Letters to the Editor: Diaspora Jews

Lone Soldiers as they arrive in Israel.
Shahar Azran

Spain and anti-Semitism

In response to “Is Spain really ready to become a haven for people with Jewish roots?" (Cnaan Liphshiz/JTA, Nov. 12)

In his opinion piece, Cnaan Liphshiz portrays Spain as “a country whose society has a strong tradition of anti-Semitism that surveys consistently suggest isn’t going away anytime soon.”

Let us confront this perception with some facts.

First: the legal framework. Spain has firm legal rules against hate crimes or any kind of discrimination. Spain’s judiciary and police pay special attention to fighting these despicable crimes, with a strong focus on hate speech in social media. Furthermore, Spain has adopted specific and pioneering legislation to combat anti-Semitism, which has been praised by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Spanish schools teach about the Shoah and the prevention of anti-Semitism, and there is a public-funded institution in Madrid devoted solely to promoting appreciation of our Spanish roots and relations with Israel, called Centro Sefarad-Israel.

Second: crime statistics. According to the  European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Spain has the lowest level of anti-Semitic incidents of the six largest European countries. In 2016, seven cases of anti-Semitism were recorded in Spain, out of a total of 1,272 hate crimes, and down from the 24 cases recorded two years before.

But one can be forgiven for being skeptical about data provided by the government. A 2018 survey by the Pew Research Center found that close to 80 percent of Spaniards would accept Jews as family members. There are many other surveys on the matter, but every year there is a popular informal survey on the perceptions of other countries that takes place before our very own TV-glued eyes: the Eurovision Song Contest. In the 2018 contest, the Spanish audience gave their all-too-valuable maximum 12 votes to Israel. Only four other countries gave 12 votes to Israel: France, Ukraine, Moldova and little San Marino. Of course, we loved Netta Barzilai’s song, but Spaniards also showed that they have no qualms about voting for Israel.

Some 40,000 Jews live in Spain as peacefully as all other Spaniards. More than 300,000 Israelis travel to Spain every year. The vast majority feel warmly welcomed and do not hesitate to come back to our country again and again.

As is mentioned in Mr. Liphshiz’s article, a special law enacted in 2015 offered people of Sephardic family descent a specific path for obtaining the nationality of their ancestors, while keeping their previous nationality. More than 6,000 persons of Sephardic descent have since applied for Spanish nationality. They are also helping Spain rediscover its Jewish roots. And to anyone who would like to experience firsthand the Jewish heritage of Spain, I would recommend that on your next trip to my country you visit some of the cities and monuments included in the Red de Juderías, the Spanish network of towns with old Jewish quarters. One of my favorites? Lucena, in Andalusia, the town that was once called the pearl of Sfarad.

Manuel Gómez-Acebo

Ambassador of Spain to Israel

Jews, stay home and help

In response to “Diaspora Jews, start thinking about aliyah” (Mor Altshuler, Nov. 13)

British Jews should stay right here, where they are more than welcome and always will be. They should help us install a progressive Labour government that has pledged equality for all it citizens and help us fix our collective home after years of damaging Tory hard headed ideology.
Even under the Tories though, this is a more equal and open society than Israel could ever hope to be anytime soon. As a black man and non-Jew who is left-wing and critical of the government, especially in regard to the treatment of Palestinians, what sort of welcome and life could I expect in Israel if I wanted to live there?
Think on that, especially considering the way left-wing Jews have been treated when planning to move to Israel, which this very paper has covered. How about not putting fear in the hearts of some of our citizens please, that would be much appreciated, especially whilst offering up an alternative that is increasingly regressive politically and a far cry from a free and open society.

Claude Barbé-Brown

via Facebook

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