Polluting the Public Square: Anti-Semitic Discourse In Spain
Posted: September 21, 2009
ADL and others have urged the Spanish government to act against incitement against Jews and other anti-Semitic expressions. Some positive steps have been taken, but the response has been inadequate. It is time for a new beginning.
In its July 1, 2009 answer to the Congressional letter, the Spanish government pledged to commission a public opinion poll on anti-Semitism and to "use that poll and others to customize a response to sectors or communities where anti-semitism might be most pervasive." We hope this pledge represents that new beginning.
Spain has previously committed to combating anti-Semitism, and hosted an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) conference on anti-Semitism in June 2005. ADL attended that conference, made recommendations to the participating governments, and urged them to act on their commitments. At the time, ADL said,
The participating states of the OSCE have undertaken an impressive set of commitments to fight anti-Semitism in the areas such as education, legislation and law enforcement. But two years into this process, too few states have turned these commitments into action. We hope this gathering of ministers and high-level officials will mobilize greater political will by more states to take meaningful action.
Since then, Spain has implemented OSCE law enforcement officer training on combating hate crime which trains police officers to identify and investigate hate crimes and provides skills for working with prosecutors and affected communities.
In another positive step, Holocaust education in high school was made mandatory as was teacher training on the subject. Spain is adapting teaching materials on anti-Semitism from the OSCE and from the Anne Frank House.
In December 2006, Casa Sefarad-Israel was established by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, the Autonomous Community of Madrid, and the Madrid City Council with the stated goals of furthering "the study of the legacy of Sephardic culture as an integral, living part of Spanish culture," fostering "a better understanding of Jewish culture," and promoting "the development of ties of friendship and cooperation between Spanish and Israeli societies." Casa Sefarad-Israel's activities include cultural and artistic events, educational seminars (including on the Holocaust in cooperation with Yad Vashem), discussions of contemporary social issues, and promotion of Spanish-Israeli economic relations. Four similar institutions of public diplomacy had already been established: Casa de América, Casa Asia, Casa Árabe and Casa África.
The Spanish government has taken action on several occasions against the most high-profile distributer of Nazi literature in Spain, Pedro Varela, owner of the Europa Bookstore in Barcelona. Originally charged with Holocaust denial and "justification of genocide," the government dropped the Holocaust denial charge after Spain's Supreme Court ruled that it was permissible speech. Valera was sentenced in 2008 to seven months in prison on the "justification of genocide" charge. Barcelona's district attorney had the Spanish police record a speech of known Holocaust-denier David Irving at the Europa bookstore in December 2008, though no charges were subsequently made.
The Spanish government is currently investigating Varela on intellectual property grounds, for selling Mein Kampf without the permission of the German state of Bavaria, which owns the rights. If charged and convicted, Varela could be sentenced to between six months and two years of prison and be fined, according to Spanish media.
In March, Barcelona police arrested Óscar Panadero, the owner of the Kalki bookstore, and three other neo-Nazis for incitement to genocide.
In response to El Mundo's interview with David Irving, a spokesperson for Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos said that the minister "regrets that space was given to a historian who denies one of the biggest tragedies for humanity in modern history."
The Spanish government adopted a multi-year "Human Rights Plan of Action" on December 12, 2008, in which it committed to 172 measures. Several of the planned actions related to racism and intolerance.
The plan states that "In their daily work, the public authorities are bound by the Constitution, which directs that they promote the conditions for true and effective liberty and equality for individuals and the groups they form. In this sense, a human rights perspective should be an integral part of the actions taken by the various government ministries, thus educating public employees, increasing the protection of these rights where necessary, and improving the response whenever its effectiveness is being questioned. The Government will work in this direction for equality and against discrimination and racism, proposing and implementing legislative reforms and political actions to prevent discrimination, direct or indirect, on the basis of religion or belief, disability, age, gender, sexual orientation, or racial or ethnic origin."
Specific measures related to racism and intolerance include:
Measure 25 – Collaboration with the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the OSCE in its task of promoting human rights in the member states of this Organization, especially the basic rights of freedom of expression, assembly, and association, will be reinforced.
Measure 47 – A National and Comprehensive Strategy to fight racism and xenophobia will be approved and implemented.
Measure 116 – The State Institute for School Coexistence will develop a work plan for advice, development of studies and reports, diagnostics on school coexistence, and a proposal for measures that will help improve the school environment and coexistence in educational facilities.
Measure 123 – Training and other practical resources will be provided to the education community, in collaboration with the independent educational administrations, which help to use media responsibly and to combat programs that feed hostile, violent, or discriminatory perceptions and stereotypes.
Measure 125 – Training and other practical resources will be provided to the education community, in particular, and to society in general, in collaboration with the independent educational administrations, to help develop coexistence and an intercultural citizenry in Spanish society.
Measure 126 – Collaboration with public and private media on sensitization to and promotion of human rights will be encouraged.