Is Spain truly atoning for its age-old anti-Semitism?

IT should come as no surprise to those familiar with the odious publication that the Spanish magazine El Jueves – ‘Thursday’ in local lingo – is facing the threat of legal action from Madrid’s Jewish community.
The Barcelona-based weekly, which styles itself an Iberian version of France’s anarchic Charlie Hebdo, long ago abused the right to be considered satirical. Often as puerile as it is gratuitously offensive, far-Left El Jueves plays by no known journalistic rules, with nothing and nobody off-limits.
Spain's monarchy is a regular target. But, in 2007, the royals had the publication sequestered and its editors fined €6,000 for publishing a cartoon depicting (the then) Prince Felipe (now King Felipe VI) having sex with his wife, Letizia, insinuating that if a pregnancy resulted he could claim a parenthood grant of €2,500, the first gainful employment in his life.
Then, in 2014, El Jueves' owners pulled a cartoon depicting King Juan Carlos abdicating in favor of his son by passing on a crown of steaming excrement, causing 14 of its staff to quit in a hissy fit.
Fortunately for the monarchy it is protected by law from being so
 outrageously lampooned, a privilege that doesn’t extend to Spain’s few Jews.
Which is why the capital’s Jewish community is considering legal recourse against El Jueves, following its recent printing of a comic-strip which could have been lifted straight from Nazi spinmeister, Joseph Goebbels’ manual of anti-Semitic vitriol.
The repulsive artwork – featuring a hook-nosed Jew abusing Jesus, an Israeli soldier urinating on an Arab and an accusation that Jerusalem’s Israel Museum keeps a Torah wrapped in scrotum skin – is not the first time El Jueves has indulged in unadulterated, Jew-baiting bilge.
Yet it’s hardly alone, because the Spanish media across the political spectrum has, at times, been similarly culpable. Even mainstream dailies – notably centre-Right El Mundo – have published unambiguous, anti-Semitic dross. And Spanish TV coverage of various Israel-Palestinian conflicts rarely bothers airing the Jewish state’s side of the story.
Even by sorry European standards, no other country seems as obsessed as Spain in vilifying Israel/Jews with such brazen contempt. Which is why it has also been seized upon by gobby, Left-leaning celebs.
This was exemplified in 2014, when Spain’s premier luvvies, Javier Bardem and his wife, Penelope Cruz, penned an open letter supporting racist writer, Antonio Gala’s tirade in El Mundo, proposing Spain’s 50,000 Jews be kicked out, since ‘it is though they were not made to co-exist’.
Renowned for fiery radicalism, Bardem damned the last Israel-Hamas clash as ‘genocide’ and ‘a war of occupation and extermination against a people without means, confined to a minimum of land, without water and where hospitals, ambulances and children are targets and presumed to be terrorists.’
But, after the missive provoked worldwide rage – non-Jewish star, Jon Voigt, accused them of promoting anti-Semitism– the pair hastily backtracked, issuing a cringe of mea culpas, Cruz pleading, ‘I’m not an expert on the [complex] situation’, Bardem parroting his ‘great respect for the people of Israel and deep compassion for their losses.’
Quite what Jewish film-makers, Woody Allen and the Coen Brothers – whose genius gifted the hypocritical duo ‘Best Supporting’ Oscars – made of that contrition isn’t known, but it must have comes as some relief to their agent and bank manager.
To most outsiders, then, Spanish hostility towards Jews is hardly news.
After all, it dates back to 1492 when their Catholic majesties, Ferdinand and Isabella, conquered the last remaining Muslim stronghold, Granada, changed the Arabic name of El Andalus to Andalusia and banished the 300,000 indigenous Jews.
Some who remained were forcibly converted to Catholicism. But, as ‘conversos’ they were regularly subject to terror from the Inquisition, after jealous neighbors and business rivals claimed they practiced the old faith on the sly.
And Franco’s brutal fascist regime, strongly influenced by the Catholic Church, cranked up the anti-Semitic rhetoric, despite Spain being ‘Judenrein’ for five centuries.
Even after 1975 and the dictator’s death, when democracy crashed through the granite barrier of the Pyrenees and Spain’s age of repressive isolation ended, Jew-hatred lingered like a nasty rash.
This was underlined by a 2008 Pew survey, which reported 46% of Spaniards harbored negative views of Jews – then the highest percentage per head of population in Europe – while a report by Spain’s Education Ministry revealed over 50% of students said they’d refuse to sit next to a Jew in class.
The flames of Spanish anti-Semitism were further fanned by Jose Luis Zapatero, when the Left-wing, pro-Arab ideologue was Prime Minister (2004-2008). Sporting an Arafat-style scarf, he regularly attacked Israel at pro-Palestinian demos that usually descend into vitriolic Jew-bashing.
The Mr. Bean lookalike – said to be a descendent of conversos, like 20% of Spaniards – was also reported to have once remarked, ‘It is understandable that someone might justify the Holocaust.’
However, in stark contrast to its ignominious past, Spain is discovering and lauding its Jewish heritage, as increasingly more of its medieval cities are showcasing their ancient Judaic sites and artifacts.
Skeptics say this is just Spain cashing in on a new revenue stream from tourists. Yet there is a growing body of opinion – including voices within the Jewish community, which constitutes 0.05% of the country’s 46.5-million populace – that insists anti-Semitism in today’s Spain is ‘mainly borne out of ignorance’ since so few Spaniards have met a Jew, wouldn’t recognise one or been exposed to pro-Jewish/Israel opinion.
They also point to the fact the Spanish government is now granting foreign Jews of provable Sephardi origin the ‘right of return’ and citizenship – it’s estimated that over 4,300 have applied – as yet another sign of changing times and softening attitudes.
Meanwhile, Spain’s lawmakers have voted to make Holocaust awareness education mandatory in schools.
All these maybe baby steps towards some kind of atonement for the country’s hideous transgressions against Jews, but at least they are positives.
How far – and how fast – Spain will go towards further redemption is anyone’s guess.
What is a given, though, is Jew-bashing offenders like El Jueves are finally being named and shamed on the international stage, which strikes a blow at thin-skinned Spanish sensibilities.