Spain and Israel – A Tale of Many Turns
by Norman Berdichevsky (Feb. 2009)
Welcome after 500 years.” That same day, in a welcome to the diplomatic corps, King Juan Carlos declared that “Spain has overcome a situation that had not corresponded with our own history, nor with the present course of our country.”
a much beloved part of the great Hispanic family who had created an itinerant Spain all over the world and after five centuries of estrangement were assembled for an encounter with their origins and for whom their ancient homeland had opened its door wide forever.”
During that interval, several Spanish intellectuals began to muse and speculate upon what Spain might have lost through the expulsion of the Sephardim who had made outstanding contributions in many walks of life in Northern Europe, principally in the cities of London, Amsterdam, Bordeaux, Hamburg and Copenhagen, as well as in the Balkans, the Caribbean Islands and the USA.
In 1922, Spain voted in favor of the British mandate for Palestine and republican leaders expressed support for Zionism during a visit to Spain by Chaim Weizman in 1932 although these moves made the Catholic Church uneasy. It was, however, the Spanish Civil war (1936-1939), that for decades determined the attitude of the Zionist movement, Israeli leaders and worldwide Jewish opinion against Francoist Spain. The opposition took place due to the remarkable and still largely unrecognized role played by Spain under Franco in saving 30,000 Jewish refugees who escaped from occupied France or were provided with Spanish visas in the Balkans and enabled to enter Spain during WWII.
It is estimated that almost 20% of all the volunteers in the International Brigades, who came to Spain to fight Fascism were Jews. Their heroism and experiences have been vividly recorded. Their struggle shaped the view of Franco as a close ally of Hitler, but a more objective view would regard Franco as primarily an opportunist, a fervent anti-communist and represented conservative Spanish traditions and aspirations.
Subsequently, the kings and political leaders of numerous Arab states were invited to Madrid and warmly praised General Franco for his principled stand against recognizing Israel. In December 1955, in spite of appeals by Spanish Republican artists in exile such as Pablo Picasso and Pablo Casals not to abandon the Spanish Republic, Israel made an abrupt about face, by voting in favor of admission of Spain into the United Nations.
A last ditch terrorist effort was made to convince Spain to withhold recognition until all Israeli soldiers had withdrawn from Lebanon. The failure to specify a date, however, gave the Arab states some hope that a major concession might still be obtained, preventing diplomatic relations. Wild talk by Muammar Khaddafi was discounted but even Gonzalez was surprised to learn that the Libyan leader had sent a check for $900,000 to ETA. More shocking was the first Palestinian terrorist action undertaken in Spain on April 12, 1985. Commandos of the Front for the Liberation of Palestine carried out a terrorist attack killing 18 and wounding 82 in a Madrid restaurant. All the dead were Spaniards.
SAPD (Sozialistische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands, “Socialist Workers’ Party of Germany“), renamed the SPD in 1890 – the ancestor of today’s socialist party in Germany. Bebel criticized the tendency of populist political parties to use the Jews as their scapegoat and accurately proclaimed that “Anti-Semitism is the Socialism of Fools.”
aware of how her erstwhile allies on the political Left in Spain have violated their principles and continually ignore the brutal viciousness of the worst antisemitism on the one hand and cheer and applaud the use of Palestinian refugees, women and children as cannon fodder by Hamas.
the Left has always been anti-Western, and therefore not so far removed from some of the obsessions of current Islamic fundamentalism. In any case, it has been said that in Israel, killings in the name of Islamic nihilism have benefited from increasing impunity, and every Israeli victim that is reviled, ignored or despised by Western intelligentsia, has prepared the way for the killings in Atocha (Madrid train station bombing) and London (terrorist attack on the Underground).”
Spanish-Israel relations and Spanish anti-Semitism are back to square one and 1492.
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