Polluting the Public Square: Anti-Semitic Discourse In Spain
Anti-Semitism in The Media
Posted: September 21, 2009
Editors, journalists, opinion writers, and political cartoonists exercise significant influence on the public's interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Far too often criticism of Israel employs anti-Semitic themes, such as comparing Israel to the Nazis. Sometimes direct comparisons are made, other times indirect comparisons are made by referring to "the Palestinian Holocaust" or making an analogy between Gaza and concentration camps or the Warsaw ghetto.
Among the most prominent such writers is Antonio Gala, a playwright, who also has a regular column in the mainstream daily newspaper, El Mundo, with the second largest circulation in Spain. On April 9, 2008, he entitled his column "Holocausts" and wrote, "Israel cannot live on money from the dead, while it kills. And even less by imposing itself and fighting, with the excuse of its Holocaust, and at the same time causing a similar one – explicitly called that – in its land."
Gala's anti-Semitic screed of February 5, 2009, "The Chosen People," is worth quoting in full:
It should be clear: genocide and crimes of humanity committed against a people do not authorize that people to commit them. Zionism is a kind of fundamentalism and therefore blind and vindictive. Israel cannot be used as an excuse (not by everyone) for what happened to them. As compensation, another people was deprived of its land – only a part – to create or re-create God's favorite nation. The result was bad: greed and hunger for expansion emerged, scorn for other peoples, their lives and possessions, and the revival of terrorism… And now they don't want to coexist. Without peace, without limits, without stopping the greed and false histories, the Jewish people will succumb once again. As it happened several times before: pogroms, voluntary and involuntary ghettos, exterminations, persecutions, expulsions… From Egypt to Sepharad [Spain – ed.], from Canaan to Zion: all promised lands. Shouldn't they ask themselves why the same thing keeps happening? Or is the rest of the world wrong?
In June 2008, the regional daily paper of Galicia, El Correo Gallego, which is distributed in conjunction with El Mundo, included a long article by Roberto Qumata, entitled, "Palestinians in Gaza, Jews of the feared Zionist IV Reich." Qumata writes:
The Zionist ideology treats the Palestinians as the Third Reich to the Jews, …applying Laws (anti-Semitic) from Nuremberg, of the worst scourges from the times of piracy (appropriation of land), apartheid (cheap labor), colonialism (settlers), deportation (refugees), ethnic cleansing (60 years of war) , the separation wall and blocking (Gaza). To one and a half million Gazans, stones are the only thing left. The arsenal of resistance.
The article included the picture to the right with the caption:
"This sharp-faced Jew is being humiliated by the soldier registering him in the Warsaw ghetto."
Some of the most vicious examples of anti-Semitism in the Spanish media are editorial cartoons. Spain's "paper of record," El País, published the cartoon on the right by Romeu on June 30, 2009.
On December 30th, 2008, El País published the cartoon below, in which Romeu perverts the Jewish concept of chosenness to ascribe viciousness to all Jews, whether in Israel or in Spain.
How can a respectable paper publish such obvious anti-Semitic calumnies? How many editors saw this and failed to recognize anti-Semitism, or worse, condone it?
On January 8, 2009, El Mundo published another horrifying cartoon. Editorial cartoonists Gallego & Rey made no pretense about criticizing Israel. They demonized the Jewish people by portraying a Hasidic Jew with barbed wire sidelocks and plumes of smoke in the background.
For an editor at a major paper to see such a cartoon and not to understand that it is anti-Semitic is incomprehensible. To understand the deeply hurtful prejudice expressed in this cartoon and to publish it is inexcusable.
In September El Mundo's editors again displayed their lack of judgment about anti-Semitism when they included notorious Holocaust denier David Irving among their "experts" interviewed for a special report on the 70th anniversary of the beginning of World War II.
On January 10, El País published yet another anti-Semitic cartoon by Romeu, this time likening Israel to the Nazis by equating Gaza with the Warsaw Ghetto.
Faced with repeated and vicious anti-Semitism in the mainstream media, the Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain wrote an open letter to the major media outlets, explaining that demonizing Jews and Judaism is not a legitimate means of criticizing Israel. They wrote:
It is not necessary, in order to criticize Israel, to use anti-Semitic themes like presumed physical characteristics of Jews (hooked noses, large ears, dour expressions, etc.)…
It is not necessary, in order to criticize Israel, to refer to presumed spiritual characteristics of Jews (the old Jewish "conspiracy" today converted to the "lobby," avarice, desire to dominate the world, racism, etc.)…
It is not necessary, in order to criticize Israel, to use Jewish religious symbols (the Star of David, the sidelocks of the religious, synagogues, etc.)…
It is not necessary, in order to criticize Israel, to denigrate the little that remains of the memory of the victims of the greatest human barbarity ever committed (the Shoah or Holocaust), making comparisons that are inacceptable from any point of view…
A related problem was recognized by La Fundeu BBVA, an organization dedicated to Spanish language promotion and associated with the Royal Spanish Academy. On January 9, 2009, amid the reporting on Operation Cast Lead, it issued a press release which "reminds that the terms Hebrew, Jewish, and Israelite should not be used as synonyms for Israeli." The release notes that "for this reason, in information referring to the conflict in the Gaza Strip, sentences like, 'The Hebrew army continues the attack against Gaza' are not correct…"
ADL has written to the publisher of El País and to El Mundo to demand that they cease publishing anti-Semitic materials, but no response has been received as of publication of this report.