Thursday, April 3, 2014

Op-Ed: "Jews left [Spain] in 1492 — but the anti-Semitism stayed behind"

Ilan Stavans writes in the New York Times:
Spain finds itself still mired in the worst financial crisis in memory. Inviting Jews to settle in times of economic trouble is a strategy employed before, including in the Hispanic world. At the end of the 19th century, Jewish immigrants were courted as harbingers of modernity by Argentina and Mexico. And in the 20th century, the region of Sosúa on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic was allocated for Jewish refugees from the Holocaust — in hopes that they would push the underdeveloped region forward.

Spain’s latter-day conversion to philo-Semitism, however, is more apparent than real. The truth is that the Jews left in 1492 — but the anti-Semitism stayed behind. The country is a prime example of a nation that fosters “anti-Semitism without Jews,” a phenomenon often marked by dualist attitudes. Take the dictatorship of General Franco, from 1939 until 1975: Some Jewish refugees were saved by various consuls and other diplomatic administrators, with Franco taking credit, yet his fascist forces regularly used anti-Semitic motifs in their propaganda. Even in 1982, on my first visit to Spain, I recall seeing swastikas, copies of Mein Kampf in translation and Nazi paraphernalia for sale.

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