Spanish Jewish leader promotes solidarity with Israel

David Hatchwell Altaras slams anti-Israel actions back home.

altaras 311 (photo credit: courtesy)
altaras 311
(photo credit: courtesy)
David Hatchwell Altaras, the vice president of the 10,000- member Jewish community in Madrid, is part of a new group of Spanish Jewish leaders, including the community’s President Sam Bengio, who are seeking to solidify the relationship between Spanish Jews and Israel.
Speaking in Tel Aviv, Hatchwell Altaras told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that “the Diaspora has a new challenge: conveying the reality of Israel and fighting hand-in-hand with Israel in an organized way against the delegitimization campaigns.
“Jews and non-Jews have a very important role to play,” he said. “Spain is in the forefront of the delegitimization effort” and noted that “boycott Israel” posters blanketed telephone booths in Madrid on Wednesday.
He spent a good chunk of his time in Tel Aviv calling the firm that runs the booths to inform them that the signs are “illegal and promote hate.” The management has begun to remove the posters, he said.
He sharply criticized Spain’s Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals for excluding a delegation of gay Israelis who were slated to participate in a Madrid “pride” parade.
“It is outrageous, because an event that is supposed to celebrate diversity and freedom is falling into political correctness to isolate the only democracy in Middle East, where gay rights have advanced unlike other countries in the region,” he said.
The 42-year-old leader stressed that large parts of Spanish society share “the common values of human rights, democracy and plurality” with Israel but there is “bias in the media” in Spain.
He criticized the Spanish government’s “knee-jerk” reaction to slam Israel’s seizure of the Gaza flotilla.
The Spanish government should be “more even-handed and take more distance...the IHH activists attacked Israeli forces in order to have a specific outcome,”said Hatchwell Altaras.
He sees the campaign in Spain as part of an “orchestrated” Iranian, Hamas and Hizbullah effort to strip Israel of its right to exist.
“Spanish anti-Semitism is a mixture of ignorance about Judaism and anti-Israelism, which is bombarded everyday in the television, press and on the Internet.”
He said the Spanish authorities “are not tough” when dealing with anti-Semitism.
There are an estimated 20,000 Jews in Spain. Hatchwell Altaras and Sam Bengio, the president of Madrid’s community, the largest Jewish community in Spain, were elected two years ago.
“Anti-Semitism is clearly on the rise throughout the Western world. It is a comeback of the old virus in a new shape, focused against Israel,” said Hatchwell Altaras.
Violent anti-Israeli activity took place last week when a mob of roughly 200 anti-Israel activists assaulted Israeli businessmen at a renewable energy conference sponsored by the Spain-Israel Chamber of Commerce at Madrid’s Autonomous University.
Hatchwell Altaras told the Post that the group attempted to “lynch” one of the businessman and he was “pelted with stones.”
He criticized the dean of the university for playing down the attack and not condemning the outbreak of anti- Semitic violence.
Nonetheless, Hatchwell Altaras said “there are a lot of people who believe in what Israel stands for” and argues for increased media communication and education to “show the values that Israel and the Jews stand for: plurality, tikkun olam, diversity, defense of minority rights, love of life, tradition and determination.”