth of the modern State of Israel. Catalans have yet to do so.
Why does the Spanish government pursue this hypocritical, anti-Israel foreign policy? In a poll commissioned by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 58.4 percent of Spaniards believe that “the Jews were powerful because they controlled the economy and the mass media.” This number reached 62.2 percent among university students and 70.5 percent among those who expressed interest in politics. More than 60 percent of Spanish university students said they did not want Jewish classmates.
Among those with antipathy towards the Jewish people, nearly 30 percent surveyed said their dislike of Jews had to do with the Jewish religion, customs and way of life, while nearly 20 percent of Spaniards said they didn’t know why they disliked Jews. Note that only 17 percent of respondents attributed their dislike of Jews to the “conflict in the Middle East.”
During the Spanish Inquisition begun in 1492, Jews were expelled from what is today Navarre as part of a bloody campaign of anti-Jewish persecution, wiping out one of history’s most illustrious and successful Jewish communities. Today, nearly half of all Spaniards view Jews negatively, according to the Pew Research Center, making Spain possibly the most anti-Semitic country in Europe.
Is it any wonder that this past decade, historical anti-Jewish tropes have made a comeback in Spain’s media? Spanish newspapers and magazines regularly contain cartoons in which Jewish symbols are linked to the killing of children. The satirical magazine El Jueves displayed a front-page caricature of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with a pig’s face, a Jewish skullcap and a Nazi swastika. Spain’s flagship newspaper El País has continuously portrayed Palestinian terrorists as innocent victims, while dehumanizing murdered Jewish children.
The rampant anti-Israel sentiment in Spain is not about Middle East politics. Rather, it has everything to do with Spain’s endemic anti-Jewish bigotry.
Bradley Martin is a senior fellow with the news and public-policy group Haym Salomon Center and deputy editor at the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.