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(photo credit: AP)
Ambassador to Spain Rafi Shotz came under an anti-Semitic verbal barrage when he and his wife walked home from Real Madrid's Santiago BernabÃ©u Stadium on Saturday.
Shotz said that following the game against FC Barcelona, three men wearing Real Madrid scarves spotted him and began screaming anti-Semitic epithets such as "dirty Jew," "Jew bastard" and "Jew murderer."
Shotz, who said that the shouts were heard all over the street, was told by his two Spanish bodyguards to keep walking.
The ambassador, who reported the incident to Jerusalem in a cable back to the Foreign Ministry, said that the word Israel was not heard. "It was classic anti-Semitism," he said.
According to the envoy, his bodyguards made their presence known, which likely kept the three men in their 20s from trying to do anything physical. The taunts continued until he walked some 50 or 100 meters away.
Both an official from the Spanish Foreign Ministry, and the Spanish ambassador in Israel, Ãlvaro Iranzo GutiÃ©rrez, called Shotz to apologize after hearing about the incident.
"I didn't feel physically threatened," he said. "I felt uncomfortable, but I did not feel threatened physically because of the two Spanish bodyguards with me."
Shotz, who has served in Colombia and Chile, said this was the first time he experienced anything like this "face-to-face," although during Operation Cast Lead a number of similar messages were left on the embassy's answering machine.
The men did not seem to be drunk, and their Spanish was fluent, he said. No one attempted to silence them, even though they were screaming for quite some time.
Shotz said he was recognized because during the recent war in Gaza he appeared numerous times in the media. He did not file an official complaint with the Spanish Foreign Ministry, because that would give the incident "diplomatic significance."
Shotz said that there was undoubtedly anti-Semitism in Spain, and that this was evident in the media during the war in Gaza. On the other hand, he wanted to be careful about generalizing, and it was important for him to point out that the government was doing much to further understanding of Judaism.
"We need to be careful about generalizations," he said, "but on the other hand we have to be careful about dismissing this simply as an act of football hooliganism. There is an anti-Semitic problem that is perhaps not unique to Spain, but it definitely exits here.
"This was like a blow to the stomach," he said. "I was not physically afraid, but the depth of the hatred - these are things you read about and hear about in the media, but when you face it personally, it is different."